InPark Magazine Issue #41 (May 2012)

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#41, 2012 Vol. 8, Issue 2

Partnering with China

FUNA International sets up shop in Shanghai p. 6

ALSO INSIDE: Theme park and waterpark trends, projects in China, and more!


nPark Magazine has been covering international parks and projects for many years, but never before have we had an issue so thoroughly dedicated to the Asian market, nor so widely distributed within Asia itself.

#41• volume 8, issue 2


asian initiative


to china and beyond!


tea reaches out to asia • by Jeff Mayer

FUNA expands overseas • by Dawn Allcot

It’s because of that great reach this issue provides that I’m so pleased with the wide range of concepts we examine.

chinese park trends

new international parks • by Christian Aaen & Raymond E. Braun


demand in design


east-west voices


waterpark trends

darrias baker talks about designing abroad • by Martin Palicki

conversations on themed entertainment • by Judith Rubin

what to look for in waterparks • by Dan Martin


the sky’s the limit


china 2020


the main attraktion


china cinema

markus beyr has big plans for parks • by Judith Rubin

Martin Palicki Editor-in-Chief

20 years of immersive cinema in china • by Joe Kleiman


a picture tells 1,000 words

tpg presents a photo essay of recent work

the power of photo opportunities • by Norman J. Kahn

staff & contributors EDITOR martin palicki CO-EDITOR judith rubin CONTRIBUTING EDITORS joe kleiman mitch rily kim rily

CONTRIBUTORS christian aaen dawn allcot raymond e. braun norman j. kahn dan martin lisa a. thorburn SALES martin palicki

We look at trends in both theme parks and waterparks, and break down the biggest projects overseas to try and pinpoint where the future is headed.

If you are new to InPark, welcome, and I encourage you to sign up for a free digital subscription. International topics are nothing new for InPark and they will continue to be a staple of our publication. Enjoy!

china’s evolving business climate • by Lisa A. Thorburn

project portfolio

We sometimes get focused on how our Western companies can help build and enhance Asia’s parks and attractions, but in reality there is a lot that the East can bring to us and help enhance our own capabilities. This issue seeks to examine that in depth, and also showcase some of the great work that is happening in Asia.

Finally, we meet with some of the industry’s most creative minds for an inside look at the design process and what to expect when creating an attraction outside of Europe and the Americas.

gary goddard’s international reach • by Martin Palicki


DESIGN mcp, llc

InPark is proud to be a media partner with IAAPA for the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo and Noppen for the Theme Park & Resort Expansion Summit. Both of those events are distributing this issue to attendees, in addition to our regular circulation of over 2,000 subscribers.

InPark Magazine (ISSN 1553-1767) is published five times a year by Martin Chronicles Publishing, LLC. 2349 E Ohio Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207. Shipping address: 2349 E Ohio Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207. Phone: 262-412-7107. Fax: 414-377-0769. Printing by Crescent Printing in Onalaska, Wisconsin Contents © 2012 InPark Magazine. All rights reserved. Nothing in the magazine may be reproduced or used in any manner without the prior written permission of the magazine. InPark Magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or illustrations. Such material must be accompanied by a self-adressed and stamped envelope to be returned. Postmaster: Send address changes to InPark Magazine 2349 E Ohio Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207. Subscriptions are available annually for $30 per year ($40 international). Opinions expressed in editorial matter are not necessarily those of InPark Magazine or its publishers, Martin Chronicles Publishing, LLC.

advertisers Darrias Baker..............................................................................4 Electrosonic......................................................................39 FUNA.......................................................................front cover The Goddard Group............................................................2 IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo...................................25 Polin........................................................................................24 The Producers Group....................................back cover Stereodome.......................................................................36 Utopia Entertainment......................................................38 WhiteWater West...................................................................7

cover A Chinese Dragon watches over two of FUNA’s successful projects: 1) The Amber Theater on the Oasis of the Seas. © Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. All rights reserved. 2) The Aqua Theater on the Oasis of the Seas. © Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. All rights reserved.

asian initiative Themed Entertainment Association reaches out to international community by Jeff Mayer


he Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is expanding its reach to Asia, presenting opportunities for entertainment venue owner/ operators, industry professionals, fabricators and suppliers to leverage their knowledge and relationships to serve the explosive growth in the region.

with behind-the-scenes tours in key locations worldwide. TEA’s next international conference is SATE 2012 (Story Telling + Architecture + Technology = Experience) in Paris, September 19-21. The theme of this global event is “Cultural diversity in Themed Entertainment: Obstacle or Opportunity?”

Last year, at IAAPA’s Asian Attractions Expo 2011, the TEA hosted an event at Universal Studios Singapore, with over 100 attendees. This year, the TEA will have its first trade show booth at IAAPA’s Asian Attractions Expo 2012 in Hong Kong, allowing attendees to meet TEA leaders and to learn how they can improve their business through this vibrant association. The TEA will also be participating in an event with IAAPA at Ocean Park, Hong Kong on the evening of June 6. Later, in autumn of 2012, look for an event in Shanghai with Walt Disney Imagineering, Crystal CG and other entertainment industry leaders.

Industry members interested in knowing more can find TEA events and social media channels for dialog and to share values and business interests. More information is at http://www. • • • The TEA represents the world’s leading creators of compelling places and experiences with over 750 member companies on every continent. Celebrating its 20th year, the TEA is engaging the entertainment and cultural attractions industries in meaningful events like The TEA Summit and the Annual Thea Awards, celebrating excellence in attractions, along

Jeff Mayer is a leader of the TEA Asian Initiative. He is Director of International Planning at Bassenian Lagoni Architects and CEO at Jeff Mayer + Partners, LLC.

international • inpark MAGAZINE

#41, 2012 Vol. 8, Issue 2

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Partnering with China: FUNA International sets up shop in Shanghai

daily news blog weekly newsletters online issue archives special features

p. 6

project photo...disney?

ALSO INSIDE: Theme park and waterpark trends, projects in China, and more!

to china...and beyond! FUNA’s organic expansion leads to a significant Asian presence by Dawn Allcot


s FUNA International aiming to take over the world? One thing is certain: the global technology solutions provider, headquartered in Emden, Germany, has a solid, international business plan that secures its future in the theme park and attraction market segments on land and at sea. This 40-year-old technology solutions provider excels in many areas. FUNA is a design, integration, engineering and consulting firm for a variety of systems, “from airports to wind turbines and everything in between,” as the company’s website states.

With more than 245 skilled professionals based in 14 locations in 10 countries worldwide, it’s not a stretch to say the company is like one of the theme park attractions it has designed, using technological “magic” to appear to be in many different places at the same time. Science fiction author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke posited, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Brian Paiva, vice president of business development & strategic planning for FUNA International, explains the plan concisely, his voice taking on the tone of a person who knows the goal and knows how to accomplish it, too. “We are establishing ourselves in multiple unrelated, niche markets with significant growth potential in order to mitigate risk, and leveraging that presence to expand into the next market.”

“Sufficiently advanced technology,” along with a solid business plan and the resources to implement that plan, is exactly what’s taken FUNA to the top of its industry -- er, industries.

In this case, the next market is China or, as Paiva is quick to clarify, “all of Asia, with a particular focus on China.” The scheduled opening of the 963-acre Shanghai Disney Resort for 2015 has sparked interest in theme parks and attractions across the region. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, China is poised to overtake France and Spain as the world’s main tourist destination by 2020. Not an organization to miss a big opportunity, FUNA has established a local presence in Shanghai and is currently working on a number of sizable theme park and attraction projects in Asia. Paiva says the details of the projects are confidential, but the clients are household names in entertainment across the world. FUNA’s parent company set up shop in China in 1997, with a state-of-the-art fabrication house constructed in Taizhou in 1998. Located some three hours from Shanghai by car, the facility provides FUNA with access to a local ISO 9001:200-certified facility with 150 local Chinese employees for engineering, CAD, fabrication, testing and logistics of Asian projects. The facility, which was expanded in 2008, includes 4,800 square meters of fabrication space and 1,500 square meters of office space, along with 1,000 square meters of space available for future expansion.

