(Bloomberg) -- “CoComelon” began as a hit animated children’s program on YouTube. Then, the musical sensation became one of Netflix Inc.’s most popular kid’s series. Now, it’s the inspiration for a football-field-size playground set to open in the Caribbean.
Moonbug Entertainment Ltd., which owns “CoComelon” and “Blippi,” another hit with the preschool crowd, is lending characters from both shows to a new entertainment destination opening next year in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Moonbug partnered with Falcon’s Beyond Global LLC, which develops entertainment properties, for its characters be part of an attraction called Curiosity Playground.
The deal marks one of Moonbug’s first big moves since it was purchased by former Walt Disney Co. executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs for $3 billion last year. Backed by Blackstone Group, their new company, Candle Media, is working with Falcon’s Beyond on other attractions using Moonbug’s characters, taking a page of out of Disney’s playbook.
“Kids and families obviously are interested in experiencing the brands off screen,” said Susan Vargo, Moonbug’s head of live events. “We want to be wherever kids are.”
Moonbug’s expansion into brick-and-mortar attractions comes amid a surge in tourism after the Covid-19 shutdowns. Last quarter, revenue at Disney’s parks division more than doubled from the same period last year. Theme-park operators like SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. and Cedar Fair LP have also seen big rebounds in visitors.
Falcon’s Beyond will build and own the 40,000-to-60,000-square-foot activity area featuring Moonbug’s characters as one of four locations in the Curiosity Playground. Other characters in the complex will come from PBS Kids shows such as “Dinosaur Train” and “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum.”
The playground will be located on property owned by Meliá Hotels International SA, a Mallorca, Spain-based hotel operator.
Moonbug already sells toys and tours, like CoComelon LIVE! JJ’s Journey. Since 2018, the company has built a portfolio of kids’ content in part by purchasing popular programs on YouTube and developing them into entertainment franchises. When Moonbug decided to develop physical attractions, it looked for other companies to work with.
“The location-based experience business is a high-risk, high-capital investment,” said Vargo.
Ultimately, it settled on Falcon’s Beyond -- a company little known by the general public. For more than 20 years, the Orlando, Florida-based company has developed games, digital content and attractions for clients like Universal Studios, Lego and SeaWorld. It also sells products and experiences based on its own brands.
Cecil Magpuri, Falcon’s Beyond’s chief executive officer, declined to share details on the specific games and attractions planned for the Curiosity Playground. He said the venue would focus on science, technology, arts and nature. Falcon’s Beyond plans to develop multiple playgrounds at Meliá locations -- all touting the Moonbug brands. The company will also incorporate Moonbug’s franchises into kids’ camps operated on Meliá properties.
Magpuri said his company can turn new entertainment properties into amusement park attractions faster than the industry has historically.
The Curiosity Playground in Punta Cana will be part of a broader dining, retail and entertainment complex dubbed Falcon’s Central. It will be free to visit -- a potential excursion for some of the thousands of tourists staying at nearby resorts and hotels. Last year, Falcon’s Beyond led a $350 million investment with Meliá to develop a theme park, Katmandu Park, that will open in the fall as part of the Falcon’s Central complex.
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