Entertainment Company Brings Favorite Children’s Characters to Life
Writer / Shannon Siders
Todd Bingham and Chad Wright met 10 years ago while working for a company in the franchising business, and recently teamed up to open a franchise of their own, Party Princess Productions.
The high-end character entertainment company provides characters of all kinds, including princesses and superheroes, for children’s birthday parties, corporate events and festivals.
“Being in franchising over 10 years, we’ve seen a lot of businesses that have gotten us excited,” Wright says. “But one of the things my wife always told me is we will not invest in a business we don’t believe in or would not utilize the product or service.”
Wright, who has a 3-year-old daughter with his wife Kelly, and Bingham, who has a 13-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son with his wife Cindy, latched on quickly to Party Princess Productions, because they knew it was a business they and their friends would use.
“People may not spend money on themselves, but they’ll go hog wild on their little kid to have a great party, a great experience,” Wright says.
“Party Princess Productions fit an area where we didn’t think there was saturation in the market, we felt there was an opportunity here, and the cost was right,” Bingham adds.
The duo, who came across several appealing franchises over the years, was excited to finally collaborate on a business of their own, and opened shop in Jeffersontown last May.
Bingham, a Jeffersontown resident, knew the area was a good place to do business and liked its central location. The pair wanted an office space that was easily accessible and settled on an office at the corner of Taylorsville Road and Six Mile Lane.
“The area is really booming,” Bingham says. “I’ve lived here 10 years now, and I really like the people in the community. People here do business with people who are in J-Town. They’re pretty loyal to people who live, work and are from the J-Town area, and I like that.”
The comfort and safety of the performers coming by the office to pick up and drop off costumes was also important.
“Since we’re dealing with a lot of high school aged or younger individuals, we wanted to make sure it was a safe place,” Wright says. “We looked at a lot of industrial spaces, but they were poorly lit. Here you have a lot of establishments that keep the parking lot relatively busy, and it’s well-lit.”
The franchise was appealing to Bingham and Wright because they can manage the business while still having time for their families and other projects.
“Plus, it’s a pretty fun business,” Bingham says. “We get to talk to parents quite often after the fact, and we hear mostly the good, which is unique.”
Wright works as director of franchise development for another company, but Bingham shifted his efforts to Party Princess Productions full time as the business started to take off.
“We work days, nights, weekends to try to get the word out, to let everybody know we’re here, we exist and the service we provide,” Bingham says.
Party Princess Productions employs about 20 contractors locally to serve as performers, many of whom are from the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS). Some of the cast members have previously worked for Disney’s college program, and word of mouth has continued to grow the pool of performers organically.
“The acting community, just like J-Town, is very close-knit, they all know each other,” Bingham says.
Through just five months of operation, Party Princess Productions has provided performers for more than 50 local events and parties, with the uptick in corporate business fueling brand recognition that has led to more birthday parties.
A great deal of emphasis is placed on making sure the performer really looks like the character she or he is portraying, down to the eye color. Some performers even utilize colored contacts to be more versatile.
All the costumes are shipped from the business’s Anaheim, California, headquarters. Two former Disney employees make the high-quality costumes and wigs worn by the performers, and the franchise provides training videos on how to do makeup for each character. There are also restrictions around jewelry and nail polish to make the performers look as authentic as possible.
The popularity of a character is usually fueled by a movie release, and top-requested characters so far have included Disney princesses Elsa, Cinderella, Moana, Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog,” and Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” as well as characters like the Red Ranger from “Power Rangers.”
“When the character shows up, it’s typically a surprise for the birthday kid,” says Bingham, who said the sweet-spot is children ages five to seven. “They make a big to-do about the birthday kid. They introduce themselves as the character and really play the character.”
Performers engage in an interactive story time, telling the story of the character they’re portraying and often lead a sing-along.
“We employ mostly musical theater majors, people who have been involved with musical theater or otherwise have strong vocal ability,” Bingham says. “They really can belt out the song or songs associated with the story. We feel that really separates us compared to some of the competition.”
The character leads the singing of “Happy Birthday” and can serve the cake and ice cream to those in attendance if requested. Other activities such as face-painting, crafts and princess or superhero training can get the children interacting with the character throughout the party.
Before a party is booked, Bingham or Wright speaks with the parents to set expectations and determine the performer’s arrival time.
“We do pay attention to the very small details,” Bingham says. “We really want to make the party special for the kid. We want them to really believe this is the actual character coming to their home to perform for them.”
Parents or organizations interested in booking Party Princess Productions for an upcoming event can call 502-443-1711 or visit louisville.partyprincessproductions.com for more information.
As for the future, the duo plans to continue growing the business in Louisville and beyond.
“I would love to be a household name in the area that any family or company can say, ‘I want a character at an event and we know who to call,’” says Bingham, with Wright nodding in agreement. “Chad and I would like to expand the business to the Lexington area and other areas in Kentucky. There’s a need for other parts of the state, even Indianapolis, and I think that’s a very doable thing over the next three to five years.”