The Viacom Lab, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Come Together to Create the Ultimate Fan Experience—One Night in the TMNT Lair
Viacom’s Vice President of Mobile and Video Partner Solutions Peter Chelala stayed in his first Airbnb rental recently along with his wife Cynthia and their two sons—8-year-old Henry and 4-year-old Teddy. The family didn’t know what to expect when a concierge greeted them at the posh Tribeca loft around 3 p.m. and immediately delivered a special message to the boys.
“Your father has a connection with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” said the concierge. “The turtles had to go out and defend the city, but they want you to watch over the Lair.”
Then he opened the door. “It was epic,” said Chelala. “The sheer scale of it was incredible.” The Lair is tailored to suit the needs of its amphibious ninjas with a glow-in-the-dark basketball court, old-school arcade games, action figures, a boxing ring, a surveillance center, and a drum set. Its walls are emblazoned with graffiti. There are two rooms with bunk beds, a master suite, and four bathrooms—complete with a TMNT-themed shower curtain.
The descent into New York’s most luxurious sewer began when Chelala toured the 32nd floor at Viacom Headquarters in April. He was particularly impressed with the Viacom Lab. The Viacom Lab is our technological hub that partners with innovators like British neuroscientist Beau Lotto, founder of virtual-reality messaging app Traces, to deliver immersive content to Viacom fans. The Lab calls this “fanufacturing.”
The Lab’s partnership with Airbnb to create replicas of famous Viacom sets for fans to rent was one of its first projects. When Chelala toured the Lab, he saw renderings of Abbi and Ilana’s Broad City apartments and the TMNT Lair. Rental dates were posted next to the conceptualized dwellings.
When he noticed that the TMNT Lair happened to be available close to Henry’s birthday, he knew it presented a unique opportunity. “I knew I needed to pay attention to Airbnb and get the room for that night,” said Chelala. “It was a combination of luck and timing.”
At a fixed rate of $10 per night, snagging the TMNT Lair was serendipitous. Over 1,000 hopeful persistence paid off. A few days before the stay, he received a text message from Leonardo—his Airbnb host—confirming their reservation.
Chelala says he wouldn’t have gone through the trouble to secure the exclusive digs if his children didn’t care deeply about the franchise. But his family has had a lifelong relationship with the Turtles. He recalls watching the original Nickelodeon show with his kids when they were younger, and doesn’t remember a Christmas without TMNT-related presents under the tree.
“It actually was fans first,” said Chelala, referring to Viacom’s recent trade campaign celebrating fans who are deeply engaged with our brands.
On the night of the stay, two of his sons’ best friends’ families joined them in the Lair for pizza. “I had to meet them on the corner,” said Chelala. “I couldn’t give them the address. That’s how secret the Lair was.”
For hours, the gang—six adults and four kids—took advantage of the amenities. Chelala dressed up as the villain, Shredder, and the kids defended the Lair. “At the end of the day,” said Chelala, “It felt like we were 10 kids.”
The next day, the family woke up in the subterranean suite and was shooting hoops by 6:35 a.m. They ate bagels and played drums—still dressed in their green, turtle-themed pajamas. His son, Henry, called it “the best hotel ever.”
Chelala helped Henry document their stay using his iPhone and iMovie for a multimedia book report on a TMNT book. A week later, Henry shared his movie with 32 other second-graders.
“At Viacom we talk about fans first,” said Chelala. “Seeing it, feeling it, living it. We literally lived it. When you do it right, it has residuals. It wasn’t just May 15. It’s still happening.”
As a parent, Chelala loves the TMNT franchise for showcasing individuality and teamwork. Each Turtle has his own personality, yet they come together to fight for a universal goal. This theme is echoed by the creative masterminds behind the brand—from writers and producers at Nickelodeon and Paramount, to the technicians at the Viacom lab. The TMNT Lair is a result of a massive collaboration between these imaginative individuals.
Though Chelala’s experience was otherworldly, he doesn’t forget that real people brought it to life. He’s proud to work at a place that delivers such an authentic experience for its fans. “They created a portal to another world that we all know exists through cartoons and movies,” said Chelala, “But we’re actually in it.”
Check out this 360-degree virtual reality tour of the TMNT Lair to see for yourself.
Don’t miss Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows when it hits theaters Friday, June 3.