Sunday, June 23, 2024

Building a cartoon network

Cartoon Network invites its fan base onto LBE platforms;

inaugural hospitality venture opens summer 2019

By Judith Rubin

ABOVE: Powerpuff Girls Pop-Up Shop, New York City, November 2016

Almost three years ago, Erik Resnick, SVP – Business Development and Commercial Strategy for Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim, began to research the Location Based Entertainment marketplace to identify where Cartoon Network could best bring value to potential partners. His first step was to bring in industry veteran George Wade of Bay Laurel Advisors to help him navigate this new space.

Cartoon Network had enjoyed great success with high profile fan events at Comic-Con, South by Southwest® and Atlantis as well as other major festivals and gatherings, and believed their fans would love additional opportunities for interactions with their favorite Cartoon Network characters.

The quest is becoming a reality. As of Summer 2019, fans of Cartoon Network shows and characters such as Adventure Time, Ben 10, We Bare Bears and The Powerpuff Girls will be able to vacation surrounded by them at the Cartoon Network Hotel. Cartoon Network, part of global media giant Turner, a WarnerMedia company, has partnered with Parques Reunidos and Palace Entertainment, owner/operator of some 60+ parks and amusement facilities around the world, to develop the Cartoon Network Hotel, a 165-room, destination hotel on nine acres in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The Cartoon Network Hotel is scheduled to open in 2019 in Lancaster County, PA

The unique, themed hotel, now in development, will complement other vacation and recreation options in the area. The site is very close to Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park (operated by Palace), a half hour from Hersheypark, and just a few hours from the large mid-Atlantic cities – Philadelphia/Baltimore/New York/DC.

LBE initiative

The Cartoon Network Hotel is the flagship project of Cartoon Network’s domestic LBE initiative, led by Resnick to strategically expand its content delivery platforms and give fans new ways to enjoy the brand’s shows and characters in the physical world.

With the new hotel less than a year from opening, the initiative is gathering steam with theme parks and attractions, waterparks, FECs and more all within the realm of possibility for new avenues of real-world immersion into Cartoon Network IP. “We are taking a very selective approach, wanting to deliver the best experiences while working with best-in-class partners,” said Resnick.

To these future partnerships, Cartoon Network brings a rich portfolio of content, an international community of dedicated fans and a robust consumer products group that currently brings in over $2B in annual retail sales. These assets are an excellent fit with LBE platforms, which have largely been untapped in North American markets.

Fans wear Steven Universe attire to a Cartoon Network event

The overall initiative represents a global company strategy to establish a licensing presence in LBE markets around the world. There are teams in Asia Pacific (APAC), Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA), and Latin America (LATAM); and these international divisions have enjoyed great success with high profile projects around the globe. The Cartoon Network EMEA division opened IMG World Dubai in 2016, while its APAC team opened Amazone Water Park in Thailand in 2015 and has recently announced new partnerships with Riverside for its Six Flags Theme Parks in China, Star Cruises and for a waterpark destination in Bali.

For over 25 years, Cartoon Network has touched multiple generations with its stories and ever popular characters such as Ben 10, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, Steven Universe, and Jake and Finn from Adventure Time. In those 25 years, the network has been a major force in pop culture and has achieved a huge presence on digital and mobile platforms. So, while relatively new to the LBE sector, Cartoon Network is no stranger to the licensing business and to multi-platforming. “Today, the guest has multiple touchpoints for connecting with the IP and any of those touchpoints could be a first contact point,” said Resnick.

Quality fans and other assets

Cartoon Network fans don’t just sit in front of the TV. The key demographic served is children ages six to 11, and (according to Cartoon Network) these kids are not just viewers, they are Fans – active, loyal and engaged. The material speaks to them in a voice that is relatable, authentic and empowering. They identify with the energetic, diverse characters in the shows, and they actively interact with the storytelling across a wide range of digital and social media platforms.

Cartoon Network booth at 2018 Comic-Con International, San Diego.

Resnick describes Cartoon Network’s internal creative team including show runners, concept developers, writers and animators as “young-imaginative and highly collaborative,” and the culture of the network’s creative teams in Burbank and Atlanta as “artists first.” Cartoon Network storytellers are already comfortable on multiple platforms, including broadcast, cinema, gaming, video on demand, social media and VR. Their ongoing, active engagement with the highly engaged fans of their work makes them promising and creatively motivated partners for building new experiences that are compelling, authentic extensions of Cartoon Network IP and digital assets. “Our LBE partners will be able to lean on Cartoon Network creative and immersive storytelling resources and collaborate with them, which is already happening on the hotel project,” Resnick said.

