BeeLine is a new interactive platform which blends augmented reality, cutting edge holographic technology and CGI to take families on a true interactive journey. Kathryn and Nick meet the company’s Founder, CEO and Inspirational Director, Brendan Caroo, at his Dream Studio in deepest Kent for a bizarre, inaugural peek inside a new universe.
A smartly dressed woman with a shell-like blond bob thrusts us through a doorway into a large old industrial warehouse space. High above our heads, the ceiling is pregnant with wires, whilst a slow unnerving whirring drifts downwards. Suddenly, through the overhead clutter a shape emerges on a fast rope-bound descent…
“You must be Kathryn and Nick – we’re running late!” yells down Brendan Caroo in a cheerful, if distant, voice. As he hones into view we observe brown moccasins without socks, maroon corduroy trousers and as he levels, a tanned face of about 40 crowned by shock of very dark, springy hair. He lets go of the rope, wipes a hand vigorously on his trousers then extends it to be shaken. His eyes are an extremely intense brown, “Brendan Caroo. The Dream Cloud, our computer hub and control centre is in the roof. Rope is the easiest way down… I couldn’t find a fireman’s pole long enough.”
Beckoning us to follow he walks quickly across the floor, “We must hurry there are people waiting…” we pass rapidly though a doorway into a narrow walkway strewn with rubble and mess. The ceiling here is high too, but the space is claustrophobic. “Everyone else is in the conservatory,” he calls over his shoulder. “I was hoping to have more time to give you a proper run through of operations and explain my vision, but it doesn’t matter… you’re about to experience it first-hand. This is five years in the making and everything’s been kept totally hush-hush, until now. You and my guests are about to go on the kind of adventure I always dreamed about… not only are you going to love it, but soon, you’ll all understand the bees.”
It isn’t long before we reach a final doorway and burst into a bright glass room, arranged like an old fashioned orangery. It’s warm, smells like fruit and greenhouses and four families, consisting of two parents and two children each, are arranged around wicker furniture. The kids are aged between around four and nine. The youngest boy in a sailor suit sits uninterested in a corner; whilst a little girl of about seven is doing handstands, her waist length red hair spilling out around her bare arms. “Kitty!” calls her mother, clearly embarrassed. These are wealthy patrons. This experience – even in prototype form – costs £2,000 per head and there are no age related discounts.
Caroo instantly morphs into The Entertainer, shakes his dark curls and almost yodels:
“Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys,
Follow me quietly don’t make any noise…”
We’re a little baffled by the abrupt change, but the audience seems suitably impressed and in hushed silence we all troop towards another door. Caroo puts a finger to his lips theatrically and beckons us all inside. This is a small studio space, and as we huddle together, a plasma flicks to life and a magnificent yellow and black bumble bee fills the screen, “There he is…” says Caroo, “Our host and guide for the afternoon… Mr Bumbles.”
The bee, perched on a pale pink rose flicks his antennae. Caroo pauses for a second, then clicks his fingers and a blinding flash of light sweeps through the room. We open our eyes to find ourselves in an huge aircraft hangar with a ceiling open to the sky and the gigantic, bulging body of Mr Bumbles hovering patiently above. At ground level is a large airship, Caroo, strides purposefully towards the craft and bids us to follow:
“Don’t be alarmed, come aboard the grand deck,
Bumbles will take us on our flower-trek.”
Stepping inside the ship we find ourselves in a grand cabaret theatre. At one end of the room is a raised, illuminated stage. At the other are giant panoramic windows, which judder as Mr Bumbles lowers himself onto the passenger box and prepares himself for flight. Heavy velvet curtains ease shut obliterating our view of the outside, whilst a deep low buzz reverberates from above and the whole room vibrates slightly.
In the now sealed space, five tables are laid with white clothes, name badges and such an overwhelming array of drinks and snacks that even the meanest of taste buds couldn’t help but be excited. There are pitchers of leaping blue liquid, fruit flavoured meads, and endless glass bottles, many of which look quite genuinely Victorian. There are numerous cheeses, sausages and a staggering quantity of cakes and fancies. The most prominent of these is an astonishing shade of puce and weighted high with a pyramid of vibrant jelly beans. One of the fathers seems almost emotional as he gazes at a cave-aged blue and bottle of extremely authentic looking stout.
“Bzzzzzz!” says Caroo, who has taken to the stage and positioned himself in front of the microphone. He begins to tap his moccasinned foot forcing everyone to tear their eyes away from the tables and onto him. From back stage a giant brown bunny rabbit bounds in behind him and starts to rhythmically beat on a steel drum. The room itself appears to sway in time as more large musical rabbits dash out to take up their instruments. This is unmistakeably the tune to “Under The Sea” from The Little Mermaid.
The experience is much sweeter
In somebody else’s dream
We’ll take you up in the air
Troubles will all float away
Just look at the fun around you
With the bees we’re going to soar
Such wonderful things surround you
You’ll discover all you need…
Six more giant backing rabbits scamper onto the stage and stand to attention on their hind legs, their silly hanging paws swaying and noses sniffing along. Two are black, two white with pink eyes and two slate grey. They join in with gusto for the chorus:
Under the bee
Under the bee
Beneath his tummy
Take it from me
Down on the earth they work all day
Back in your school they slave away
Laughing and eating
Takes quite some beating
Under the bee
The room begins to judder uncontrollably, tables shake and drinks totter precariously. In an unmistakable launch, Mr Bumbles has raised his makeshift airship aloft and is heading high up into the air. With a rock and roll flourish, Caroo leaps off the stage and rumbas towards the panoramic windows at the front of the craft.