Verbolten, recently opened at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, combines a thrilling roller coaster with special effects and theming to simulate an out of control ride through the Black Forest. Graphic courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Paiva says, “Being part of a much larger corporate group, we have a lot of resources - both capital and human - at our disposal that most companies wouldn’t have, to accomplish the types of things only a large company would be

East. Our teams in the U.S. or in Europe work together, while our teams in Asia connect,” he says.

Growth: Organically, and by Acquisition The new Shanghai facility could be classified as part of FUNA’s “organic” expansion. Paiva says the company’s strategic growth initiative includes a mix of “organic growth and growth by acquisition.”The acquisition phase began in 2007, when FUNA GmbH Nachrichtentechnik merged with Teledimensions International Inc. (TDI) to create FUNA International GmbH (“FUNA.”)

The luxurious Amber Theater on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas was designed by FUNA and showcases a variety of performances and events during every cruise. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean. able to do. It might take a smaller company years to get to this stage, and we’re fortunate that we can do it right now.” These resources include on-staff Chinese designers, engineers, fabricators and technicians. This access to a highly-skilled Asian workforce helps FUNA compete against local counterparts. “The Thaizou facility is kept very clean and organized,” Paiva says. “It would be clear to a visitor that this is a well-managed fabrication facility.” A further competitive point is its local status - allowing developers to comply with government-mandated requirements for local content (i.e. Chinese-supplied products and services). Another advantage is FUNA’s decades-long experience as an international firm. Managing projects long distance, hiring local labor, and dealing with the permit process in other countries while maintaining consistency of product and quality are nothing new for this company. FUNA also knows the need to anticipate and solve the challenges of understanding the demands of consumers in other countries, the cultural differences and the variations in expectations when it comes to an entertainment experience. Scott Arnold, Design Manager of FUNA’s design consultancy group says, “There’s an

interesting cultural mix that has to be taken into consideration, and that’s true whether you’re going to Germany, Spain, the Middle East or Asia. It’s not as simple as picking up an Orlando theme park, for instance, and putting it somewhere else.” He cites several examples - including the layout of a theme park, how park guests wait in queue, how long they’re willing to wait, and what they expect to see while in line - as just a few of the minor differences. While the technology used to accomplish the end result anywhere in the world might be similar, the guest experience is different. “We don’t touch on cultural issues to the extent that theme park and attraction designers do, but you do have to be culturally sensitive,” Arnold says. “The companies that understand and embrace these issues are the ones that thrive.” While seeking to grow the number of Asian companies in its clientele, FUNA is already serving an existing client base in the East. “A lot of our clients in the West are expanding to facilities in China,” explains Arnold. He notes that having offices and fabrication plants in both the East and West makes it easier to work with clients who likewise have a global presence. “It’s a natural fit, when we’re working with companies from the West who are also expanding into the

Three years ago, FUNA acquired Advanced New Technologies (ANT), a renowned provider of technology solutions, from communications to themed entertainment to IT and safety systems, for superyachts. In 2009 and 2010, respectively, FUNA International supplied audiovisual systems integration, engineering, and technical design for most of the 50+ venues on Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas - world’s largest cruise ships. In 2010, FUNA acquired West Palm Beach [Florida]-based ShowSys, an audiovisual integrator with extensive expertise and an existing client base in the theme park, attractions and cruise ship markets, and creators of ShowVue theme park operations software. “ShowSys is a good example of the type of team we look for, with diversified experience working on multiple projects. ShowSys would be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year if not for the acquisition,” Paiva said. Most recently, FUNA acquired MAVCO, a leading provider of integrated low voltage system solutions specializing in audio, video, lighting, public address, broadcast and security systems. “This uncorks a big opportunity for FUNA, and is the next major milestone in our company-wide strategy to strengthen our position in primary markets while diversifying into promising new markets,” Paiva said. “The combined strengths of both companies open a wide range of compelling products and services to our clients. Our complementary assets, knowledge and experience will give us increased talent and scale to better compete in the marine and landbased markets: cruise ships, superyachts, visitor attractions and theme parks. MAVCO’s track record parallels FUNA’s own accomplishments

and fits well with our established growth strategy.” MAVCO appears on the official credits list of Disney’s Star Tours - the Adventures Continue, a refresh of the original attraction and recipient of a 2012 Thea award, an honor to be added to the FUNA portfolio along with FUNA’s own position in the official credits of another 2012 Thea awardee: Animation Magic at the Animator’s Palate Restaurant aboard Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy. What’s next for FUNA? As the company dries off from its work on SeaWorld Orlando’s Shamu Show, FUNA is revving its engines to finish the integration of technology systems for Verbolten, a multi-launching steel roller coaster inspired by the Autobahn and Germany’s Black Forest, at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. And, of course, there is a host of Asian projects yet to be revealed, with more on the horizon. Paiva does share this: “This is a long-term commitment. We are in Asia to stay. If you look at FUNA history, we don’t leave a market once we’re there. And we’re always looking for other avenues of expansion.” • • •

Dawn Allcot (dawnallcot@gmail. com) a self-proclaimed Disney fanatic and theme park junkie, has been writing about audiovisual systems integration in theme parks, retail outlets, nightclubs and other venues for more than 15 years. A full-time freelance writer, blogger and copywriter, her work has appeared in a number of trade and consumer magazines, including Sound & Communications, and Worship Facilities, and on many high profile websites.

TOP: FUNA worked on the Disney Fantasy Animator’s Palate Restaurant, which brings kids’ drawings to life during dinner. Photo ©Disney. BOTTOM: The Aqua Theater on the Oasis of the Seas. ©Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. All rights reserved.

chinese park trends International Theme Park Development Trends – Focus on China By Christian Aaen, Principal/Co-Founder and Raymond E. Braun, Principal/Co-Founder – Entertainment + Culture Advisors (ECA)


he opening of Disney Shanghai in 2015 will further cement China’s strong position in the global theme park industry. Asia will continue as the primary region for future growth of the industry in terms of new theme park destination development. At ECA we are keeping busy with numerous attraction, leisure/tourism and cultural development projects (from major theme parks to indoor urban attractions, large-scale mixed-use entertainment, cultural and tourism development to resort destination projects) throughout Asia including China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and others. For our work in Asia (in particular China) during the past 3-5 years, we have identified several key development trends that are impacting current and future industry growth in Asia: •The industry is “moving” to China/Asia - with the biggest new projects being developed in this region.

•One of the fundamental development principles today is: “Don’t just build a theme park, build a destination.” This allows the development economics to be leveraged and optimized. Theme park destinations are attraction-driven, but can include hotels/ resorts, retail-dining and entertainment, cultural components, meeting/convention space, and golf/spa facilities. Appealing to a broad target market covering both tourists and residents and offering multiple things to do and see encourages repeatability and improves the economics and investment returns. •Large-scale development requires public-private partnerships (PPP). Asia is leading the way, and in particular China, as evidenced by recent significant jointventures such as Shanghai Disneyland and DreamWorks East (Oriental) which provide infrastructure, land and even investment for new projects. The development of theme parks around the world has followed a typical product life cycle

curve of inception, market growth, followed by stabilization (mature markets such as U.S., Europe and Japan), and then investment (reinvestment) to diversify products and developments. China is moving from the emerging stage into the key growth stage with several major projects coming up in large urban markets and touristoriented markets such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hengqin Island/Zhuhai. The number and quality of theme parks will increase significantly in the next 5-10 years as well as overall attendance. There are also several key up and coming second tier cities in China that will see increased entertainment development such as Chengdu, Dalian, Wuhan, Suzhou, Xi’an, Qingdao, Hangzhou, Chongqing among others. Another distinguishing feature of development in China is that major theme park developments are often part of a real estate development strategy as evidenced by OCT Group and others combining theme parks with adjacent residential, retail and other types of development. In Shenzhen, OCT recently had a soft opening of the 1.2+ million sq ft OCT Bay lifestyle retail and entertainment destination located adjacent to

A conceptual word cloud of Chinese cities, based on population, created by Dr. James Cheshire. Graphic used with permission and available at top-60-chinese-cities/

Conceptual art for the Shanghai Disneyland Resort, currently under construction. Graphic ©Disney.

