Blending at least two formidable pop-culture trends, cable channel Freeform will open a Mermaid Museum in Hollywood this month as a free, four-day glitter-bombed Instagram mecca.
Kind of like the Museum of Ice Cream, but with seaweed.
There will be a “live” mermaid in a 48,000-gallon tank, giant clamshells, a massive “scale” wall (possibly made of sequins), a 360-degree “underwater” projection room with a siren call soundtrack, and optical illusions that will make visitors look like they’re floating in the ocean.
It’s all in service of the Disney-owned network’s tentpole midseason show, Siren, which was first introduced at the upfront presentations last year with a clip that has since snagged more than 21 million views.
“Mermaids are the new unicorns, vampires and zombies,” said Tricia Melton, Freeform’s svp of marketing, creative and branding. “They’re pervasive in the culture right now, and our audience—mostly millennials—has certainly embraced them.”
The Mermaid Museum, opening March 22 (influencers will get a sneak peek the night before), also taps into the ongoing interest in pop-up shops, which have become an advertising trope but still pack in the bodies, and reach well beyond their physical borders via social media, if they’re clever and unique.
Among the multiple photo opps and “activations,” Freeform’s stunt will re-create a mermaid memorabilia store, an important set piece from the series, which takes place in the fictional town of Bristol Cove. Storyline: Life there gets disrupted when a modern-day mermaid, believed to be a relic of the area’s past, emerges from the deep and goes on a rampage.
Clearly it’s a fantasy thriller and not a Disney cartoon, more in line with the channel’s past hits like Pretty Little Liars and upcoming dramas such as Cloak & Dagger.
“The show turns the typical notion of a mermaid on its head,” Melton said. “We usually think of these creatures as fragile, hyper-sexualized victims. Ours is powerful and predatory. She will seriously mess you up.”
The latest video snippet of the series, which launches with a two-hour premiere on March 29, features the mermaid character Ryn (played by Eline Powell) sprouting a spiky dorsal fin, lethal talons and razor-sharp teeth.
The museum, created with Popsugar, is part of a hefty marketing campaign for the drama that includes a massive digital and social media push, outdoor ads, TV trailers during genre shows like Riverdale and The Talking Dead, cross-promotion and custom content with a number of Disney divisions and a partnership with Pressed Juicery for a drink called Mermaid Fuel (it’s blue from the algae).
Freeform has also declared March 29 to be International Mermaid Day, finding a gap in the many already-existing mermaid holidays. “There was nothing worldwide,” Melton said.
The museum, a selfie heaven that Melton envisions as “a beautiful and eerie experience” that will “immerse people in mermaid mythology,” is prepping for at least 3,000 people. When it’s finished, its mermaid tank will be donated to TreePeople, an L.A. environmental nonprofit, and Freeform is also giving money to Heal the Bay “in celebration of sea creatures everywhere.”
Mermaids have been all the rage for some time now, influencing everything from fish-tail blankets and Lady Gaga to hair color and Frappuccinos (and yes, sparkly mermaid toast is still a thing). An indie flick, The Lure, made a splash, so to speak, as a cannibalistic mermaid story, and on the lighter side, there’s a live-action remake of The Little Mermaid on the horizon with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“We want to capitalize on the love and passion that people have for mermaids,” Melton said of the series and the museum. “You can jump onto a trend and it may not be effective. But we have such a rare concept. We’re not trafficking in cheese.”
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