This August, The Simpsons makes it syndication debut on cable channel FXX with a 12-day marathon that will include 552 episodes of the long-running animated comedy. At San Diego Comic-Con, the people from FXX got fans ready for this monstrous television marathon. They set up a mini-carnival outside of the San Diego Convention Center where fans could play games, check out cool video experiences and grab some cotton candy. While they waited in line, they could build their own emergency kit.
“We're going to have them put together a little kit that's going to contain all the things you need if you stopped your life to watch the marathon for 12 days,” says Kenya Hardaway, vice president of integrated promotions at FXX. That includes snacks, water, a flashlight and a blanket.
Called “Homer's Dome,” the central piece to this outdoor exhibition was an oversized recreation of Homer Simpson's bald head. Inside the dome, fans could check out highlights from the show and get a glimpse of Simpson's World, a digital portal for watching the show on demand set to launch in October.
In addition, there was a large, paint-by-numbers piece displayed on the grassy area, and the Kwik-E Race, one of those carnival games that seem designed for crushing defeat. Here, however, everyone won. The prize was a donut-shaped butt pillow, perhaps the strangest, yet shockingly appropriate, piece of swag at the convention.
“That's going to help them sit through that marathon,” says Hardaway. It probably came in handy when sitting through panels at Comic-Con too.
In recent years, major media companies have stepped outside of the convention center to bring bold, interactive experiences to the thousands of fans who wander around the streets of San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. The best activations will remain in fans' minds for months to follow, becoming more than a marketing ploy, but rather a key memory of their time at Comic-Con. Take Adult Swim's Funhouse as an example. Last year, the late-night cable network set up an inflatable funhouse near Petco Park. It was a rousing success, with about 5,000 people feeling their way through mirrored hallways and creepy prize dispensers. In fact, the Funhouse was such a success that Adult Swim took it on the road, made some small changes and brought it back. This year's funhouse featured a few new rooms. There were new exits too, including one where you were essentially squeezed out of a cat's butt. Plus, they extended hours of operation to bring in more people.
Adult Swim added to their footprint this year with the Meatwad Full Dome Experience. Named for the character from the cult favorite series Aqua Teen Hunger Force, it's a planetarium-style show with gorgeous, and mind-bending, animated short made by Dave Hughes (Off the Air) and animation studio Golden Wolf. The Meatwad Full Dome Experience, was one of my favorite parts of San Diego Comic-Con. It was beautiful and weird and — sorry for the spoiler — there was a moment where you essentially immerse yourself in the popular Adult Swim video game, Robot Unicorn Attack.
One of the most hyped activations outside of Comic-Con came from Ubisoft, the makers of smash hit video game Assassin's Creed. They gave fans what was, more or less, an IRL preview of forthcoming release Assassin's Creed: Unity with its obstacle course event. In Unity, you're an assassin during the French Revolution and, in order to get the job done, you need to be able move stealthly. “Assassin's Creed is not only about killing your target,” says creative director Alex Amancio. He adds that it's also about, “the need to escape.” In the new game, the team incorporated elements of parkour and worked with professionals in that world to design the game.
Ubisoft brought parkour to the folks at Comic-Con with an obstacle course that actually incorporated moves you would use in a game. Amancio notes that this included the “Leap of Faith,” a jump off a very high platform. “I tried it earlier,” he says. “I was here watching people hesitate wondering why are they hesitating it's not that high. Once you're up there, it's about twice as high.”
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