its existing three parks with several indoor attraction components and a large-scale night-time spectacular show. The Chimelong Group based in Panyu, south of Guangzhou, is also setting a new standard in China with major new theme park-driven destination development projects such as its Chimelong Ocean Kingdom theme park and resort in Hengqin Island next to Zhuhai and Macau in Southern China. We are also seeing the emergence and development of multi theme park hubs such as the Pearl River Delta (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai/Hengqin, Hong Kong and Macau) in Southern China; the Singapore/Southern Malaysia hub (with Universal Studios Singapore and LEGOLAND Malaysia initially); and Hainan Island, China (future potential). Within China, we believe there are several up-and-coming theme park attraction destination hubs centered around Shanghai (Yangtze River Delta/YRD), Beijing/Tianjin (Northern China), Chengdu/Chongqing (Western China), and Southern China (Pearl River Delta/PRD) and also Hainan with the potential to emerge as not just the Hawaii of China but the Central Florida of China with multiple themed destination attractions. The development of major new parks in the global theme park industry over the years have had significant impacts on the nature and dynamics of worldwide theme park industries, notably: Walt Disney World (Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.); Tokyo Disneyland (Japan); and Disneyland Paris (France). We expect that the Shanghai Disneyland Resort (opening 2015) and other pipeline destination theme park projects in Southern China could have similar effects in the Chinese market. It will raise the overall quality standards in China and help transform the Chinese theme park industry as well as benefiting the leisure, tourism and cultural industries and result in positive regional and national economic impact. Disney Shanghai and other major branded theme park destinations will act as catalysts for other attraction, cultural, entertainment and tourism development in China, which will benefit the region as a whole by expanding the market and growing the overall tourism pie. • • • Christian Aaen and Ray Braun are Co-Founders and Principals of Entertainment + Culture Advisors (ECA) headquartered in Los Angeles (Beverly Hills), Californiaandwitharegional office in Hong Kong headed up by Janice Li, Senior Associate. ECA is an international advisory firm focused on economic and market analysis for world-class destination entertainment and cultural development projects throughout China and Asia. Email: / Further information on ECA is available at

Key Themed Entertainment Projects in China • Beijing: Multiple major theme park proposed including Monkey Kingdom, upgrading and expansion of existing parks and pipeline urban entertainment/cultural developments • Shanghai: New Shanghai Disney park will help spur additional expansion of the industry in 2015 with multiple major theme parks proposed in the region. Expansion of OCT Happy Valley (second gate) • Hangzhou: a proposed Hello Kitty Theme Park (2014/15) • Guangzhou/Shenzhen – Pearl River Delta: Large scale PRD market with strong potential as emerging multi theme park destination hub. Reinvestment and expansion of existing Chimelong Resort and OCT Parks – multiple large-scale theme parks proposed • Hengqin Island/Zhuhai: Chimelong’s upcoming Ocean Kingdom theme park and resort development with first phase opening in 2013 and thereafter with multiple parks and hotels/resorts • Macau: Multiple large-scale integrated resorts (IRs) with entertainment and attractions proposed in next 2-5 years • Hong Kong: Both Ocean Park (2012) and Hong Kong Disneyland (2013/14) are in the process of completing major expansions and new lands in their parks • Hainan Island: Several major commercial theme park projects in the planning stage from Sanya up the coast to Wencheng as well as Haikou including the Lingshui Ocean Theme Park, Hainan Aerospace Theme Park, among others (2014/15+) • Multiple Second Tier / Third Tier Cities: regional theme park development by OCT Group and other Chinese developers

Key Chinese Developers • OCT Group (Overseas Chinese Town) market leader in China for regional theme parks • Chimelong Group – expanding in Hengqin Island • FantaWild – expanding multiple locations in China • Haichang Group – expanding aquarium operators and park developer. • Large Chinese real estate developers are also entering the marketplace including: R&F Guangzhou, Dalian Wanda Group, China Resources (CR) Land, China Merchants (CM), and others. 10

demand in design Darrias Baker talks to InPark Magazine about designing for theme parks in Asia interview by Martin Palicki

“The first IP here in China that becomes popular internationally will be a game-changer.”


arrias Baker is an independent designer of visitor attractions, based in Los Angeles with a large clientele and body of work in Asia. He is currently Consulting Art Director and Show Designer at Fushun Dream World Theme Park. He took time out from his busy schedule overseas to share some thoughts about the industry with IPM editor Martin Palicki. You spend a lot of time overseas. How important is it to set up residence on location? Keeping a presence in the country where the project is located keeps my clients happy and confident. Also they are thrilled to be a part of the design process. During the production phase, it’s essential to be onsite for all creative directors and project managers. In regard to themed entertainment work in Asia, what are some similarities and differences from one country to another?

Parade float, Floraland, Chengdu. Photo courtesy of Darrias Baker.

Relationships and respect are key in all of Asia; however, each country in Asia has different attitudes toward themed entertainment. My projects In Korea tend to be more intimate, more high tech, with expensive media and special effects. In China we tend to design larger attractions where more guests can be entertained as a large group, i.e., a large 4D theater or live shows.

Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, Universal Studios Singapore. Photo courtesy Darrias Baker

Let’s focus on China for a bit. Is there a project you’ve worked on that could be regarded as quintessentially Chinese? What aspects made it so? Yes, that would be what some people call the “OCT model” - a theme park as part of a mixed-use development in which the park is surrounded by residential, retail, and business components. Both the Floraland project I worked on in Chengdu and my current project in Fushun


follow this model. Such a design must include attractions to facilitate repeat visits by local residents as well as the less frequent visits from out-of-town guests. In my current project, the first phase of production was an outdoor water park, which has great appeal to the resident population with the large theme park zones to be completed in the next phases. Did the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai change the themed entertainment landscape and/ or outlook in China? Yes - like the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and the upcoming Shanghai Disney Resort, the 2010 Shanghai Expo raised the bar on entertainment design in China. Many Chinese theme parks are inspired now to compete on a global scale. Typically when we begin projects here I spend a lot of time with the clients visiting the leading international entertainment attractions. What are key, characteristic expressed by Chinese developers?


The developers look for the biggest thrill for the largest audience at the smallest cost with the shortest production schedule. So it’s very important to know the client’s budget and schedule so you can campaign for the most effective entertainment concept. You specialize in projects utilizing original intellectual property (IP). Are there still significant challenges to protecting IP in China? It’s getting better - but my clients tend to think locally, and so they aren’t in a position to have to worry about protecting a global IP. The first IP here in China that becomes popular internationally will change all that. Theme parks aren’t a new thing in China. But the attention on them seems to be new. Why do you think this is? Like a lot of people in our industry, I thought there would be more world-class theme parks opening before the Beijing 2008 Olympics, but it didn’t happen. Now it’s different. Currently there are more than 100 major theme park projects being developed in China! It may have started with a move by the Chinese Government to encourage local governments to borrow for infrastructure projects under a 2008 stimulus plan. A recent ban on new theme parks projects in China has not stopped any of the ongoing projects I know of.

Glenn Ho, Kirk Axtell and Darrias Baker at Palace Hotel and Diamond Promenade under construction, Hotgo Park, Fushun, China. Photo courtesy Darrias Baker

What projects currently out there right now are you keeping your eye on? Obviously, the coming Shanghai Disney Resort. The huge project I’m working on here in Fushun will have two more zones opened by next year. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the Monkey Kingdom project outside Beijing, designed by Thinkwell Group. Gary Goddard

Entertainment has several major projects here in China. Outside China, my friends at Lotte World in Korea keep expanding with new projects. Outside Asia, the Paramount project in Spain is really exciting. Then there are projects that may not currently exist, but I hope soon will. I would really like to hear about a new Universal Studios park somewhere. I really love working for them. I’m hoping we hear more about a new Universal Studios Theme Park and Resort in Korea, India or Russia soon. What are some of the risks involved in doing business internationally? Not getting paid and broken contracts are the obvious risks. Job safety on a project site is a huge risk too. And then there’s the day when your client comes in all excited about a new type of an attraction that they’ve seen and you’ve just finished the final design details on an attraction you thought you were going to build. This can be a real risk with a client new to world-class themed entertainment.

