Three years ago, Rania Ajami ’01, a New York-based filmmaker and parent, was bemoaning the shortage of child-friendly entertainment in the city (other than the standards, like movies or visits to museums). At the same time, her brother Rami ’04, a finance professional, was looking for ideas for a startup company. After a bit of brainstorming, the siblings combined their strengths to develop Pip’s Island, an interactive storytelling company set to launch this year.
The Pip’s Island experience, aimed at children ages 4 through 12, features adventures on a magical island, led by the title character and his friends. (Watch a trailer here.) By combining theatrical elements and digital animation tools, the creators are aiming for a unique form of family entertainment.
“We’re bringing technology into a physical, immersive space,” Rania says. “It’s a combination of different disciplines all coming together.”
While Pip’s Island is entertainment, Rami says there are important educational elements as well, including tactile learning and a chance for children to “follow their own journey,” rather than be guided step by step.
“It’s really where the future of entertainment is going — these immersive experiences,” Rania says. “But I think what gives us an added edge is that we’re creating this rich universe of stories and storytelling.”
Some in the entertainment business doubted the concept of Pip’s Island, telling the Ajamis that a live show for kids had to be based on characters they already knew from TV or movies, but Rania says she never believed that. When the company staged a pilot performance in December, she says, “Children instantly were identifying with the characters — they wanted to know more.”
Creating new worlds doesn’t happen overnight — on the creative side or in the equally important work of lining up investors and building a business plan — and the more than two and a half years of building Pip’s Island have made the Ajamis eager to share it with audiences.
“It’s very exciting,” Rami says. “We feel like we’re at the beginning of a journey.”