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Saturday, October 2, 2021

You may soon be able to actually visit the worlds of Matilda, Willy Wonka, and James and the Giant Peach thanks to Netflix

Posted By on Sat, Oct 2, 2021 at 8:45 PM

  • Image via Netflix
As the streaming wars get ever more competitive, on-demand streaming pioneer Netflix is looking to expand its in-house library while also adding new ways for consumers to enjoy its intellectual properties.

In recent years, the direct-to-consumer streaming and DVD service has announced a move into gaming and has experimented with highly immersive real-world pop-up experiences. In a surprise move, Netflix has now confirmed one of their most significant acquisitions to date, and with it confirmed the 24-year-old company is going all in on expanding beyond being a storehouse of other studios’ content.

In 2013, Netflix made a splash when it debuted its first original program, House of Cards, and since then has become a major player in Hollywood, spending over $17 billion on content this year alone. From raunchy reality shows to period dramas, much of Netflix’s exclusive content has been geared toward a more mature viewer with far more misses than hits when it comes to family content. That may soon change thanks to a deal struck with the Roald Dahl Story Co.

The acquisition includes the entire catalog of Dahl’s books, including iconic characters from The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Twits and Willy Wonka, famed from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All 26 employees at the RDSC will remain in their positions, working as an autonomous unit within Netflix. In a joint statement announcing the acquisition, Netflix Co-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos and Roald Dahl Story Co. Managing Director (and grandson of Dahl) Luke Kelly reassured fans they understand the weight of working with such influential characters. “As we bring these timeless tales to more audiences in new formats, we’re committed to maintaining their unique spirit and their universal themes of surprise and kindness, while also sprinkling some fresh magic into the mix.”

An animated series based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and an adaptation of Matilda were already in the works for Netflix. More than a dozen other projects already in the works at RDSC will also move forward. That includes plans for stage shows and live experiences.

Netflix confirmed the deal is about more than original streaming content. In that joint statement, Sarandos and Kelly pointed to the existing projects Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda as the birth of the acquisition. They noted that their plans for the extended universe would reach far beyond television and films. Among the content indicated in the release were publishing, games, immersive experiences, live theater and consumer products.

The streaming service has seen previous success with one-off pop-up immersive experiences. A group escape room-style bus tour related to Bird Box saw long lines in L.A. and Austin. The R.L. Stine-linked Fear Street anthology spawned a pop-up experience in L.A. The pandemic brought on one of the most successful immersive experiences yet, with a drive-in based on Stranger Things.

These experiences build on the years of knowledge Netflix gained from working with Universal on bringing Netflix properties to life at Halloween Horror Nights. Stranger Things-themed houses headlined the event in 2018 and 2019. This year’s Halloween Horror Nights continues the partnership with a house based on The Haunting of Hill House.

Universal had been rumored to be eying some of the Roald Dahl library but could not close the deal. For Netflix, the move opens a new avenue with immersive experiences based on already well-known properties. While pop-up experiences have proven successful in the past, both HBO and Warner Bros. have shown permanent attractions can bring massive success to even dated franchises.

There’s also growing success around smaller micro-attractions that provide a fully immersive, world-class experience for a few hours. Lionsgate, Mattel and PBS are among the brands to have announced attractions based on their intellectual properties. Netflix has yet to specify plans for its Dahl-based immersive experiences. Still, from Peppa Pig to Sesame Street, the most successful attractions are ones tied to children’s programs, reaching much of the same demographic as Dahl’s library is focused on.

With more than $1 billion 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 come face to face with a giant. And this time, it won’t be just on our television screens.

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