Hong Kong Village white model, Ramoji Studios, Hydrabad, India. Photo courtesy Darrias Baker


Several big Asian projects seem to be tied to gaming resorts. But in the US, the link between gaming and themed entertainment seems inconsistent. What is your observation? In Asia, the link is very strong. The quick return on investments in opening a gaming resort is a huge plus. Asian families typically traveling

in family units will want to go someplace that enables them to visit a gaming resort and also a theme park. Unlike the US there is no stigma attached to having gaming and themed entertainment in the same location.

budget we still were able to meld science and entertainment in a highly immersive, educational environment. For large world-class projects I am very proud to have contributed to the Universal Studios Singapore project.

Is there something fundamentally different happening in Asia vs the West when it comes to themed entertainment projects? Or are they just in a different stage in the maturity cycle? It’s a bit of both. Culture considerations aside, Asia is in different stages in the maturity cycle. Themed entertainment is still new and dynamic here, especially in China. But they are also going in different directions than the US, i.e. the gaming resorts and mixed-use developments we have talked about here.

Tell me about the hazards of working internationally. I’m an adventurer, which drew me to the international theme park world; however, the downside is that it can be dangerous. People die building theme parks and I’ve seen a few people get seriously hurt or killed. However construction site safety standards everywhere are getting better.

What project are you most proud of? For a small project I’m most proud of, I would name the work we did on Science Discovery Center in Manila, Philippines. With a small

Tell me about the industry group you head up called T.E.A.T.S. and what it has done for you and your international colleagues. Years ago my fellow gypsy theme park professionals and I created a “tongue in cheek” professionals’ group we called T.E.A.T.S., which stands for Theme Entertainment Artists,

Technicians, and Supervisors. When most of us are in town at the same time (which can be difficult), we will meet every six months or so at a local Mexican restaurant to socialize and trade gossip about projects and job opportunities. Now we have a T.E.A.T.S. LinkedIn Group with 224 members and a Facebook group with 281 members. If you could explain one thing to Asian developers that would help make their projects better, what would it be? Let your principal designers and project leads know the real budget and the real schedule so they can design to that budget and schedule. Only then can we work on getting you a bigger bang for that Dollar, Yuan, Yen, Won, Baht, Peso, Rupee, or Rupiah. • • • For more information on Darrias and his team of international consultants please visit his web site at or email him at info@darrias. com.

Darrias and Anthony Pruett inspecting the Enchanted Oasis show model, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo courtesy of Darrias Baker

Local contractors flank Super 78’s Brent Young and Darrias Baker at Journey to Madagascar Crate Adventure, Universal Studios Singapore. Photo courtesy of Darrias Baker


Inspecting the Krazy Kars Ride Vehicle mock up at the factory in Italy for Storyland Adventure, Manila, Philippines Photo courtesy of Darrias Baker

east-west voices revelations from Asian-American themed entertainment creatives by Judith Rubin


guest lectured on design and culture to the USC Annenberg Getty Award Fellowship.

SYWA SUNG “Westerners need to try as hard as they can to not think like Westerners, and inhabit the minds of the people in the countries they are thinking of establishing projects in, or working with.”

You’re an Asian-Canadian, the child of immigrant parents. You’re based in Los Angeles but you grew up in Canada. What languages do you speak? English, French, and a little Italian. I spoke Cantonese fluently as a child, but lost most of it when I started school. I am left with basic oral comprehension and enough spoken Cantonese to order food at a restaurant. My father is from Hong Kong and my mother is from the Canton region around Hong Kong. As a born and bred native of Montreal, I do not consider myself the ultimate expert on the intricacies of Asian perceptions, but I do have some insight given my upbringing. Foreigners like myself probably have a unique insight into American culture as outsiders looking in. We are probably more objective -- like the Bob Hope phenomenon.

ow is the attractions industry being reinvented as the Asian market continues to flourish? What are the important cultural signposts? IPM co-editor Judith Rubin spoke to Sywa Sung, a designer and Harriet Cheng, a project manager. Their observations are as enriching as their cross-cultural backgrounds and experience.

Sywa Sung (www.sywa. net) is a freelance art director, conceptual designer & illustrator recently contracted to Walt Disney Imagineering. He has provided design services to numerous leading design companies in the attractions and film industries, including Pixar Animation Studios, Jack Rouse Associates, The Hettema Group, Thinkwell Group and BRC Imagination Arts. He has

The Bob Hope phenomenon? Bob Hope - in that he was foreign born (UK) yet became an American cultural icon. As more contemporary examples, Shania Twain and Celine Dion have also become American music icons - yet are Canadians whose work becomes the culture. There was a kind of parallel vibe

Sitting on the belly of a Oaxacan inspired Armadillo, guest thrill to the twists and turns of this playful creature, set in a lush garden setting. Parque Festival, Guadalajara, Mexico. © MSI Design


for me when I was working as the attraction art director relating to Batman for the Warner Bros. Abu Dhabi project. For me - a Canadian – getting to work with and interpret a globally synonymous American icon for a foreign audience was a thrill. Growing up, were you encouraged to assimilate - to leave off speaking Cantonese? Not at all. Integration and high functioning were the goals. To let go of one’s original roots was not the intention. Canada is sometimes described as a “salad” as opposed to America’s “melting pot.” I have found that nothing really melts together in reality. I will never be able to walk into a room and not have people think of my ethnicity. Sometimes I am reminded of that fact in rather jarring ways. Do people expect you to be an instant expert on all things Oriental? Yes! But I am of both worlds, so I can interpret for each side. That’s the unique space I think I occupy. And being Canadian plays a big part of it too. Canada is multi-cultural, and that is celebrated. What are some things your “outsider” viewpoint helps alert you to in your work? I am always aware of how American culture may or may not be perceived by non-Americans. Americans frequently take it for granted that everyone loves everything from America, and for the same reasons. That’s not always the case in either respect. There is sometimes the assumption that people abroad will automatically love an American intellectual property (IP). But not every IP is going to have American qualities that appeal internationally. Here’s an example from when I worked at Sony Development [in the 1990s]. One of the attractions created and brought to Japan was “Where The Wild Things Are” based on Maurice Sendak’s beloved American children’s book. It was beautifully done and true to the book [the attraction first appeared at the original Sony Metreon in San Francisco]. “Wild Things”

A dramatic and humorous Pirates live stage show concept incorporating an exciting blend of acrobatics, death defying high dives, and sword fighting, developed for Hong Kong’s Ocean Park’s Summer Splash. © IvanXTeam S.r.l. 2011 being American and popular in America led to some assumptions that the Japanese would also love it. It ended up not working there. In my personal opinion and observation, what was not realized is that Mickey Mouse and other such characters fit within the “cute” and rounded aesthetic that Japanese love, which is already in their culture. The Wild Things, on the other hand, are visually rough-hewn characters with a lot of grit and sharp teeth. That is not to the Japanese taste, so they appeared ugly and scary to them. The mother’s behavior is also different from Asian parenting - a traditional Asian parent would never allow Max to leave the dinner table without eating first. Max’s behavior as a child is very disobedient, which would be considered shameful and embarrassing of the mother, and Max’s behavior unacceptable. To export concepts or stories to other countries and cultures without doing detailed homework can be a costly mistake. What do Westerners need to pay attention to as the industry grows in Asia? Westerners need to try as hard as they can to not think like Westerners, and to inhabit the minds of the people in the countries they are thinking of establishing projects in, or working with. Being a good houseguest, as it were. It is their country,

and we are only invited guests. We shouldn’t go in and start rearranging their furniture or telling them how things would be better if they did things our way. You wouldn’t be welcome very long doing that. Eat their food, seek it out, and learn to like it.

and brand awareness of many Anime titles in Asia than for many beloved American IP’s there. We also need to appreciate that Anime storytelling is distinctive. They mix genres much more than we do. You can have a drama-comedy-vampirelove story all in one.