Experiencing Cartoon Network in the physical space

Why begin with a hotel? According to Resnick, that is simply where things happened to click in the first stages of this endeavor. “This is our first,” he said. “We have been selective in the projects we undertake with a clear focus on quality fan experiences. There will be others for the domestic fanbase; whether a theme park land, cruise ship, restaurant, dark ride, LBE or other engaging, fun activities and environments. What concerns us is how we impact our fans, how they experience the brand and who we partner with.”

We Bare Bears booth, Cartoon Network at Comic-Con International, San Diego 2015.

Conversely, why not begin with a hotel? As Resnick points out, “Lodging is simply part of the equation now when it comes to guest expectations. The hospitality industry has been going through its own evolution where experiences are of great importance. And Cartoon Network’s characters will be an excellent vehicle to deliver great experiences.”

The operator, location and type of facility were all a good fit for Cartoon Network and its goals. “We want to play in this space, to partner and get products out there that will connect with fans,” said Resnick. “We were looking for a high-quality operator that had scale. This is a first step with Palace and with the hope it will lead to a broader relationship.”

Rolf Paegert, Chief Operating Officer, Palace Entertainment, said, “When we began searching for our theme, we knew it had to be something no one else has created. We were looking to offer something completely unexpected to our visitors. We wanted to create a space where families feel comfortable and will be entertained in magic moments. Cartoon Network’s properties are just right for this space. Their characters and theming are the perfect fit.”

As it turns out, a hotel offers many ways to play and engage with Cartoon Network content in the physical space, with the potential to maximize per cap spending and inspire repeat visitation. “Thinking of hospitality as an immersive experience, there are so many different kinds of touchpoints and experiences possible,” said Resnick. “This is our opportunity to play in the LBE space, to fulfill everything from the brand side and have it reveal itself in this hotel. A hotel has many different areas in which to deliver experiences: the lobby itself offers a unique arrival experience; there are guest rooms, the pool area, food and beverage, entertainment options… We get to touch a lot of different things. Everywhere the guest goes, they should have a Cartoon Network experience, eating, sleeping and playing. It’s going to be different from traditional entertainment licensing.”

Meet Erik Resnick

Erik Resnick has been with Cartoon Network since 2001. As he leads the charge into the LBE sector for Cartoon Network USA, it is part of Resnick’s responsibility to focus on new business strategies and outbound relationships. His track record as an innovator with the network includes being one of the executives involved in launching its Boomerang premium subscription streaming service. Launched in April 2017 as a partnership with Warner Bros., the Boomerang service offers what is ranked as the largest animation library of any streaming platform, with over 3,200 titles and 27 complete series. Resnick also took the lead on VR LBE business strategy and partnerships for Cartoon Network. We Bare Bears: Food Truck Rush, which held a three-month exclusive run at Family Fun Center in the greater Seattle area, was the first Cartoon Network VR LBE experience brought to market in partnership with AiSolve.

Cartoon Network screening at SXSW, 2017 – Fans are wearing Ben 10 Alien masks

“Cartoon Network needs to be at the forefront of new technologies and businesses, and navigate new emerging business sectors,” said Resnick.

To step up as an effective leader of the LBE initiative, which is a new branch for Cartoon Network, Resnick has studied the sector and engaged consultants including George Wade of Bay Laurel Advisors, a 35-year veteran in Location Based Entertainment development and a former Senior Vice President at MGM Studios.

Resnick and members of his Cartoon Network USA LBE team will be at the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando to meet and network with potential partners. Contact: [email protected].

Meet the IP

In 25 years of creating IP that has become, in the words of Erik Resnick, “part of the zeitgeist,” here are Cartoon Network summaries of shows offering IP that may be of particular interest for LBE platforms:

Ben 10

Now in its second season, and renewed for season 3, Ben, cousin Gwen and Grandpa Max are ready for action that will be loaded with epic transformations, never-before-seen aliens and foes, and with high-energy vehicles to kick hero-time into maximum overdrive. New episodes from the current season, including a half-hour special will introduce the newest alien trying to invade Ben’s world – Shock Rock, who is looking to conquer the world and drain the planet of energy and resources.

• Ben 10 remains Cartoon Network’s #1 property with lifetime revenue of over $5B globally.

• Over 10,000 stores are now carrying Ben 10 toys in the US, including national regional and specialty stores. 2018 carriage is over 25% of 2017.