Out there Mr Bumbles is happy
As we dance under his tum
The backing bunnies are positioned to left and right, pulling the curtains wide open so that bright sunlight fills the room. As Caroo belts his tune out onto the flowers below, the ginger girl, Kitty, abandons her table and stands beside him, gazing down with delighted glee.
Inside here we’re happy
And we can have loads of fun
He’s plotting a path
He’ll go from rose to rose
The room wobbles rhythmically as if the bee himself is buzzing in agreement.
And we’re here for a party
Wherever he wants to go
As Caroo and his Bunny Band take an instrumental break most of the remaining families flock to the windows to see the blur of brightly coloured flora rushing past. Mr Bumbles dances and lurches from gigantic flower to gigantic flower, slurping and pollinating with an excitable purr.
As an albino rabbit rocks out a paw-burning guitar solo, a dozen more regular sized bunnies, of all breeds and varieties, charge out from behind the stage and flood into the audience. The bunnies begin doublebugging round our feet, nudging ankles and tugging at trouser legs. Kitty is giggling furiously from her vantage point by the window, whilst others look a little bemused. The sailor-suit-clad boy who never left his place and seems glued to his chair starts to wail.
The room lurches even more furiously, smashing a pitcher of electric-blue, extra-fizzy bubble gum flavoured drink onto the floor. And the bunnies are working themselves into a fever, gradually assembling the audience sheepdog style and then re-arranging us into a hopping conger line.
We follow them around the room, Caroo who takes the rear seems to be in his element. He holds a bottle of fruit mead in one hand, “Nectar from the bee!” and a wheel of cheese in the other. “Now I want to show you exactly what Mr Bumbles sees and feels. Grab your drinks… and come with me and the Bunny Band, inside the bee.”
Inside the bee
Inside the bee
No work to beat us
Bore us or cheat us
Like other days
We can have a lovely time here
Play the drums drinking ginger beer
We got no troubles
Life is the bubbles
Inside the bee
Inside the bee
Since life is sweet here
We got the beat here
Even Mr Bumbles wants to play
Feel his deep urge to buzz and sway
We got the spirit
You got to hear it
Inside the bee
Inside the bee
Inside the bee
As the song reaches a crescendo, a dozen clear plastic tubes drop from the ceiling and hover six feet off the floor. Leading the way, members of the Bunny Band show us what to do, as one by one they approach the tubes and are sucked up into the ceiling. We all follow suit.
In another flash of light we emerge into an enclosed space, full of intense rattles and a rhythmic buzzing. In front of us, a giant kaleidoscope of colour provides a close up of a beautiful pink rose. Beyond that we can see dazzling sun rays, a tiny splash of green and blue – we are inside the head of Mr Bumbles. “Come on – follow me. This is the spirit of the bee…” calls Caroo as he takes a short run and hurls himself into the scene, the ginger girl is a beat behind him. Her mother following with a wail of, “Kitty!” Other children and parents look at each other with varying degrees of uncertainty and then begin to take the plunge.
We land at the top of a long sloping meadow. It is a beautiful sunny day and the place is a mass of flowers and bumble bees. By this point the little boy in the sailor-suit wears a slow burning look of misery as tears course down his cheeks… the ashen white faces of his parents probably provided him with little comfort either. But Kitty is already running down the hillside, her hair and laughter streaming out behind her. The bunnies are frolicking in tandem; jumping and doing excited binkies as they dash, helter-skelter towards the lake at the bottom. We all start to run too, the soft breeze brushing our skin and the grass whipping our ankles. At the bottom Brendan Caroo is hurling his moccasins down from the top of an extremely high ladder, a cloud of bees dancing and buzzing above his head.
At the edge of the lake the ladder rises straight and high into the beautiful blue sky and Kitty is already scaling its dizzying heights while the vast majority of us arrive panting. The bunnies are playing at the water’s edge, flicking water and skittishly leaping away. But Caroo is clearly having the most fun. The sound of his delighted whoop wrenches open the firmament as he whooshes down the twisting, turning, snaking slide and plummets into the clean water with a magnificent splash. The bees tracking his descent, disperse then come together like symbols as he lands. The slide itself is magnificent, long, high and open air…
Caroo emerges waist deep in water and begins to address, his curls hanging in perfect dripping black ringlets, whilst the bees dance a clear figure-of-eight around his head: “I want to create a pure fun experience for children and adults that has no story, no mystery, no discovery… none of the usual things people struggle for. I simply want you to take the bees by the hand, see their world and dance with them…” at this he breaks into song:
Dance with the bees
Nothing is sweeter
Makes you much freer
Dance with the bees!
The bunnies frolic, the bees dance and Kitty races down the immense water slide. With a quick wink Caroo throws his head back and sings into the endless blue sky, carpeted with hundreds and hundreds of yellow and black buzzing friends… before making his way back to the slide to take another go.
BeeLine is still in beta phase, but is taking bookings for children and adults of all ages at a cost of £2,000 per head.