Canadian In-Mall Entertainment Company Launches New Concept

By Mario Toneguzzi

ZaZaZoo, the plush animal ride rental company which launched its innovative new concept a few years ago in several Canadian shopping centres, now has a new way of entertaining kids in those malls.

The company recently launched ZaZaPlay, an active motion playground, in the St-Laurent Centre in Ottawa, with plans to expand the innovative game for kids entertainment to malls across Quebec and Ontario this year.

Sonny Juane, director of operations for ZaZaZoo, which is based in Gatineau across the river from Ottawa, said ZaZaPlay is a light-projected interactive experience where participants can choose from a variety of single or multi-user games.

He said it uses the latest technology in object recognition sensors to provide a unique experience for both active users and walk-by spectators.

“We launched there. We’re going to assess basically how we deliver the service and the process. What’s the best way to deliver it? And then what we’re going to do is we’ll be expanding it to other locations."

“In some malls the plush animal rides, for example, it’s much more difficult to implement in multi-level malls. It’s much more difficult if they have narrow hallways for example. So we were looking for additional entertainment that we could implement there without necessarily having the plush animal rides.”

Juane said the goal is to expand the concept as quickly as possible into as many locations as possible.

ZaZaZoo Plush Animal Ride Experience is Canada’s number one supplier of Plush Animals Ride Rentals.  The company, which began operations in 2015, provides rides for shopping malls and special events. Its goal is to enhance the customer shopping experience by providing unique entertainment that can be enjoyed both by children and parents alike.

“We originally started out with the plush animal rides. They’re motorized children’s rides,” said Juane. “They’re like furry animals. Around the mall. We started getting requests from mall managers looking for other types of different experiences for them."

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“As you know the retail industry has gone through this kind of transition right now and they’re trying to figure out how to basically increase foot traffic. So our timing was awesome. They didn’t know what they wanted but we kind of filled that void at that point.”

Juane said the company’s general goal has always been quite broad. It’s trying to provide engaging and interactive experiences to draw more families into shopping centres.

ZaZaPlay is in a set kiosk space.

“We play different types of games like digital soccer and hockey. There’s like a Hungry Hippo style game but they’re dragons. So Hungry Dragon,” said Juane. “We use cameras to detect body and motion movement from children."

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“The idea of doing interactive digital video we kind of contemplated because our goal is to get kids more active. To get their faces out of tablets and everything else. We’re doing an interactive video . . . versus physical activity but we’re finding it’s great because the way it’s used it creates activity. The rides are great. They’re awesome but it’s really for kids riding around the mall. There’s not a lot of physical activity. While this one is very, very active.”

The company was founded by Melanie Lafreniere. Her idea was born after realizing that some children may not be too excited about spending time in malls and that would influence the time parent’s spent shopping.

Zazazoo launched at Les Promenades Gatineau in November 2015.

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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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Mario Toneguzzi

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.