Last year, Amazon Prime Video received high marks from me for their Jack Ryan experience. This year, they returned with something entirely different and exciting. I checked out the Amazon Prime Video offsite a few times during San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) 50 and I was thoroughly impressed with what was presented there.
The offsite, covering over 60,000 square feet, was located in the same location as last year (Martin Luther King Promenade and 1st). Instead of focusing on one properly, as was done with Jack Ryan last year, In 2019, Amazon designed the site to promote three of their properties: Carnival Row, The Expanse, and The Boys.
There were a few other noticeable changes to the Amazon site from last year, including the addition of grass, which help to cushioned attendees’ feet a little as they explored the offsite, and the shading structures built over the places where the lines were formed for each of the three activations.
The layout for the Amazon Prime Video experience included four unique attractions:
- Carnival Row
- The Boys
- The Expanse
- The Tower – The “Centerpiece”
Here is a quick rundown of each activation:
This was probably the most intriguing and unique experience of the three. As fans entered the line for the activation, they were asked their preference to experience the activation as either a creature or a human. Once they got through the line, they approached a mock immigration checkpoint where a constable asked a few questions about the reason for their visit. The constables were quite serious and imposing, which helped set the tone for the series (Hint: humans and creatures do not have the greatest of relationships in this series).
As fans entered the experience, they first walked around a small market and then were invited into a cabaret where there were a couple of performances for everyone to enjoy. Attendees were approached by some of the creatures ‘working’ inside the cabaret and asked to help in an underground movement. If they agreed to help , they were then asked to give a code to the doorman.
The actors who were part of the activation played their roles quite well, even down to their accents – which, depending to whom fans spoke, was either English or Irish. At some points, I actually forgot that I was in southern California.
The setting for this attraction was an electronics store where a car had crashed through the front window. The scene mirrored one from the series (no spoilers) to near perfection. This activation was a different take on an escape room as fans were recruited to help cover up an event and also find objects hidden throughout the room in order to meet an objective. An added bonus to help add realism to the setting was the periodic smoke effects from the crashed car. The standout for this attraction was the actors – they really sold it with their portrayals of their anti-supes animosity mixed in with a little humor from time to time. Their energy and enthusiasm never diminished throughout the day.
I learned through the rumor mill that there was a little surprise for eagle-eyed attendees of this activation if they found the clue hidden in plain sight inside this activation. The clue allowed fans to gain access to a secret comic book store filled with a few giveaways. However, before attendees could fill up their rucksacks with anything, they had to play a small game of darts and get a high score. Based on their score, they were given a couple of various items from the room.
For this activation, fans entered into a ‘shuttle craft’ and were given a briefing about being enlisted in a UN peacekeeping mission about to land on a newly-colonized planet. As the doors opened, I was in awe of the landscape created to simulate this planet. Our group was then assigned to teams and given orders to interview the local inhabitants. Depending on the inhabitants interviewed fans were asked to find items which were part of a crashed ship, invited to have tea, or to locate various members of the population. As with the other attractions within the Amazon activation, the objective-driven tasks allowed attendees the opportunity to explore and interact with the actors.
Last of the attractions, and not the least by any measure, was the iridescent tower reaching 40 feet high, which was strategically placed in the middle of the activation. This truly was the centerpiece of the offsite and it was used a few times each day for live performances. The performances rotated and showcased each of the three Amazon series, which ranged from a rally against superheroes (The Boys) to a stunt-driven battle to capture the flag (The Expanse) to a search for a runaway fairy (Carnival Row).
With regard to the rest of the activation, there was also plenty of space to sit down and relax, with seating available to take a load off or grab a quick bite using the coins fans had received as they entered the activation.
While activations are primarily built to promote a series or property, they tend to be generally family-oriented. The one thing that set Amazon apart from the other offsites was their adult theme. This was not meant as much for children, due to the adult themes and, at times, language. This also parallels the adult themes for Carnival Row and The Boys.
Stars, Parties, Screening events, and more
While some activations serve a singular purpose, Amazon used their space to also host the IGN party on the evening of SDCC Thursday and as screening parties for The Boys and Carnival Row on the Friday and Saturday evenings (respectively). These parties were restricted to the 21 and above crowd.
Stars and creatives behind the three series dropped by the activation throughout the con and most notable was the surprise the cast of Carnival Row had in store for those who attended the screening party on the Saturday evening. Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, David Gyasi, and Tamzin Merchant came to the screening party dressed in cosplay suits and mingled with the crowd prior to the screening. It was then revealed to the crowd that they were the ones in the suits and that they were not at the Entertainment Weekly SDCC Closing Party, as many had assumed, since the screening and the party occurred at the same time. The actors stayed for the screening and enjoyed it along with the crowd. Here is a video showing how it all went down.
— Carnival Row (@CarnivalRow) August 1, 2019
As I reflect on the activations at SDCC 50, Amazon really outdid themselves with a site which offered a lot for attendees to enjoy, while at the same time experiencing something very unique. This was, without a doubt, something that took a lot of work to plan and execute. The Amazon team did a phenomenal job, and their efforts were clearly well-appreciated by the fans.
I know that I am not alone in looking forward to seeing what Amazon will bring to the table at SDCC next year.