• Ben 10 was a Top 5 toy brand in most key territories in 2017.

• Licensees include global master toy partner Playmates, Outright Games and a current QSR with Sonic Drive In.

Powerpuff Girls
Powerpuff Girls Pop-up Shop, New York City, November 2016

As the original ambassadors of girl power, the iconic brand has been an inspiration to generations of girls and young women since its initial launch in November 1998. From the moment Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup started to save the world before bedtime, they were more than characters on a show, but a global phenomenon with a message of empowerment that continues to resonate today.

• Beginning November 2018 and into 2019, Cartoon Network will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of The Powerpuff Girls with new licensees, events and collaborations.

• The Powerpuff Girls is one of the top-grossing Cartoon Network brands of all time, with over $3B in retail sales generated since its debut.

Adventure Time
Cartoon Network Costume Ball at 2018 Comic-Con International, San Diego

Cartoon Network’s Emmy and Peabody Award-winning original animated series, Adventure Time, introduced viewers to unlikely heroes Finn and Jake, buddies who traverse the mystical Land of Ooo and encounter its colorful inhabitants. The best of friends, our heroes always find themselves in the middle of heart-pounding escapades. Finn, a silly kid with an awesome hat and Jake, a brassy dog with a big kind heart, depend on each other through thick and thin. Adventure Time was created by Pendleton Ward and produced at Cartoon Network Studios.

• Through its ten seasons on air, Adventure Time appeared on all Cartoon Network feeds around the world, across 27 feeds in 26 languages, covering 192 countries and 370 million homes.

• The series has received significant critical acclaim and awards wins, including a Peabody Award, 15 Emmy nominations with 8 Emmy Award wins, two consecutive BAFTA Awards, a Common Sense Seal for TV and more.

• Adventure Time has a massive – and highly-engaged – social network with over 17 million Facebook fans alone

• Adventure Time has over 100 licensees globally, with product in all categories and all channels of distribution

Steven Universe
Cartoon Network fans pose with the Steven Universe X Voodoo Doughnuts Doughtnut Wall, Universal Studios CityWalk  (CA) January 2018

Created by Emmy and Annie Award-nominated writer, artist and The New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Sugar and produced by Cartoon Network Studios, Steven Universe is hailed for its inclusion and lauded by The Verge as “powerful, necessary fiction.” Cartoon Network’s three-time Emmy-nominated series follows Steven, the “little brother” to a team of magical guardians of humanity – the Crystal Gems. Steven may not be as powerful as the Crystal Gems. Or as savvy. And he may not have much control over his powers. They originate from the Gem in his belly button. But that doesn’t stop him from joining Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl on their magical adventures and somehow finding a way to save the day!

• Cartoon Network has entered in a two-year global partnership with Dove around Steven Universe. The partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project includes original content from series creator Rebecca Sugar, fan events (San Diego Comic-Con), industry events (Cannes Lion) and other activities.

• Steven Universe Soundtrack Volume 1 launched on all digital platforms for download and streaming June 2, 2017. The album debuted across 6 Billboard charts including Billboard Top 200; and it landed at #1 across iTunes Soundtracks, iTunes Trends and Google Play Top Albums in addition to #2 on iTunes Top Albums and #3 on Amazon Paid Music.

We Bare Bears 
Cartoon Network booth at Comic-Con International, San Diego 2015.

We Bare Bears is about three brothers trying to fit in and make friends…which can be kind of hard to do when you’re a bear. Grizzly, Panda and Ice Bear are fairly savvy about the modern world: they’re masters of the selfie, fans of the food truck, and chasers of Internet fame. Yet, they have a lot to learn about the trendy residents that surround their humble Bay Area cave. Grizzly, the oldest bear, will lead his younger brothers, Panda and Ice Bear, with endless optimism that will only result in disaster, some of the time. We Bare Bears is created by Annie Award-winner Daniel Chong and produced by Cartoon Network Studios.

• Awards for We Bare Bears include 2018 Annie Award winner for Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Children; 2017 Kidscreen Award winner for Best Animated Series and Best Writing; 2016 BAFTA Children’s International winner; and Young Amsterdam Audience Awards 2014 for original short at KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival, where it was screened as part of the Cartoon Network Next Generation showcase and Kids Animated Shorts program.

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She reports on design and technical design, production and project management, industry trends and company culture. From 2005-2020 she ran communications and publications for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA and publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association, and has contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a BFA from Pratt Institute. She has lived in Detroit, New York, Oakland, and now Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts community.

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