Rail stations, train lines, and railway museums are logical venues for certain experiential initiatives. Not surprisingly, a large percentage—although not all—of these ventures involve licensed entertainment properties that feature trains as characters, themes, or critical elements of their fictional universe.
Four examples from 2021 and 2022 illustrate:
- Warner Bros. France paired with railroad company SNCF for an appearance by a life-size replica of the Hogwarts Express at the Gare Saint-Lazare train station in August 2021, as part of its Back to Hogwarts celebration of all things Harry Potter. Other partners included French Harry Potter publisher Gallimard Jeunesse and electronics and pop culture retailer FNAC. Additional components of the promotion included an augmented-reality app that let fans experience platform 9 3/4 at other railway stations, along with events held in FNAC stores. FNAC also hosted a pop-up at Saint-Lazare.
- The Copyrights Group, which licenses Paddington Bear on behalf of its parent company and Paddington owner Studio Canal S.A.S., announced the opening of Paddington Café at Paddington Station in London, the location where the Brown family first found the bear in the classic 1958 book. The Café, put together with interior designers Avocado Sweets, includes artwork and nostalgic décor inspired by the books, as well as a range of custom products for children and adults. The station also has a separate Paddington store.
- Mattel’s long-running touring events and exhibits to support Thomas & Friends make a number of stops at railway museums each year. They include Day Out with Thomas, ongoing since 1996, and the interactive, STEM-based Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails, produced in partnership with the Children’s Museum of Minnesota. Stops at locations such as the Florida Railroad Museum and Tennessee Valley Railroad—two of the U.S. sites in 2022—have brought revenues that have been a boon for heritage railway preservation in the U.K., Canada, and U.S.
- Warner Bros. teams with Rail Events Inc. to present the annual Polar Express Train Ride, which also takes place at railway museums. The rides include golden tickets, hot chocolate and a cookie served by dancing chefs, a read-along of the classic book, and sound effects from the film. Railway Events also produces similar rides focused on the Peanuts characters and their holiday specials, including The Great Pumpkin Patch Express, The Easter Beagle Express, The Valentine Express, and The Party Express. Like the Thomas events, revenues for both of these programs go toward railway preservation in North America and the U.K.
In addition to these recent and ongoing examples, other properties over the years have tied in with railways and railway stations in a variety of ways. In 2020, Herschend paired with the Union Pacific Railroad and Safe Kids Worldwide for a Chuggington campaign to teach children about railway safety, including through a website, school activity sheets, social media, and PSAs.
In 2019, Hello Kitty and Gundam costume characters appeared in Keio Electric Railway’s Inokashira station during the morning commute, with stamp book giveaways in six other stations across Japan. (The promotion marked Hello Kitty’s 45th and Gundam’s 40th anniversaries.) Hello Kitty also partnered with the East Japan Railway Company for a themed Shinkansen (bullet train) in 2018.
Amtrak has done a number of promotions with licensed properties over the years, both train-themed and non-train themed. Partner IP have included Dinosaur Train, Toot & Puddle, 39 Clues, and Chuggington; the last involved a Chuggington area as part of Amtrak’s 40th anniversary exhibit train tour. Finally, in 2015, Japanese private railway company Tobu paired with the anime property Tetsudou Musume (Railway Girls) for a themed train on its Tokyo Skytree line.
On a separate note, the newest edition of Raugust Communications’ monthly e-newsletter will be distributed next Tuesday, March 15. The Licensing Topic of the Month takes a look at the direct impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the licensing business, while the Datapoint research spotlight will detail the characteristics of recent NFT initiatives. If you are not yet a subscriber of this free publication, you can sign up here.
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