When it comes to conceiving attractions, how does one follow the practice of being a good houseguest, so to speak? We need to listen to their wants and desires, and not to impose our own tastes on them. If they love Bollywood, but don’t care that much about superheroes, give them Bollywood attractions and don’t force superheroes on them. Being a good designer is being able to inhabit your client’s mind, and bring out what they want. All too often, their tastes are not taken seriously enough. They are paying us to provide them what they want, not what we want.

I have seen American Caucasian Anime fans singing Anime karaoke word-for-word in Japanese. Do they know how to speak Japanese? Probably not.

What should Westerners be paying attention to culturally, in that regard? In the Middle East, and India, we need to pay much closer attention to what Bollywood has going on, and to gain an appreciation for it. Anime in animation and comics must also be taken much more seriously. It is a huge cultural influence in Asia - yet it is considered an exotic side dish here, when in fact it should be influencing attraction design. There is more love


Of course American films are popular and have great reach globally. Disney is obviously a huge influence on the industry. As a generator of IP, it is the gold standard. But one walk around Anime Expo or the show floor at Comic-Con - or a browse through the Bollywood video section of an Indian video store - reveals the huge potential of many other sources - many of which, I must reiterate, are more popular abroad than American IP’s. The industry needs to be more aware of this. If not, other design firms in other countries will outmaneuver us here. If we want to be relevant, and continue to push the edge, we need to dare to learn more, and more importantly, understand other people and cultures. We live in a global economy, and soon a global culture, whether people are prepared or not. We need to think 10-25 years ahead.

HARRIET CHENG “In America, we believe that ‘Story is King.’ But when you partner with a different culture, the willingness to execute that vision is not always there.” Harriet Cheng is currently project manager for IWitness at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and producer/project Manager at Playground Digital Technologies. She previously worked as project coordinator, Shanghai Disneyland at Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment. She is firstgeneration Chinese-American, grew up in the US and is fluent in Cantonese and English. Tell us about your current projects. With Playground Digital Technologies, I am creating exhibits for the National Museum for the United States Army, a new museum opening in 2015 in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. For the USC Shoah Foundation, I’m creating content for and managing the development of an educational website using materials from the collection. The online education field is exploding right now. That is why I am there - I try to stay ahead of the curve. How does project management or coordination in the East differ from what the industry’s used to in the West? I think the biggest difference is the balance between project management (money) and the creative. The Chinese don’t inherently believe that better creative leads to better experiences, and thus, one should not spend money on it - unlike the Japanese, where the experience is paramount and they spend for it!

That’s a huge difference from the storytelling emphasis of the industry in the US and Europe. Here in America, we do believe that “Story is King.” Certainly, that is the case with Disney. But when you partner with a different culture, the willingness to execute that vision is not always there. With the Japanese, they believed it - Universal Studios Japan and Tokyo Disney Sea are both winner parks. Whereas the Chinese close down parks every day because most of them are thrill ride parks that contain no magic or wonder for kids to love. Then a stronger story core is needed to earn repeat business? Well, that’s what we in the West believe. Look at Harry Potter. It blew the doors off Universal’s numbers because the story is so loved. I believe that the Chinese are really a very practical culture. They don’t have a lot of cultural belief in the magic of childhood, the gifts of imagination, and having fun. It is a culture built upon hard work and survival, not daydreaming. Do you think the growth of the middle class will promote more ‘daydreaming’? The middle class do not feel very secure in China, or America, either, for that matter. So, in China, where the culture dictates that you save money and don’t spend on idle things, I’m not sure that the parks will get repeat business. For example, Hong Kong Disney depends mostly on tourists, not the local population. Contrast that to Disneyland, where the majority of their business is local customers. In America, you can become anything. You can start as an “Okie from Muskogee” and turn into Brad Pitt or Carrie Underwood. That is unheard

of and undo-able in China. There are far fewer dreamers. When was the last time we had a Chinese performer, or character, or property have that kind of success here? Jackie Chan? No one is making theme parks out of him. Can you give an example of a Chinese theme park that is achieving a higher standard? One such park is Happy Valley in Shenzhen. It is an OCT park. The OCT chain spends money on items with no inherent ROI, like landscaping and theming. In America, we talk about “experience” which to us, includes all those intangibles. But the Chinese say, “the grass is not a ride, no one pays to see grass.” You don’t go to a theme park to bootstrap, though. A theme park visit is an escape from daily life. And there is the crux of the culture clash. Escape? The practical, Chinese attitude is, “Your life is what it is. We can go to this park for a fun time today, but don’t ever believe this is real life.” The Chinese don’t promote creativity, and in theme park development, there’s much cost cutting. It can be frustrating. As in any business, if you just tell the production teams what the real budget is at first, then they can design to that; not design to something that was never there. Then you get death by a thousand paper cuts. Then, if allowed to, Western optimism and the concept of the guest experience may greatly benefit theme park development in China? When society encourages you to be anything you want to be, the creativity is huge. • • •

Thrilling gladiatorial sword play, pageantry, horse tricks, fire effects, humor, and drama are interwoven into an epic live stunt show in an epic Roman Coliseum set. Project in Vietnam. © Steelman Partners


waterpark trends

the opportunities and challenges for waterparks in china by Dan Martin “Compared to Western facilities, Chinese waterparks are developed quickly and cheaply with government assistance, operate with an inexpensive workforce at twice the actual capacity of Western waterparks, and serve a population in which up to six adults are saving up to send the family’s one child to a waterpark. The parks can’t charge the equivalent of US $30 to $40 per person – but they don’t need to.”


hina has accepted whole new categories of Western leisure facilities at a breakneck speed. High value attractions went in first: golf courses, theme parks and in Macau, casinos. Three leading industry figures - Don McCrary of Dreamparks International, David Bogdonov of WhiteWater West, and Jeff Mayer of Bassenian Lagoni - all believe waterparks will lead the next wave. There are several systemic distinctions between China and the West that will make a difference for developing waterparks in China. China has been what might be called a “command economy.” Although it is changing over time, everyone would agree that the Chinese government is responsible for directly creating economic activity, including housing and jobs. Five-yearplans, backed by government money, guide how the government expects to do this. In the US, while Americans tend to blame the government if there is a falloff in adequate housing and jobs, they expect the private sector to provide them and generally resist the concept of anything like the Chinese five-year-plans. The level of government involvement directly impacts waterpark development in China. If you want to develop a waterpark, you may find it necessary to build housing as part of the project.

As the housing is developed, you are able to build your waterpark. (There are curious, but not direct, parallels with US waterpark hotels that sold condos to fund development, and in golf communities, where the inducement to buy a residence is the coming golf course.) When you build a Chinese waterpark, there are, by any Western standards, an astonishing number of workers on site. Instead of a fiveman western crew with equipment, there are 50 Chinese workers with tools. In other words, the developer provides jobs. To make sure that this all goes to plan, the government is involved in every project every step of the way. There is no external regulatory entity as in the US. In fact, even after development, the government owns the land and, by extension, the improvements. This creates a hurry-up atmosphere that contributes to projects being built as quickly as possible, so the developer can start operating and generating a cash flow to start paying taxes to the government as soon as possible. The haste helps the government create jobs by further expanding the workforce needed on-site to accelerate construction. China’s five-year-plans have been targeted toward creating manufacturing capacity (jobs) for many cycles, but the recent stabilization of the

The family Python waterslide by WhiteWater West illuminated at night at Chimelong waterpark. Photo courtesy of WhiteWater West.


