Ho Ho NO! It’s so much better…
The most common question we receive at Zuhoo is: “Is this a Zoom call with Santa?” The short answer is no. Here’s the long answer…
We love Zoom for what it is, a marvelous communication platform that makes it convenient for anyone to have video conference calls and virtual meetings. Our CEO and co-founder, Walt Geer, tells the story of how Zoom’s success helped lead to the creation of Zuhoo:
Back in late March, Sarah Blackman, my wife and Zuhoo co-founder, suggested we might look into creating a virtual Santa experience. This was a response to understanding that we would not be able to open our live holiday experience, Santa’s Fantastical, due to the pandemic. Before we’d started Santa’s Fantastical in 2018, I’d been in the Santa business for over a decade as a co-owner of PictureU which is the 2nd largest Santa operation in North America. And long before my Santa days, I was an Internet entrepreneur, so I knew a lot about Santa and technology. Sarah’s idea caught my attention, but I wasn’t sure.
The very next day, I heard that Zoom had grown exponentially from 10 million to 200 million users and it happened within the first month or two of the pandemic lockdown. Understanding how people were using Zoom for meetings, and also weddings, parties, book clubs, etc., I knew the market would be ready for a virtual Santa experience. Video visits had become normalized and widely accepted, so we felt that we could preserve the tradition of Santa visits for families by using a virtual platform, but would Zoom work for our vision?
Our CTO began by evaluating the Zoom platform to figure out if it would be a good fit for Zuhoo Santa visits. The more he studied our requirements for creating a scalable and entertaining virtual experience, the more apparent it became that Zoom would not work for us. You see, we wanted to create an online Santa visit in a way that has never been done before. We wanted it to look and feel whimsical, like you are actually connecting to Santa and Mrs. Claus on North Pole TV!
There were some creative details we wanted to include that did not exist on Zoom, Skype, WebEx, Teams, or any other existing videoconferencing systems that were designed to host meetings. We were interested in creating a dynamic user interface where we could use festive screen borders and animation to make the visits feel extra special. We quickly figured out that we had to build the world’s first fully-integrated virtual experience platform, so that’s what we did!
By doing so, we are able to showcase pre-visit entertainment before families connect toSanta, a keepsake deliverable video and photos with Santa, and the highest level of cyber security to ensure that no “Zoombombing” occurs on our platform. Zuhoo has also created a personalization engine that gives families the ability to experience Santa they way wish to see him. We offer Santas in multiple languages (including ASL), ethnicities, and a Sensitive Santa option for children with special needs. Additionally, we created functionality for payments and for scheduling thousands of concurrent Zuhoo sessions around the world, as well as branding capabilities and reporting for partners.
We even included session management for our Santa & Mrs. Claus performers that allow them to easily access the information that you may include about your children when you book yourZuhoo. By knowing their name, age, house elf name, what they would like for Christmas, etc., we are able to fully personalize your experience and make it truly magical! That’s the added bonus with our Zuhoo virtual platform - the personalization!
We were most inspired by Zoom and appreciate them for what they do, we just had a more creative and dynamic vision for Zuhoo. Nowadays, parents and children alike spend their days working and learning on Zoom. The last thing we wanted was for Zuhoo to look like a typical work or school video call.
Zuhoo is extraordinary, and it’s certainly not your typical bland video conferencing system. We are proud to give people the Santa experience that is ideal for their family and help Santa and Mrs. Claus performers all around the world spread joy from the comfort and safety of their homes.