Behind the Scenes with Blackpool’s New The Gruffalo & Friends Clubhouse Model Creators

The family behind the creation of the 3D model characters for a UK first tourist attraction have today told how they watched the film on repeat for two months and developed an obsession for the animated adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Gruffalo.

Matt and Samantha Wild from Cardiff, who are parents to two-year-old twin boys, said they are now beyond excited to see The Gruffalo & Friends Clubhouse opening in the famous seaside resort of Blackpool later this month, which is part of a partnership with licensor, Magic Light Pictures. It comes following an 18-month £2.3m attraction investment from Merlin Entertainments.

Featuring six of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much loved children’s stories, all under one roof - a world first, the magical indoor play adventure will be unlike anything experienced before. The enchanting 3D world will bring to life popular characters from The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Zog, The Snail and the Whale, Room on the Broom and The Highway Rat.

To bring the books and film characters and scenes to life, Merlin Entertainments and Magic Light Pictures enlisted the talents of Matt and Samantha, and their 31-strong team of expert craftspeople at Wild Creations, to create the Gruffalo’s ‘knobbly knees, and turned-out toes, And poisonous wart at the end of his nose.’ plus Mouse, Fox, Owl, Snake, Zog, Snail from The Snail and the Whale, and The Highway Rat.

Cardiff-based Wild Creations, founded by Matt (39) in 2010, creates the most imaginative, creations, be it a sculpture, model, piece of scenery or theming for theme parks, theatre, exhibitions and TV.

Matt, ahead of the eagerly awaited opening of The Gruffalo & Friends Clubhouse attraction on 19 May, has shared how he, creative director Samantha, and their team have brought Julia and Axel’s popular characters to life for a truly immersive and unforgettable experience.

The day prior to receiving the brief, Matt and Samantha (37), took their twin boys to a nearby Gruffalo Trail for the very first time.

"We were beyond excited to be asked to be involved with bringing the characters and scenes to life. After our visit to the Gruffalo Trail, the boys insisted we all watched the film on repeat for the next two months and it felt like we had a personal connection. The films and books are lovely and entertain both children and adults alike. It has been a privilege to work on the attraction, especially with the boys being at the right age to enjoy the films and books.

Matt Wild, Wild Creations

All the characters at the attraction have been created by the Wild Creations team. In addition, they have constructed 24 trees to replicate the ‘deep dark woods’ in The Gruffalo, the tower from Zog, and the rock from The Snail and the Whale, which will feature in the attraction's six distinct play zones dedicated to each story.

“Merlin Entertainments and Magic Light Pictures provided the attraction concepts. We started by taking 3D CGI models of each character from the films. Our 3D modeller then posed them to work within the attraction and prepared them for milling (where you cut or shape the model). We then milled polystyrene blocks on our 7-axis robot to create the character models at full scale. Our sculptors then layered the models with a couple of centimetres of clay and hand sculpted the final details. A silicone mould was then created which allows the models to then be cast out of fibreglass. We then finished the seams and painted each character by hand by meticulously looking at the film references. Each figure took up to ten weeks to complete, with Owl proving the most challenging as he required steelwork inside his wings to ensure he could be suspended from his ‘treetop house’.”

Matt Wild, Wild Creations

All of Wild Creations’ staff were involved with the project which included 3D printing, design, sculpting, moulding, casting, finishing, painting, carpentry, scenic painting, and metal fabrication.

“Matt, Samantha and Wild Creation’s talented team have delivered a truly immersive and magical attraction, where children can run wild in their favourite stories, in the heart of Blackpool. We are beyond excited to finally throw open the doors to The Gruffalo & Friends Clubhouse, and welcome children to explore and have fun amongst these much-loved characters, which have been created by highly skilled artists and craftspeople with the greatest of care and attention. Merlin Entertainments is committed to ensuring Blackpool remains the UK’s number one family seaside resort by investing in first class attractions.”

Kate Shane, Regional Director, Blackpool, Merlin Entertainments

The Gruffalo & Friends Clubhouse joins Merlin’s seven other attractions in Blackpool including The Blackpool Tower, SEA LIFE Blackpool and Peter RabbitTM: Explore and Play.