Bob Shallit

Sacramento company’s ‘Heroes’ exhibit headed to China

Troy Carlson, owner of Stage Nine, stands next to his 24-foot-tall rock candy mountain at last year’s State Fair.
Troy Carlson, owner of Stage Nine, stands next to his 24-foot-tall rock candy mountain at last year’s State Fair. rpench@sacbee.com

Troy Carlson’s blockbuster exhibits – with themes such as the history of animation, rock ’n’ roll, candy and toys – have toured all over the West in recent years after making initial appearances at the California State Fair.

Now one of the Sacramentan’s shows – with a superhero theme – is going east. Far East.

Carlson, head of Stage Nine Exhibit Design, has just signed a contract to take his “Hall of Heroes” show to Shanghai this fall, with the possibility of gigs to follow in Beijing and numerous other locations in China.

“Many of their cities are booming. They’re hungry for content,” Carlson said of the “humongous” China market.

Exhibits typically stay in one location for about three months and then move on to another city if there’s interest. There’s so much demand in China, Carlson said, that he’s been told: “You could be busy for five years.”

The China deal, which developed over the past three months, represents a bunch of firsts for Stage Nine, besides being the company’s initial contract outside North America. It’s the first one that stands on its own as opposed to being part of a larger fair or museum event. It’s the first one requiring translation of exhibit materials into another language, Mandarin in this case.

Plus this: “It’s the largest-paying contract we’ve ever had,” Carlson said.

Hall of Heroes debuted, in a somewhat different format, at the State Fair in 2006. The current, larger and updated version of the show made its first appearance at the fair in 2013.

We’ve always known international markets (for exhibits) are huge. If you can break into them, there are all kinds of opportunities.

Troy Carlson, Stage Nine

The 10,000-square-foot exhibit features heroic characters from popular culture – like Batman and Iron Man – as well as those from real life and divides them up by the nature of their superpowers. Some have incredible gadgets, some have mastery over the elements, and others have amazing physical or mental strength.

Carlson and his exhibit company staff are racing to get the show ready for Shanghai – at the city’s huge Global Harbor shopping mall – and making content modifications to appeal specifically to a Chinese audience.

A lot is at stake in terms of future bookings in China and elsewhere internationally.

“We’re feeling the pressure,” said Carlson, who also owns the Stage Nine Entertainment movie memorabilia store and G. Willikers Toy Emporium, both in Old Sacramento. “We’re doing extra work to make sure we make a splash and deliver above and beyond their expectations.”

Kudos for R Street project

More accolades are coming in for the Warehouse Artist Lofts, the mixed-used, CADA-backed project that opened in January on the R Street corridor.

The Urban Land Institute this week listed WAL as one of five finalists for its prestigious “Jack Kemp” award recognizing the nation’s top affordable housing project.

CADA director Wendy Saunders said the project, built by CFY Development, is getting kudos for overcoming numerous challenges, including preserving an historic building with contamination issues.

“But really the cherry on top was the emphasis on the arts,” she said. “Not only having work spaces for artists … but also having a resident selection process that considered artists’ competency and stature.”

Ali Youssefi, an exec with CFY, said it’s an “awesome honor” to be recognized by ULI. Win or lose, the project will be showcased at the national real estate organization’s annual conference in October.

“People will see Sacramento is doing some pretty cool, cutting-edge development,” he said.

A juror from ULI will be in town later this month to evaluate the project. A winner will be named in September.

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