Walmart is using virtual reality to — what else? — get people excited to buy stuff.
The retailer teamed up with DreamWorks Animation for a touring VR experience tied to “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” Walmart is setting up installations in parking lots of its stores in 16 cities, starting Friday (Feb. 15) in Burbank and culminating in its hometown of Bentonville, Ark., on April 7-9.
The goal is to lure fans of the animated dragon franchise into the VR tent, where they’ll strap on VR googles and take a seat in a motion-activated chair. They’ll then take a nearly five-minute virtual flight and interact with Astrid, Hiccup, Toothless, Hookfang and other characters from the films — after which they’ll be shepherded through a “branded, immersive gift shop.”
For DreamWorks Animation, it’s also an opportunity to hype the release of “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” which opens wide Feb. 22. The studio worked with Spatial&, acquired last year by Walmart’s Store N°8 incubation arm, which was founded on the premise that VR and other emerging storytelling technologies will become major sales tools. It’s the first VR activation for the startup (whose name, spelled out, is “Spatialand”).
“Collaborating with DreamWorks Animation and its iconic ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ franchise is such an exciting way to bring Spatial&’s first ever activation to the public,” said Katie Finnegan, CEO of Spatial&.
It’s not Walmart’s first foray into employing tech-driven entertainment to boost engagement with customers (and, ultimately, drive up sales). Last fall, the retailing giant invested $250 million in interactive video firm Eko, establishing a joint venture — dubbed W*E Interactive Ventures — to create entertainment and advertising content.
The “How to Train Your Dragon” VR/shopping pop-up will hit five states — California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Arkansas — where warmer temps prevail this time of year.
In the Walmart store parking lots where it’s hosting the “Dragon” VR experience (see list below), guests start in an on-boarding room where they’re greeted by the film franchise’s mischievous twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut (played by real-life actors). Participants are then led into a dragon’s cave to sit in Positron’s Voyager VR motion chairs, powered by the HP VR backpack, and don either an HP Windows Mixed Reality or HP Omen Mindframe headset. Visitors must be 8 or older to participate.
The “How to Train Your Dragon” VR experience was directed by Kurt Mattila and Gil Zimmerman and produced by Spatial&’s Armand Weeresinghe. “Our partners at Spatial& exceeded our expectations with their incredible work on this project,” said Abhijay Prakash, COO of DreamWorks Feature Animation.
Walmart’s “How to Train Your Dragon” gift shop will feature plush toys, action figures, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs of previous “Dragon” movies, video games, and books. Select merchandise from the collection will be available in 2,000 Walmart stores across the U.S. and on walmart.com.
Here’s a list of Walmart stores the “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” virtual tour is scheduled to hit between Feb. 15 and April 9 (visit this link for address info and hours):
Burbank, Calif.: Feb. 15-16
Pico Rivera, Calif.: Feb. 17-19
Anaheim, Calif.: Feb. 22-23
San Bernardino, Calif.: Feb. 24-26
Las Vegas: March 1-2
North Las Vegas, Nev.: March 3-5
Glendale, Ariz.: March 8-9
Gilbert, Ariz.: March 10-12
San Antonio, Texas: March 15-16
New Braunfels, Texas: March 17-19
Grand Prairie, Texas: March 22-23
Allen, Texas: March 24-26
Sugar Land, Texas: March 29-30
Katy, Texas: March 31-April 2
Rogers, Ark.: April 5-6
Bentonville, Ark.: April 7-9