SpongeBob StorePants Retail Store – Universal Studios Florida
In 2011 I was brought in to work with Universal Creative as a consultant to develop designs for various projects at the “blue sky” development and production level. The second project assigned was to develop variations of a retail store environment with themed elements from Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants property. This was a combined effort with Nickelodeon and the Universal Creative team. The resulting interior was a mix of retail and attraction facility featuring a front meet & greet area visible to the exterior, animated billboards, and various iconic pieces from the submerged world known to the water based residents as Bikini Bottom. The scope of work for this property was to remodel an existing facility, integrate the IP and allow for new features to be included within the environment. During the process, periodic meetings would take place on the construction site and fabrication vendor locations to evaluate the progress of each stage of design.
Developing the space was achieved through research of the intellectual property, the operational requirements, and producing several 3D models and concept drawings for review in our meetings with the Universal and Nickelodeon executives. My role was focused creating the interior, modeling the entire facility with the exterior theme work and producing the show set and graphics design intent documents in a short period of time. The intent was to disorient the visitor with a welcoming presence of discovery by positioning the interior walls and large scale elements to appear to make the retail store larger than it actually is. The project evolved from more of an attraction and story-driven experience to an eventual retail store combined with thematic elements derived from the world of SpongeBob SquarePants. Focusing on the core characters and their surroundings was the key to establish the environment content. This set the stage to organize the content into a cohesive space that was both compartmentalized and balanced to include a working palette that was both recognizable and functional for the retail arrangement. Combining these features with the Universal fixture standard provided a base theme strategy to develop the layout and navigation through the store.
To engage the guests, Nickelodeon had requested a meet & greet area to be present at the front of the store to allow character presence as the stage-front for the property. Working out a retail plan to include an integrated photo-op opportunity at the entry points was a unique process developed specifically to the store footprint. Guest traffic flow was evaluated to avoid any blind corners and bottlenecks while still trying to the divide the space and provide a suitable permanent background for photography. To utilize the space efficiently with an organized logic, two transaction counters were designed to separate the retail from the photo-op transactions. This was achieved by determining the guests POV once their photography was complete with the character as well as providing signage and a central pathway leading into the store that allowed the guests sufficient viewing and clearance to navigate to the appropriate counters.
For the focal point of the store, SpongeBob’s pineapple house was developed and set in place as a walk-through set for children to pass through and visit “Gary” the snail. The main structure of the house was fabricated in two pieces and delivered through the front window area of the facility and then finished out on site.
The floor layout in combination with the wall positions gave the store a unique footprint providing stations of themed areas for the associated product and theme work. The store interior themes were a combination of Mrs. Puff’s Boating School, Krusty Krabs restaurant, the interior of SpongeBob’s home and Jellyfish Fields. Organizing these themes was a matter of balancing the contrasting elements to form divisions of the space without appearing to be limited to one theme design for the overall facility. This provided a rich atmosphere of color coordinated with a mixed variety recognizable components from the IP.
The store is the first of it’s kind at Universal, giving the global property a state-of the art home.
All images by Bryan Ebenhoch. Images of the completed store were photographed on opening day in May 2012. Prior images were taken in 2011.