LSG TAKES THE STAGE
Links Signs and Graphics plays its part in Blackpool’s stellar regeneration…
Legoland, Alton Towers and The London Eye might not appear to have much in common beyond being very successful public attractions, but they’re in fact all operated by the same company – Merlin Entertainments Group. Merlin also manages Warwick Castle, Chessington World of Adventure, and Sealife Centres among other attractions in the UK and overseas.
Merlin’s success has propelled it to the point where it is now the largest attractions operator in Europe, and the second largest in the world. With over fifteen thousand employees and real passion for its brands, Merlins’ attractions’ success demonstrates the company’s expertise in its field.
Among other attractions to recently enter Merlin’s portfolio are Blackpool’s iconic Tower, and what was until recently Louis Tussauds’ Waxworks, also in Blackpool. Blackpool’s Council acquired these assets, and others, from Leisure Parcs Ltd. recently and now, with Merlin at the attractions’ helms, is intent on using them to achieve Blackpool’s ambition of becoming a thoroughly regenerated international holiday and business destination.
Ambition’s alter-ego is investment and the Council has secured significant funding in pursuit of its goals. The Council estimates that its plans would result in as many as 800,000 additional visitors coming to the town every year, who will take home great reviews of their experiences and between them have spent up to £55M and yet be all the richer for it.
Plans for the Tower include an “Eye” branded experience and a 4D cinema at what’s now the Tower’s observation level and, coming gently back to street level again, Merlin intends rebranding Louis Tussauds Waxworks into the UK’s second Madame Tussauds so extending the reach of the London based brand, which Merlin also operates.
Merlin’s plans for the waxworks are no less ambitious than those it’s applying to the Tower. In what amounts to a top-to-bottom rebranding and relaunch, Merlin is moving the attraction out of the traditional, and into the interactive age. The attraction clearly has its role to play in Merlin’s plans and in Blackpool’s.
It speaks realms for the talents of a company that styles itself a Signmaker, but is in fact much more, and the versatility of the digital output that the company produces, that Links Signs and Graphics, LSG, was approached and appointed to provide a significant contribution not only to the new attraction’s signing, but to the creation and installation of its ambient exhibit graphics too.
The ambient graphics the attraction employs, contribute powerfully to the overall experience visitors will be buying when they visit Blackpool’s Madame Tussauds. The models themselves engage the visitor on one level, the ambience on quite another. The whole experience is the product of expert design. The desired outcome, a memorable visit that people will want to repeat so building the brand’s reputation and its proven pulling-power.
LSG’s work amounts to a set-building exercise on a scale that befits the importance of the venue. Working with its operator’s designers, LSG was required to produce flawless digital output to decorate the scenes’ flats. The printed materials used amounted to about a thousand linear metres.
The laminated output was produced using Metamark MD3 digital vinyl which was applied directly to the flats’ prepared surfaces. Like its other MD Class media, Metamark’s MD3 is highly regarded for its ink appetite and resolution holding ability and it clearly produced a command performance in concert with Linkss’s Mimaki JV-33 printer, which was used for the entire print run.
The printed MD3 flats recreates real world resonances in which the models’ subjects are known. Ben Fogel’s model perches on an exposed rock-face rendered by LSG on the scene’s flats and continuing onto the floor. Alan Carr is surrounded by all his chatty self’s familiar scenery and the likes of Jonathan Ross and Davina McCall among many others are all part of an experience made all the more entertaining by the creative work provided by LSG’s work with Metamark materials.
Given the size of the print run and the fact some panel matching was inevitable, one of LSG’s production challenges was ensuring total consistency from one abutting panel to another. The Metamark MD3 played its part well in this respect and others. LSG’s application team working with the designers, ensured that panel overlaps were carefully managed and expertly fitted. The result is uniform expanses of colour even where the design is swept in density over a run of many metres.
Every element in a programme the size of the Madame Tussauds project plays a role in delivering the whole, undiluted experience. Luckily, in LSG, the project found a company where quality is cultural, and talent available. Digital print in the hands of LSG has proven itself equal to the job of transforming an attraction and bringing it into an age where the participation and involvement of the visitor is key.