population at 1.3 billion has allowed an easing of pressure. Most important to our industry, the current five-year plan includes government support for leisure facilities. David Bogdonov of WhiteWater West points out that now “local governments are asking for recreation facilities to be built by real estate developers in exchange for land in real estate developments.” The differences don’t stop there. The famous one-child rule has created a remarkable set of demographics. That one child is at the bottom of a family tree that includes two parents and four grandparents - an extended household of up to seven people (assuming that grandparents live close by or watch the child) with only one child. Western households typically have twice the number of children as that same Chinese family tree, and Western grandparents are often less involved (partly because they are likely to have multiple grandchildren). In the West, there is widespread concern that the middle class is evaporating. It’s simpler in China – there isn’t much of a middle class. In 2006, Chinese sociologist Zhou Xiaozheng said, “China’s current success is built on 300 million people taking advantage of 1 billion cheap laborers.” Even today that’s not far off the mark. Approximately 320 million Chinese, about 25% of the population, live in households with incomes at or above that found in most Western countries. This is close to the number of people (330 million) living in the US, but as pointed out, with fewer children. At the same time, hundreds of millions of Chinese have household incomes far less than would in the West be considered candidates for attending a waterpark. The average poor family in China earns less than $5,000 US per year. The result could be that we have a market in China where waterparks get built for the 320 million, and the billion go unserved. But that won’t happen - not in China. Construction and operating labor is cheap in China and the

government, in its five-year plan, is backing more leisure facilities. (There is to some extent a parallel in the West as there are many hundreds of municipal or government owned and operated aquatic centers.) Project economics, in China, are structured to make it work for many. “Cultural norms also make a big difference in the design and operation of leisure destinations,” says Jeff Mayer, Director of International Planning for Bassenian Lagoni, who has been working on tourism projects in China for the last ten years. Mayer observes, “With a history of living in densely populated mega-cities, the Chinese seem to be less concerned about personal space than do more self-conscious Westerners.” A Western waterpark that holds 3,000 will, in China, comfortably hold 7,000. On the surface, this presents revenue benefits, but it also strains infrastructure and increases the importance of maintenance and safety. Unfortunately, many of the early water filtration systems installed in China were designed to Western standards, while receiving twice or more the user load. Parks that are willing to invest in highest quality mechanical/filtration systems – and get the ratio right – will be the most successful. Like many emerging economies, China has public maintenance issues. There are also frequent water quality issues in China. Mayer advises, “If you are going to develop a project in China that has water in it, you better have a very good aquatic engineer on your team.” While it’s hard to miss water quality issues, Don McCrary of Dreamparks International notes that the Chinese government and the CSCI (the Chinese equivalent of the US’s ASTM) are adamant about safety. Following some ride accidents they began to send inspection teams to foreign factories operated by vendors for assurance that materials and fabrication practices were safe. This rigorous approach is continuing. Compared to Western facilities, Chinese waterparks are developed quickly and cheaply with government assistance, operate with an inexpensive workforce at twice the actual capacity of Western waterparks, and serve a population in which up to six adults are saving up to send the family’s one child to a waterpark. The parks can’t charge the equivalent of US $30 to $40 per person – but they don’t need to. The leveling off of the population and the country’s economic ascent have made all this

possible. Projections by the UN and US show that the Chinese population has leveled off at 1.3 billion, will stay at that level through 2050 before starting a gradual decline, and possibly drop below a billion in 2080. However, in that time, the population will age considerably. The number of children 0-15, the broad target market for water experiences, has been on a steady decline – from approximately 346 million in 1990 to 253 million in 2010, a level that is projected to remain for several decades. This is still more than four times the size of the same age group in the US. In time, the Chinese population is expected to become more evenly distributed by age group. The leveling out of the age groups and the ratio of children to adults impact the mix of attractions in a Chinese waterpark. Mayer has worked with leading cultural anthropologists on multiple tourism projects in China and has learned that “Culturally, water is very important in China. It is seen as a luxury to have access to clean water, and running water, in particular, elicits a vivid association with the continuity of life.” David Bogdonov, of WhiteWater West, agrees. He points out that there is a strong tradition of spa and hot springs participation in China. This meshes well with the waterpark industry and has been integrated into WhiteWater’s waterpark designs across China. Don McCrary notes that South Korea has already been down this path. There, early waterparks were very Western, but now they mix traditional spa and modern thrilling water experiences. McCrary, who is currently working on three projects in China, notes that waterparks that incorporate the tradition of spa and hot springs provide an opportunity for the multigeneration Chinese family to get wet and have fun. However, he notes that Western groups are typically retained for their excellence in “Western style” facilities - which is what their clients really want. According to Bogdonov, China’s waterpark wave really began with “the success of Chimelong waterpark. It opened its doors in 2007 and immediately rose to the third most highly attended waterpark in the world after the two Disney parks in Orlando.” Chimelong has traditional Chinese aspects but leads with a very strong Western waterpark ride package. The current market response is to go big. Bogdonov says that the emphasis has been on the larger parks in the largest cities. “Given the


size of the urban areas in China, developers are usually focused on providing high capacity parks. The Chimelong Park in Guangzhou and Beijing Longmenzhen each have peak-day attendance in excess of 35,000.” In addition to providing deeper markets, the largest cities have many income-qualified households that own cars, better enabling them to get to the parks. However, while China has become the largest car market in the world, ownership is still well below that of Western countries. All this is not good news for China’s vast rural population. For them, waterparks are likely to be a thing of dreams for at least a generation. With its enormous population of children – even if 75% are in low-income households – China will be a good candidate for a trend we have experienced in the US – water, water everywhere – from flow riders and slides on cruise ships and water play areas in zoos, to play fountains in public parks. While the public recreation movement in China is nascent, it may emphasize water play as a way to encourage the healthy active lifestyle that many local level Chinese government units seem to encourage and demand in exchange for development rights. As in the US, existing theme parks in China can be expected to add waterparks. The shake-out in the Chinese theme park industry increases the likelihood that some less-than-successful theme parks will add waterparks as a way towards recovery. Adding a second park allows operators to increase capacity at a lower incremental cost. Mayer, McCrary, and Bogdonov all believe that this adds up to extraordinary opportunities for every facet of the visitor attractions industry. Westerners just need to be smart and thoughtful about crafting experiences that resonate with Chinese culture, respond to governmental concerns, and address the rapid evolution of its infrastructure. • • • Dan is a Managing Principal at Market & Feasibility Advisors. His rich portfolio includes retail and hospitality feasibility, museums, zoos, theme parks, water parks, resorts, aquariums, and more in 30 states and provinces across North America and in Asia and the Middle East.

the sky’s the limit Gary Goddard talks about creating great international attractions interview by Martin Palicki


esigner/producer Gary Goddard, CEO and founder of Gary Goddard Entertainment, expanding now under the umbrella of The Goddard Group, has a long list of credits in international theme parks, theater, casinos and resorts. He’s been very active in Asia over the past 10 years or so; recent high-profile projects include the The Galaxy Macau, the 2,800 room, two billion dollar mega resort casino which opened in May of 2011. He is currently designing another mega resort casino in Macau, as well as creating a theme park and destination resort in Moscow. What are the real hotbeds of activity on the international themed entertainment market? Right now we find a lot going on in Macau, China, and India. Casino projects (with entertainment attractions) continue to pop up there and pretty much all over Asia, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan. Everyone wants a chance to share in the revenues that can be earned from gaming.

What developments are thriving? There are two extremes: Either (1) the smaller stand-alone attractions (such as the Merlin array of products) that are located in high density urban centers, or (2) the larger destination resorts. Also, water parks remain pretty strong in most markets as long as they are sized right for the location. What is happening in China, in particular? It’s a boomtown at the moment with a high number of projects being developed, designed, built and so on. The best of them will survive and prosper. That’s my biggest concern with the clients we do business with – conveying a longterm perspective. You are building to compete and to “win” over many years. Also, most Chinese developers and owners don’t really know the industry and it’s important for them to take the time necessary to thoroughly vet the firms they engage to create attractions for them. If they say “we can do it all,” make sure they can actually deliver on that statement.

Do you see a trend of integrating themed entertainment with residential properties? Yes, to some degree. This has manifested in China, and I think the Indian market will want something along these lines as well. Tell us a little about your experience in the gaming market, which seems to be an increasingly strong area for you. With my background going back to several Las Vegas projects - the Caesars Palace expansion master planning, The Venetian conceptual design and the planning for the original MGM - plus interiors for and attractions for the original Sydney Harbor Casino (aka “Star City”) in Sydney, Australia., and most recently, the concept and master planning of the Galaxy Macau, we have a unique understanding of how to combine gaming, hospitality, food & beverage, retail, and entertainment into a completely integrated

“It seems that people in East and West share the same desire for a mix of thrills, fun, scares, and wonders.”

Designed by Gary Goddard Entertainment, the700-room DreamWorld hotel rises at the Hotgo Resort just outside Shenyang, China. Images courtesy of Gary Goddard Entertainment.


