Now that the holiday hoopla is over we thought it would be interesting to explore the newest way technology it “theming” Christmas.
The question is out. Does adding technology to the Holiday experience make it more or less magical? From the time we saw Ralphie sliding down the slide at the end of his visit with Santa in “A Christmas Story”, we were always jealous of the more interactive mall type Santa experience. Granted that was a movie, but we still felt a bit of resentment when we went to the mall and the most we got was a roped off area surrounded by other screaming kids and 30 seconds to tell the big man what we wanted and hope for the best.
Those days are long past and thanks to theme park giants world-wide, we have come to expect a little more from our holiday experiences. Disney World has us charmed with the magic of Mickey and friends in holiday garb. Universal Studios grabs out attention with the Grinch and over the top holiday humour. But, does all of this spectacle distract from the meaning of the holidays (whatever it may mean to you) or is it just an evolution of our love and use (or addiction depending on your view) with technology?
There was a time when children would fall asleep dreaming of sneaking out to the living room and waiting for Santa. Now they can see what it looked like with apps and videos like Capture The Magic, etc. Presenting this idea to a mix of parents proved to have mixed results. Some thought it was a great idea and really sold the idea of Santa Claus while others saw it as removing the imagination of it all. Another couple even stated it just made the lie harder to deny later. Are we making it harder for children to use their imagination or are we matching the change in children and their attention spans, etc?
In the end the result is simple. You are able to show your children video you “secretly”‘ caught while santa was visiting your house, while your elf on the shelf does his best to keep them behaving during their holiday break.
Apparently, mall Santas and plaza-centric North Poles just don’t cut it for our tastes any more.
Dream Works Entertainment however, has taken this idea of Santa Clause and his North Pole dwelling to a new level with the Dream Place Experience. Located in a variety of malls across the US, these “experiences” are designed to not only as “Santa meet-and-greets” but also as a fully immersive experience. The experience starts at home where parents download an app that allows the to add the child’s name, photo and Christmas wish-list to their account (this is also available through the Dream Place Experience website). The parents then choose a location to visit Santa and add a date and time. If no slots are available they can be wait-listed. Dream Works were quoted as saying that while the “experience” is currently testing as Santa and the North Pole, it sees a future use of the same tech for other similar holidays (Easter, Halloween, etc).
Now the big day has arrived and everyone is packed into the car and off to the mall to meet Santa. When the family arrives they are ushered into the room to meet the big guy only to discover he has gone back to the North Pole to prepare for Christmas. Luckily Shrek and Donkey (who appear through a virtual window in the room) save the day by guiding you through the process of building a virtual sleigh to take you and your family to the North Pole.Once the sleigh is designed, it is built and you load your family into the simulator for your customised North Pole trip.
You have reached your destination, welcome to the North Pole. You are then (after a brief wait while your data is accessed) ushered into Santa’s dwelling to sit on his lap and tell him what you want for Christmas… but wait… he already knows? Since all accounts are tied to your family name via the app or the website, Santa already has access to your child’s name, age and gift wish list. The experience ends and you are magically transported back to the mall to continue your shopping for the day.
The question begs, is this clever use of technology to placate children with short attention spans, or is it just a very smart marketing scheme to tally the data of what children are asking for so companies are more aware of what to push on cartoon times. It could just be a simple way to rebrand the brains of children with their favourite characters that they have not seen in some time.
Whatever the true intention, we at BtT are not ashamed to say that if we had one of these locations near us, we would probably have visited the North Pole a few times.
Perhaps the Norman Rockwell style Christmas is long in the past and this may very well represent the future of what the holidays will mean, that is still unknown. What is obvious right now is that these location times were gone in minutes and since the experience is completely free, malls world-wide will be clamouring and paying companies like Dream Works and other IP holders big money to install them.
These kind of holiday installations bring in big crowds and in the age of online shopping, anything that gets them in the door is worth its weight in gold or coal, depending on if you have been naughty or nice.