The BLE Blog

“A lava flow of fluff”: behind the scenes of Europe’s biggest character parade

David Scott of character parade creator Rainbow Productions talks about the BLE tradition. 
BLE2014_Entrance-Photoshoot %285%29I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years and so have seen a nascent, very small, licensing exhibition grow into the major force that BLE now is – with its pivotal role within European licensing.

In the early days, we had a few costume characters at the show but it was on an ad hoc basis. When photos of those characters were often featured in the Show Dailies and the trade press reviews afterwards, more and more licensors decided it was a good route to leverage their investment in a stand at the show and expand the reach of their brands.

And so, inexorably, the costume characters grew in numbers and the character parade was born. In 2014, we had around 60 costume characters taking part in the biggest parade yet at BLE. It’s been likened to a ‘lava flow of fluff’ moving unstoppably down the show’s main aisle and, from my vantage point on the Olympia balcony, it’s an incredible sight – particularly the expressions of visitors whose looks of surprise turn to frantic grabs for their mobiles to photograph this amazing sight. After all, who would believe them if they said they’d just seen all of their children’s (and their own) cartoon favourites pass them by in the space of a few minutes if they couldn’t prove it with a photo?

The preparatBLE 2014_0865ion for the character parade actually takes place well in advance of the show when we start discussing the costume loading-in, changing facilities and artiste registration with Advanstar and the timing/route and photo-opportunities with their marketing & PR team. Advanstar has always been very proactive in supporting costume character appearances and, in turn, we work closely with them to develop as much coverage as possible for the show and the brands using costume characters, as well as managing the costume changing area to ensure all brands have the access and information necessary to maximise their costume character appearances.

Each year we have up to 100 personnel on duty, not just our large professional team of costume artistes and road managers, but also our wardrobe staff, event managers to coordinate the day, and a marketing team who photograph key character moments during the show. It’s our biggest ‘Character Day’ each year and it’s always a relief to be standing in a (very) sweaty changing room immediately afterwards knowing we have once again made an impact and created the signature photo for the show.

Strange to think that in the early days some licensors didn’t want their characters to appear in the character parade, but this soon changed and now the most common question I’m asked is “Can you get our characters to the front?”

David is the Managing Director of Rainbow Productions, Europe’s leading costume cDavid_Scott (1)haracter company.  In addition to flying the flag for British high-quality manufacturing by supplying licensed costume characters worldwide and sports mascots to the world’s largest sporting events such as Olympic Games & Football World Cups, Rainbow manages over 100 children’s costume characters under licence. It provides professional appearances of celebrity characters in stores, shopping centres and other live event venues across the UK; bringing benefits to licensors, licensees, retailers and consumers alike.

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