The story behind the story: The crazy tale of how the Secret Treasure of Takha Paka came about

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The story behind the story: The crazy tale of how the Secret Treasure of Takha Paka came about

Blog Author
The great thing about working at Zappar is no two days are the same and you never know what’s going to turn up in our inbox from around the world.

By: Caspar Thykier, CEO, Zappar

The great thing about working at Zappar is no two days are the same and you never know what’s going to turn up in our inbox from around the world.

Well on this day (a pretty average Wednesday in January) if I’m honest it was a pretty non-descript enquiry from a company called Random Content in Los Angeles:


We are a publishing company in Beverly Hills, CA. We would like to start talking about adding augmented to our latest children's illustrated book.

When is a good time to set up a conference call?

Do you have offices in the US?

We get a lot of exploratory enquiries from publishers so there was no reason to believe this was any different but the clue was in the name this time I guess!

At Zappar it’s fair to say we treat every enquiry with the same amount of care and attention as you just never know and it’s good manners besides. So we thanked them for their enquiry and arranged to have a Skype thinking nothing of it really.

Ah, good old skype - there’s a service that’s transformed our business given the amount of work we do around the world. It’s not the same as being there but it sure helps put a face to the name and as importantly a room to the person: turns out you can tell a lot about someone from not only the company they keep but also the environment they inhabit along with their video conference etiquette.

So, here’s ‘that room’

a sun-kissed LA office (not something we’d seen for months here in London at the time). We got talking with the brilliant Lawrence O’Flahaven and Aaron Davis about their project and within moments it was obvious that: a) we got on; and b) they just got ‘it’. These for us are the two most important qualities for what we do at Zappar. We love working with people we like and who realize that this isn’t just about tech, 0’s and 1’s or people just looking to ride the wave of the next big thing treating it as some sort of gimmick. They ‘got’ the intangible element of augmented reality that comes through making a valued experience that is meaningful and can surprise and delight people. They were thinking customer first not technology.

They wanted to think differently about their new children’s book written by none other than Carl Reiner. Now if you don’t know who Carl is a few simple clicks on Google will reveal that he’s Hollywood royalty: If Warren Buffet is the Sage of Omaha and the business world then Carl is the Sage of film, TV, theatre. He is nothing short of a living legend and at 93 still sharp as a tack.

I’ve got to admit when Carl wandered into frame on one of our early Skype’s at our side of the pond we were like kids in a candy store. (It’s not every day you get to go home to the wife and say you were shooting the breeze with Carl Reiner!).

Carl discussing with Dick Van Dyke the augmented reality feature in “The Secret Treasure of Tahka Paka.”

The guys wanted to use our technology to create a real connection between the physical book and the digital world. They wanted the experience to encourage kids to delve deeper into the story, illustrations and pages in front of them and importantly read on! The book itself became a treasure trove with a hidden world to explore using Zappar. We fell in love with this project straight away. Little did we know that we were also getting drawn into the magical world of Carl Reiner and not just Takha Paka…

Turns out that Carl was due to appear on the Jimmy Fallon show and wanted to talk about his new book. So we thought it would be fun to make a special zap for Carl featuring Jimmy from an illustration in the book to demo on the show: it was one of those throw-away ideas that you always hope as a marketing or PR person that will happen but never do. But with Carl, well things just happen and sure enough we were on the show!

Then there was the moment while Carl was waiting to go on the show and he was backstage with Kobe Bryant (naturally!) who was Jimmy’s other guest.

Anyway, they got talking and urns out Kobe remembers working with Zappar for a Lenovo campaign in the Philippines a few years back and starts telling Carl how much he loves the Zappar tech. Kobe Bryant. A Zappar fan. Talking with Carl Reiner about our app backstage before the Jimmy Fallon Show…somebody pinch me!

Better still, as we were completing the augmentations I got an email from Lawrence saying he’d just been showing the experiences to a few folks and had a couple of comments to make. Fair enough. Turns out those ‘folks’ were Steve Martin and Mel Brooks. Now that’s got to be the most over-qualified QA team on record for an app!

You literally cannot make this stuff up. It’s like this was becoming our own L.A. Story.

And perhaps most magical of all is the product we’ve made together. I won’t forget giving the book to my eight year-old daughter Daisy (a voracious reader it has to be said) and sitting in bed with her whilst we explored the caves in search of the mask of Oodamaha She was utterly engrossed in the book and the augmentation and dying to read on and discover more. Mission accomplished.

All thanks to a random email from Random Content and the vision of Carl Reiner with a dollop of Zappar magic.

If there were any lessons from all this I guess it would be that emails as well as Zappar open up a world of hidden content that can surprise and delight. You never know what you’re going to get!

Thank you Carl, Larry and Aaron.

Oh, and if you want to buy the book click here or enjoy this sneak peak introduction from Carl himself.