You may soon be able to visit the worlds of Matilda, Willy Wonka, James and the Giant Peach thanks to Netflix
As the streaming wars become more competitive than ever, leading on-demand streaming company Netflix is looking to expand its internal library while adding new ways for consumers to enjoy its intellectual property.
In recent years, the consumer-oriented streaming and DVD service has announced the transition to gaming and has experienced highly immersive pop-up experiences in the real world. In a surprising move, Netflix has now confirmed one of its most significant acquisitions to date, and in doing so confirms the 24-year-old company is expanding comprehensively beyond being a repository of other studios’ content.
In 2013, Netflix was a hit when it launched its first original show, House of Cards, and since then it has become a major player in Hollywood, spending more than $17 billion on content this year alone. From slick reality shows to dramas, a lot of Netflix exclusive content has been geared towards more mature viewers with more bugs than hits when it comes to family content. That may soon change thanks to a deal with Roald Dahl Story.
The acquisition includes the entire catalog of Dahl’s books, including iconic characters from The BFG and Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Twits and Willy Wonka. All 26 RDSC employees will remain in their positions, operating as an independent unit within Netflix. In a joint statement announcing the acquisition, Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos, managing director of Roald Dahl Story and Dahl’s grandson Luke Kelly reassured Dahl fans that they understand the importance of working with such influencers. “As we bring these timeless tales to more audiences in new formats, we are committed to preserving their unique spirit and universal themes of surprise and kindness, while bringing some new magic into the mix.”
An animated series based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and an adaptation of Matilda was already in the works for Netflix. More than a dozen other projects already in progress at the RDSC will go ahead. This includes plans for theatrical performances and live experiences.
Netflix confirmed that the deal is about more than just original streaming content. In that joint statement, Sarandos and Kelly referred to those existing projects regarding Charlie, the Chocolate Factory and Matilda as the birth of the acquisition. They noted that their plans for an extended universe would reach far beyond television and movies. Among the content referenced in the release are publishing, games, immersive experiences, live theater, and consumer products.
The streaming service has seen previous success with immersive one-time pop-up experiences. An escape room-style group bus tour related to the Bird Box saw long lines in Los Angeles and Austin. The Fear Street anthology associated with RL Stine experienced a pop-up in Los Angeles. The pandemic has brought one of the most successful immersive experiences to date, with a driving experience based on Stranger Things.
These experiences build on Netflix’s years of knowledge working with Universal to bring Netflix properties to Halloween Horror Nights. The Stranger Things Houses dominated the event in 2018 and 2019. This year’s Halloween Horror Nights continues to partner with a house based on The Haunting of Hill House.
Universal was rumored to be eyeing some Roald Dahl’s bookstore but couldn’t close the deal. For Netflix, this move opens a new path with immersive experiences based on already known properties. While pop-up experiments have proven successful in the past, both HBO and Warner Bros. That enduring attractions can be a huge hit even for old franchises.
There is also growing success around small attractions that provide a fully immersive world-class experience for a few hours. Lionsgate, Mattel, and PBS are among the brands that have advertised attractions based on their intellectual property. Netflix has yet to make plans for its own immersive Dahl-based experiences. However, from Peppa Pig to Sesame Street, the most successful attractions are those associated with children’s programming, reaching much of the same demographics as Dahl’s bookstore.
With more than a billion dollars in new Dahl projects rumored for Netflix, it might not be long before we can go on our own tour of a chocolate factory, explore a giant peach, or face a giant head-on. And this time, it won’t just be on our TV screens.
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