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An ogre is on its way to Opryland

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

A visit to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center soon could include breakfast with Shrek, pool parties with the penguins of Madagascar and parades featuring other costumed characters from the DreamWorks film studio’s animated flicks.

That’s because Gaylord Entertainment has signed a licensing deal with DreamWorks Animation to infuse its mega-resort hotels in Nashville; Orlando, Fla.; near Washington, D.C.; and in the Dallas area with walking and talking cartoon icons.

For Gaylord, hooking up with costumed versions of Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and pals offers a chance to extend its appeal beyond the convention business and cater more to families with children as the hotel chain bounces back from last year’s flood in Middle Tennessee, which shuttered its flagship property near the Cumberland River for several months.

Colin Reed, chairman and chief executive of Gaylord, said the partnership “should allow us to meaningfully enhance occupancy and revenue on the leisure side of our business, particularly during the summer and holiday periods when group business is slower.”

For California-based DreamWorks, the deal is but the latest in a series of new partnerships designed to keep families charmed and engaged by its characters even as the company gets more competition from other studios pumping out new animated feature films.

The “DreamWorks Experience” is set to launch at Gaylord resorts in November.

“There are certain soft periods in the business,” Reed said. The Gaylord executive shared the stage for Wednesday’s announcement at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center with DreamWorks Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and oversized panda and penguin mascots.

Pricing to come

Reed described the deal as a strategic partnership that has been in negotiation for four or five months, with fuller details about pricing of family getaway packages and character-driven attractions to come at a later date.

The partnership follows a year in which DreamWorks, whose main competitors are the bigger and more recognizable Disney and Pixar, has aggressively sought to expand the reach of its character brands.

The Glendale, Calif.-based animation and film production company launched a partnership with Royal Caribbean to bring its cartoon characters to four ships, including the massive Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship with room for 6,300 passengers. The company also has inked deals in the past year with McDonald’s, Samsung and Walmart to feature its characters on everything from TVs to Happy Meals and Oreo cookies.

For Gaylord, the intention in introducing DreamWorks characters to its vast, covered village-like hotels is to fill the 20 percent to 25 percent of the year that serve as slow periods — summers, in particular, when convention business dies down, schools are out and families are taking vacations.

Rather than “discounting the daylights out of the business,” hotel officials had searched for something unique and family centric to persuade families to make their memories at the hotel, Reed said.

Neither Gaylord nor DreamWorks officials would comment on specific terms of the partnership, whose initial length is for four years.

Orlando-based hotel analyst Scott Brush said that a typical partnership would involve a sizable franchise fee paid to DreamWorks for the use of its characters.

Such deals can bring hotels new business, while the franchise owner reaps benefits from the constant marketing of characters, which drives themed-product sales and builds traffic for movie sequels, said Brush, an analyst with Brush & Company.

Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks, said in an interview with the New York Times that his company had only started imagining ways to use the DreamWorks characters.

In the mulling stage are themed hotel rooms, greeters and even Shrek wake-up calls.

“We’re still fine tuning,” Katzenberg said, calling the Gaylord deal a “tremendous opportunity.”

In fact, child-friendly and cartoon-themed hotel destinations have been successful in the few locations where they’re available outside of theme parks.

Gaylord’s Orlando property has enjoyed some success with a children’s program, while another Florida hotel remade into the Nickelodeon Suites Resort (promising a “Nicked out experience”) has been hugely successful drawing family vacationers, Brush said.

Many kid-themed hotels, however, have tended to offer “extremely expensive” vacation packages, he said. Gaylord hasn’t announced its pricing.

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