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Joe Bright on Scruffy Dog’s creative process, dream brands and what’s next…
Joe, thanks for making time. I want to start before the start! What did you do before Scruffy Dog?
I’m originally from a film and TV background. I made sets and props for movies and shows. Then, I was asked by one of my film clients to design an attraction back in 2008… I fell in love with the work, and the rest is history!
Sounds like a dream career. So you now run Scruffy Dog. Not on your own, presumably?
No; not at all. The team has organically grown from just me to me and 80 plus amazing creatives. I now run our design division, but I’m very much a creative director and part of the amazing team before I am a CEO.
You’re still hands on? You still work closely with all your offices and studios?
Yes, very much so; I’m very much involved with all our facilities… London, Barcelona, Shanghai, and our Birmingham factory. Each location has a great leadership team, but my day-to-day job is head of design. That means I can work closely with all the teams globally.
AND Scruffy Dog is behind theme-park attractions such as… What?!
Well! We’ve delivered over 170 projects now… In the last three years, they include LEGOLAND Castle Hotels. LEGOLAND Ninjago; globally… LEGO Movie World in Florida. There’s Shrek’s Adventure in London, DreamWorks Dragon’s World in Germany, Dreamwood Park in Russia. And The Wicker Man, for Alton Towers UK.
Gosh! I think a lot of people in licensing might look at that list and admire its breadth! Do you have new stuff this year, too?
Yes, pandemic permitting! Mattel has a number of family entertainment centres opening globally. And, in the UK, we teamed up with ITV to create I’m a Celebrity Jungle Challenge in Manchester.
And that’s exactly what it sounds like? An interactive version of the TV show?
Exactly. You can complete tasks and trials based on the iconic TV show. Your team has to find stars by completing obstacles around Main Camp, Croc Creek and Snake Rock.
Let me ask: when developing licensed attractions, how do you go about it?
Being completely honest, it’s a process. Our job is to tell stories in an immersive way the focus needs to be the guest’s experience. We also need to remain true to the IP and their language…
But in that process, what comes first? An attraction idea you can skin? Or the green light from a brand that you then design an idea to fit?
Typically we work on conceptualising the experience first considering the brand and then develop this look and feel with the IP brand director, but there’s no rule book. It’s simply making the best attraction we can, and they only work with collaboration.
I understand you have an eight-stage creative process, though… Can you walk me through that?
Yes. All our projects are unique, but they all follow a similar process depending on the project requirements. It starts with Initial Creative and Masterplanning. Here we brainstorm, and draw up the initial Masterplan, exploring options for the narrative, and the project’s visual identity. Once that’s approved, we develop the idea further in the Concept Development stage.
And what, typically, might that include?
That includes layouts, engaging storylines, zoning, content, attractions proposals, dynamic storyboards, wow illustrations. Once this has been signed off from the client we move on to the Schematic and Detail development stages. Here our Technical Team completes all models and plans.
How detailed are things at this stage?
At this stage, every space is to scale and dimension; theming and content included. The team prepares all plans to ensure the project meets the regulations, local construction and security specifications. This guarantees that the client has all the documentation and information they need to bring the concept to creation.
Next, at our very own state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, we move onto the Production and Procurement phase. Here we transform the client’s design concepts into final pieces. We also add all the Media into the mix.
I think that’s six…
Yep… The penultimate phase is Installation. This is led by our ISO certified project-management team. They deliver and realise the client’s product or experience with a streamlined and organised programme. This ensures the results honour the design intent and previous phases every time.
And the final phase?
The final phase is opening day!
Ah! Makes sense! So in what way has the relationship between attractions and brands evolved since the launch of Scruffy Dog?
Great question! I think in truth it’s the same. We’re working collaboratively to excel and improve on what’s been done in the past. So when you look at the IP you shouldn’t see it as a toy for example. It needs to be: “What does the person playing with this think it is?”
You’re tapping into the consumer’s experience rather than just the brand?
Right. Imagination is the tool – we just bring that to life!
Great answer! And have you found character-based properties make for the cleanest translations? Or can any brand make a successful leap into attractions?
Another great question! I think it’s all dependant on the location and market. For example, we recently completed the WOW – World of Wine.
World of Wine? Gawd; no one tell my brother… What is that?
After five years of development, Fladgate Partnership opened World of Wine. It’s collection of six immersive museum experiences, a wine school, exhibition space, nine restaurants, and bars, cafes and shops.
Are there any brands or areas that you give the wide-eye? Saying to yourself, “We’d love to work on that one day…”
Any brand with a key message and a story to tell! Our job is fantastic because its changing and challenging!
What is the weirdest thing you’ve had to do for a brand?
I’d love to say! There are lots of stories… But we still work with all of them!
’nuff said! Thanks Joe; appreciate your time. Good luck with your very busy year – hope we can tie in again. I’m going to check out The Wicker Man; start calling for God as soon as the page loads…
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