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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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Ol’ Saint Shrek?

If you take your kids to the Glendale Galleria this holiday, rest assured they can climb onto Santa’s lap, just like at other malls. But they will take quite a trip to get there. They will walk through several rooms, one in which they talk with Shrek and Donkey on a digital screen to help them find Santa. Then they’ll sit in a moving sleigh in front of a digital screen reflecting clouds and snow, giving them the illusion of soaring through the air. And that’s not to mention their visits with Fiona, Dragon, Pinocchio and other favorite character from the “Shrek” movies. Why the elaborate demonstration? It’s all part of the “Adventure to Santa” attraction between mall owner General Growth Properties Inc. and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., the Glendale studio that has released four feature-length films about the lovable ogre. “It is not like going up to a chair and having your few minutes with Santa,” said Christina Riojas, marketing manager at General Growth. “It is a full-on experience that you can see DreamWorks touches throughout the entire thing.” The Christmas excursion, on the mall’s first level across from J.C. Penny, is being duplicated at five other General Growth malls, including ones in Las Vegas, Dallas and Chicago. The attraction benefits General Growth, which is getting a huge dose of Hollywood sparkle for what can be a tired holiday attraction. And for DreamWorks, it’s yet another way for the studio to extend the life of its well-loved characters. Last February, the studio announced it would start an in-house printing division to release print and digital books featuring its animated characters. Meanwhile, visitors to the mall attraction can purchase licensed products, such as stuffed Shrek and Donkeys dolls, Christmas sweaters and coffee mugs outside of the Santa house. Vasily Karasyov, research analyst and managing director at Sterne Agee, a Montgomery, Ala. investment bank, said the studio has been trying various initiatives to diversity its income beyond feature films. “(The company) is trying to get more revenue,” he said. “It remains to be seen how much revenue it will generate because it’s a fairly new initiative.” Reservations required The excursion takes place within a 2,000-square-foot cottage with outer walls made of digital screens that display Shrek and Donkey opening doors and windows within the cottage, and interacting with kids while they wait in line. Once inside, the children are led through several rooms as they journey to the North Pole to see Santa. “It’s like you literally feel you’re leaving Glendale Galleria and you get to the North Pole,” Riojas said. Unlike typical Santa gigs, Adventure to Santa requires guests to make reservations online before showing up for the 15-minute tour to avoid congested lines. And though Adventure to Santa is free, parents are encouraged to purchase their child’s picture with Santa as well as a small video of their visit. Parents have the option to purchase between two packages of $50 or $75. A spokesman for DreamWorks declined to talk about the attraction, but Michael Francis, the company’s chief brand officer, said in a statement that the venture was a way to expand the media through which the company’s content is available. “We are continually looking for new ways to bring our characters to life and (Adventure to Santa) will deliver an unparalleled experience which fans will absolutely love,” he said in a prepared statement. DreamWorks has made some bold moves to diversify. Last year, it acquired multi-channel teen network AwesomenessTV for $33 million and the studio is a joint venture for a Dream Center entertainment complex in Shanghai slated to cost $2.4 billion. The moves are virtually a necessity for the studio, which has had an uneven run at the box office as of late. Its latest feature, “Penguins of Madagascar,” has not been racking up the ticket sales the company hoped for. And in the last two years, DreamWorks has taken $158 million in write-downs on “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” “Turbo” and the holiday 2012 release, “Rise of the Guardians.” By contrast, the Shrek franchise, which includes holiday TV and other offering, continues to be a huge fan favorite even though the first film was released in 2001 and the last four years ago. The four films alone have generated close to $3 billion in worldwide box office, according the Box Office Mojo website. Whatever troubles DreamWorks may have creating new hit features, it appears to have a hit on its hands with the holiday mall attraction. One day earlier this month, Dominic Mildern jumped and shouted in delight during the experience as he rode on a large sleigh that jerked and swayed as though flying. Cool mist and bursts of air shot from the ceiling every so often, as a digital screen showed Shrek and Donkey leading the way through the sky to the North Pole. The 4-year-old looked like he was really flying in a sleigh and expressed his excitement with shouts of laughter and hands raised in the air during the five-minute ride. “Dominic loved it,” said his father John Mildern, 36. Jessica Moore was working at the shopping center when she and a few co-workers decided to take an impromptu visit to the Santa house. “They put you through several rooms and it makes it seem like a journey to the North Pole, which is really cool. I went with a group of adults, and we just kept saying to ourselves, ‘Wow we wish we were a kid in 2014,’” she said.

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