The City of Wonders project features a boutique garden theme park set within a larger urban development. Image courtesy of Gary Goddard Entertainment. experience, and the creation of iconic visitor destinations that become magnets for guests. Along those lines, stay tuned for details of an unprecedented, new project in Macau that will be announced soon, that I assure you will become the new #1 destination there. What are some standout differences - and preferences - between East and West when it comes to theme park projects? Mainly gastronomic – the East and West have very different tastes when it comes to food, as some park operators have learned the hard way. In terms of entertainment, it seems that people in East and West share the same desire for a mix of thrills, fun, scares, and wonders. I do think that designers and developers alike should give more attention to the role landscaping plays - this is especially underappreciated in the East. But having said that, it’s more than just landscaping – it’s the creation of unique immersive spaces that engage the emotion of the guests. Easy to understand intellectually, but much more difficult to execute in reality. Audiences in the East love big effects shows when done right. How do you think IP can be protected in countries like China?

This is a major subject that needs to be addressed by our industry. After looking into it following a bad experience, I have come to the conclusion that there are insufficient avenues of legal recourse for resolving IP disputes in China and some other Asian countries. On the other hand, we have had some very positive working relationships. It seems, the more closely the owners or developers are tied to the central government, the more respectful of rights, and of rule of law they are. The short answer is: Proceed at your own risk.

and I am quite sure any AVATAR land or park will make its way to Shanghai and/or Hong Kong. Of course I have to mention that the GALAXY MACAU was called a “game changer” by Macau Business Magazine and is generally credited with setting a new approach to design for the Cotai Strip - and I like to think that some of our newer projects still in development - in several different countries - will also take their place as game-changers for the entire industry. For me, the excitement is in creating new and neverbefore-experienced attractions and resorts.

What project out there right now do you think has the most potential to be a “game changer” for the Asian market? There is reason to think that Disney is about to deliver something truly astounding in Shanghai. I certainly look forward to a dynamic new theme park experience in there and I truly want to be filled with wonder again with a major Disney project operating on all engines. And, speaking from personal experience having worked closely with James Cameron as co-creator and director/ producer on the revolutionary Terminator 2/3D, I look forward to seeing Disney’s collaboration with him on AVATAR. I think this will be something truly unique, exciting, dynamic and wondrous,

Your Asian portfolio continues to expand. Why are projects continually coming to GG from Asia? I think it’s our reputation for quality in terms of design and execution. And our track record of having designed projects that actually get built. We have been very busy in our first ten years as The Goddard Group – with more than a dozen projects around the world actually being built and open in that time. Currently we’ve another five projects in various stages of construction with openings planned in 2013, 2014, and 2015. All of our projects have been successful in terms of numbers, and visually iconic in a way that increases attendance. We have worked hard to


become the “go to guys” for making large and small projects a reality throughout China and Asia. What do you think is the “next big thing” people don’t yet know about in Asia? Well, I do know the answer to that, but you don’t think I am going to let the cat out of the bag here do you? That’s the kind of information that leads to new projects. So for now, I’ll respectfully decline to answer. • • • For more information on Gary Goddard’s projects in Asia or The Goddard Group, visit them online at

The 513-foot Ring of Harmony is currently under construction at Shenfu New Town in northeast China. Image courtesy of Gary Goddard Entertainment.

shanghai disneyland With Disney Shanghai resort, a regional/global market strategy unfolds by Joe Kleiman


t the Shanghai Disney resort, opening in late 2015, The Enchanted Storybook Castle, where all the Disney Princesses will reside, will also house makeover boutiques for children, retail and dining locations, and a boat ride traveling beneath the castle. This is the only attraction that has been officially announced (in April 2012), although there has been much speculation about the other components of the highly anticipated park. The following is also known:

loan for the property after failing to secure the US $3.3 billion slated for the project’s first phase. • According to Tom Staggs, Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, “...our new resort in Shanghai will include things that you know and love about a Disney theme park such as Disney characters, attractions and storytelling… but it will also feature all-new experiences and stories that were inspired by and created for the people of China. The best way to describe this new resort is authentically Disney, yet distinctly Chinese.” The Walt Disney Company is comprised of five segments – media networks, parks and resorts, the studios, interactive media, and consumer products. Each division is designed to work synergistically with the others. The Shanghai resort is a key player in Disney’s crosssegment strategy in China, where socio-economic conditions and a large market in counterfeit goods have led to some misunderstanding of Disney franchises and characters.

•The area of the theme park is 1.16 sq. km; of the entire resort, 3.9 sq. km. • 7.3 million visitors are expected in the first year. • Key construction on the resort began on April 26, 2012. • The Resort has begun the hiring process for lead technical and creative positions. • The entrance to the park will be on the shores of a large artificial lake, much like Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

An intriguing aspect of Disney’s marketing strategy in China that goes straight to the target market is English language education. In 2008, Disney Consumer Products established the first Disney English school in Shanghai. Now with 35 locations in nine metropolitan areas, Disney Learning has a simple mission: teach English to Chinese schoolchildren. Teach it with Disney characters.

• There will be an 11 acre (46,000 m2) green space at the center of the theme park that will both celebrate nature and be the home of cultural festivals and activities. • Technology seen at other Disney parks, resorts, and ships, such as RF tags, biometric scanners, virtual and augmented reality, interactive queues and games, and “living” characters will be integrated into the resort as part of the initial infrastructure.

On March 12, 2012, Disney English announced the “Disney English Learn and Read App” for the iPad. As stated in their publicity material, this “represents a new innovation in education and a whole new way to learn English by gradually transforming from a story in Chinese to a story you can understand in English.” • • •

• The Walt Disney Company’s partner on the project is Shanghai Shendi Group, a 100% state owned entity which owns 53% of Shanghai Disney Resort and 30% of the management company. On April 10, 2012, Shanghai Shendi took out a US $2 billion bank


china 2020 how China’s growth and future will impact business development in the A/E/C/ Industry by Lisa A. Thorburn, LEED-AP, CTS, President, Thorburn Associates


ill doing business in China make or break your firm? On the surface, the process of entering the Chinese market is no different than it is for entering any other new market. The challenge, and risk, lies in understanding and operating within cultural environments (social, business, and government) that differ significantly from those the reader may consider normal. Many foreign investors feel Chinese architects/ designers understand the needs of the local market, yet lack quality control, exposure to international standards, and professional management experience. This creates an opportunity for foreign A/E/C (Architecture / Engineering / Construction) firms to provide expertise on advanced building design concepts and technology. However, U.S. firms still face stiff competition. According to the most recent Ministry of Construction data, of the 233 foreign design firms registered only 10.7 percent were from the US, 59.6 percent were from Hong Kong (many with strong ties to parent companies in the UK or Australia), 6.4 percent were from Singapore, and 23.3 percent were from other countries and regions. While it is difficult to provide current metrics regarding business opportunities within China, there are some specifics that can be referenced. According to the most recent U.S. Commercial Service’s Service Market Report, the plan for total construction is estimated to reach twobillion square meters each year (one square meter = 10.76 square feet). By 2020, estimates are that China will have built 205 billion square meters of new housing. Construction spending is expanding at twenty-five percent annually. A November 2009 report in ENR magazine states “China will: • push the U.S. into second place as the world’s biggest construction market before the end of the next decade. • remain dominant. Its infrastructure sector is expected to grow fastest over the decade, boosted initially by economic stimulus.

• overtake the U.S. as the largest construction market globally by 2018 and by 2020 the construction market in China will be worth an estimated $2.4 trillion.” Given these growth predictions, it is important to understand the various risks and considerations for doing business in China. Some of the most important: The importance of relationships (guanxi) and face (miantze) Doing business in China is about building mutual trust and benefit amidst establishing relationships with people. Guanxi (pronounced gwan-zhee) is everything. In a narrow sense, it means “relationship” or “connection,” but in business can imply everything from “networking” to “pull.” Mianzi (pronounced mian-tze) is “face” or social capital. In Chinese business culture, a person’s reputation and social standing rest on saving face. Face defines a person’s place in the social network and is the most important measure of social worth. Similar to the U.S. concepts of dignity and prestige, it differs in that the Chinese think of face in quantitative terms, not absolute. Thus face can be earned, lost, given, or taken away. If a Westerner causes the Chinese embarrassment or loss of composure, even unintentionally, it can be disastrous for business negotiations. Negotiating contracts It is beneficial to bring your own interpreter to help understand the subtleties of everything being said during meetings. The best way to help avoid confusion is to speak in short, simple sentences free of jargon and slang. When preparing documents it is useful to prepare a reverse translation to help reduce confusion. Note that written contracts are secondary to personal commitments between associates. In fact, several trips to China will probably be necessary before the business arrangements are finalized since Chinese businesspeople prefer to establish strong relationships before closing a deal. With this in mind, keep your return plans flexible in case negotiations do not proceed according to schedule.


