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How to Design Despicable, Silly Clothing: Some challenging uniform requirements at Universal Studios

By Lewis Berkover

Universal Studios Orlando was looking to bring to life attractions and shops at its theme park that spotlighted some of today’s most beloved animated characters. This included the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem Ride and the Silly Super Stuff and SpongeBob SquarePants retail stores. One major aspect of the new attention was a uniform program for the ride operators and store clerks. For this program, they tasked Fann Emblem Uniforms and Embroidery with creating a hit for the whole family, just as these characters were in movie theaters and living rooms around the world.

Connie Prebenda, owner and president of Fann Emblem, says, “We have been supplying uniforms and related items to the Universal Orlando Resort since the park opened in 1990 and have been given the opportunity to grow with them through custom clothing for the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem Ride, Super Silly Stuff and SpongeBob StorePants shops. I am pleased with the confidence they have in us.”

 

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem Ride

 

The new Despicable Me 3D adventure pairs the audience with some of the main characters from the movie including Gru, his daughter and the mischievous Minions. The adventure of a lifetime begins in Gru’s home, where the audience is recruited for his latest scheme, one where fans get to become an actual Minion.

Universal had clear design concepts in mind for its team members. They would be dressed in scientific attire similar to one of the movie’s characters, Dr. Nefario. This raised some interesting and innovative hurdles that needed to be overcome. The first challenge was the lab coat itself. It needed to be functional inside the air-conditioned venue and also outside in the various weather conditions. To accommodate this, the coat was modified for both hot and cold temperatures. A heavy fleece zip-in/zip-out liner as well as a short-sleeve version of the lab coat was engineered. Designers added a screen printing of the Gru logo reinforce the attraction theme.

The pants needed to be custom dyed to match the Dr. Nefario character. Universal also specified that the pants should have an adjustable hem. This gave them the opportunity to purchase less SKUs and still have the proper fitting garment lengths for all employees.

The look also called for boots. Since Universal staff can work multiple attractions, spats were developed to cover the shoe and give them the look of wearing boots. The goggles were each individually painted and assembled by the Universal Fabrication Department.

 

Super Silly Stuff

 

One of the merchandise stores at Universal provided another unique project with its own design challenges. The store is called “Super Silly Stuff,” and it was loosely based on the Despicable Me carnival attendant. In the movie, the attendant was bundled in a warm, layered sweater. This required some out-of-the-box thinking since the theme park is based in Florida where additional layers would mean uncomfortable outfits for team members during the warmer months.

Fann resolved this by creating a layered shirt appearance by sewing on additional elements at the sleeve and waist. A Super Silly Stuff screened logo was added to ensure that the casual nature of the wardrobe would not lead to staff being mistaken for guests walking the park. Custom-made hat bands complete the look and helped meet all of Universal’s desires for the uniform.

 

SpongeBob StorePants

 

This fun store at Universal gives guests the opportunity to take photos with SpongeBob himself, while offering a variety of plush toys and other merchandise of the different characters on the show. Anchors away with this wardrobe! The outfit required a sublimated patch on the back shoulder, along with modified shirts complete with stripes and an anchor. The tie was made loosely but also with Velcro so it would break away from the neck for team member safety. An adjustable hem pant was added so Universal would be able to save by buying fewer SKUs. It also provided them with the opportunity to correct fitting issues anywhere, even in a pineapple under the sea.

 

About Fann Emblem

 

For more than 50 years, Fann Emblem has been serving the uniform industry with silk screening, embroidery and promotional items. The company also offers custom-made clothing for the hospitality industry where production is done in both the United States and overseas. A new retail line, Ally Belle’s Closet, has recently been initiated as an outgrowth of the custom hospitality line to appeal to the resort boutique shops, some of which are located in the hotels currently being served. This line is produced in the United States. Fann is a certified Women and Minority Business Enterprise for its female leadership team.