Getting paid Any sale is a gift until you are paid! This practical business insight is especially true for international transactions where the buyer and seller could be twelve thousand miles apart. While it is prudent to make use of the various credit-reporting companies active in China, you should also ask for trade references from U.S. firms that are easy to contact. It is important to recognize some significant differences in the Chinese commercial and banking landscape: • China still has many state-owned enterprises, which can have a high degree of government involvement, potentially complicating negotiations and slowing the release of funds for a given contract. • The banking system is not yet as transparent as in Western countries, which means you probably will want the active involvement of your U.S.-based bank’s international division to help you through hurdles. • The private sector is still developing in China, so your buyers might not yet have the expertise to smoothly navigate China’s internal bureaucracy and regulations on such things as securing foreign currency for their transactions. The net result of these factors is that you could potentially encounter delays in payments regardless of the payment method used. Protecting intellectual property Since joining the World Trade Organization, China has strengthened its legal framework and amended its Intellectual Property Rights and related laws and regulations to comply with the WTO Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights. Despite these stronger statutory protections, China continues to be a haven for counterfeiters and pirates. One strategy is to avoid the opportunity for the intellectual property to actually be disclosed rather than trying to control the people in possession of it. Generally you should have non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in place, but remember the huge hoops you will need to jump through to get any sort of recovery after a breach—if any recovery at all is even possible. Another option is just to be very careful in

what you present. Do not give away pictures, presentations, or drawings in meetings. If the client really wants more or if they want you to design it and they do not want to pay for it, then you have a decision to make—is it worth the risk? If they really want it and they know they can’t get it anywhere else, they WILL pay for it. Market research Similar to most places, there are three types of clients: Government, Government/Private, and Private. The challenge is that unless the entity is listed on a stock exchange, information is less reliable and harder to come by. It is best to attempt to get firsthand knowledge through relationships and introductions. The Chinese rely heavily on relationships and if you are introduced though a trusted person then you and your firm can be trusted. When trying to get that first introduction think about the rule of “seven degrees of separation” where you are just a few people away from an introduction to the person you want to meet. Use social networking sites and industry associations to find someone who knows someone who knows the person you want to meet. While the internet is a useful tool for general research, it is not that reliable for specific project information. The good news is that all government projects must be advertised, so find the sites that list the type of projects your firm is interested in and monitor them for upcoming opportunities. Decision making process/ level of collaboration The biggest specific difference between Western and Chinese business culture is in decisionmaking. Quick decisions are alien to the Chinese. Rapid decision-making, incorporating quickly gathered and processed information is a sign of an aggressive, highly competent manager in the West. However, to the Chinese, haste is the sign of an idiot. The Chinese prefer to deliberate longer, even on decisions that might take Western managers five minutes. Discuss the issue, ask for feedback, and explain your decision’s rationale. This way, the staff will be more accepting and respectful of the decision. The Chinese want to be included in the decision-making process at a degree of collaboration that to a Western manager may seem unnecessary for relatively simple points but is important in this culture. They want to feel honored that you bring issues to them and ask what they would do. Even if you think it is a simple decision, mull it over and talk to them about it. The results (buy-in, compliance, good feeling) will be worth the extra effort.


Timeline to success Remember that the timeline to success in China can be relatively short (two to three years) or it can be much longer (up to ten years). It is not for the faint of heart—it takes a strong commitment to enter this market. Finding the right partner and developing relationships take time and cannot be rushed. While anecdotes for both success and failure are plentiful, the key to success lies in proper prior planning and doing significantly more research and due diligence than might be required for entering a new market in your own neighborhood. Going in with a strong local partner can help. The first few times you are there, you’re there to meet people and get to know about China—not to do a deal. The Chinese need to feel you are there to do something for them and for China, before they will feel comfortable doing business with you. More in-depth information is available in the SMPS Foundation sponsored white paper available at: NavigationMenu/Foundation/Research/default. htm • • • About the Author Lisa A. Thorburn, LEED-AP, CTS Thorburn Associates Inc. Lisa is the president, marketing principal, and cofounder of Thorburn Associates, an international Acoustical, Technology, and Lighting design firm. Started in 1992, the company has offices in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, Raleigh-Durham, and Orlando areas. TA has completed over 2000 different projects of all types including commercial, corporate, leisure, hospitality, residential, retail, and places of worship. Lisa leads a team of twenty-five professionals on both national and international projects. Her degree in scientific and technical communications with options in business and computer science provide the background and communication skills necessary to easily translate technical requirements into client-friendly information. Lisa is a firm believer in freely sharing technical expertise to help increase the knowledge base within the industry. She regularly presents on acoustical and technology issues. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys teaching both T’ai Chi Chih and its advanced form, Seijaku. Visit: This article was originally created as a white paper for SMPS and reprinted with permission.

the main attraktion

Markus Beyr’s new company, Attraktion! has already landed a dozen new projects - including a ground-floor role in the production of the official Chariots of the Gods theme park. by Judith Rubin


arkus Beyr, entrepreneur and producer of media-based attractions, is at the helm of a new company, Attraktion! Group, founded to serve the visitor attractions industry with project development services, and to selectively invest in related companies. Attraktion! will also develop new products and visitor experiences in other leisure sectors. Beyr established Attraktion! Group after an 18year tenure with Kraftwerk Living Technologies, where he had been Managing Director. Leading from Beyr’s prominence in the industry, the company has already landed a dozen new projects ranging from theme park attractions to educational exhibits - including what promises to be a very high-profile endeavor: a ground-floor role in the production of the official Chariots of the Gods theme park. The “Chariots” theme park is in early stages and is part of an extensive, transmedia rollout that will span a wide range of branded entertainment and media formats. All are based on the eponymous, 1968 book by Erich von Däniken that set forth the theory that extraterrestrial visitors, regarded as deities, brought cultures, religions and technologies to Earth in the ancient past. Chariots of the Gods still tops the international nonfiction book charts with more than 64 million copies sold. Where will the Chariots of the Gods theme park be built, and when will it open? We are a step before that. Attraktion! will begin discussions later this year with candidate sites and operator-partners. Estimated opening is a minimum of three and a half years off. There is no site chosen, but we favor Asia as the location because it has the best potential for the planned size. Culturally speaking, however, the park could be placed almost anywhere in the world. Chariots of the Gods is about our great mysteries, which are to be found on every

Icons of the Egyption world provide premier theming at Chariots of the Gods theme park. continent. They hold a magical fascination for all mankind. What will visitors experience? For the first time, they will be able to confront the mysteries described by Erich Von Däniken, in a physical setting and richly themed environments. The Pyramids, Stonehenge, Easter Island and other legendary places will be evoked in a dramatic atmosphere that imparts a sense of the ancient civilizations and cultures and the leaders they considered as gods. It will be a media-driven park, but also incorporate the best in roller coasters and hard rides. Together with state-of-the-art steel rides, media-based attractions, flying spaceships, 4D theaters, and other amazing adventures, the Chariots Of The Gods theme park will seek to position itself among the world’s top destination venues. What is the planned size for the theme park, and how many visitors will it accommodate? It will be around 20-25 hectares and be designed for 2.5 million visitors a year. We understand that Attraktion! is also producing smaller, indoor attractions as part of the “Chariots” line. Can you share information about them?

Atlantis, one of the highly themed lands at Chariots of the Gods theme park


In addition to the theme park project we are also creating smaller indoor attractions for shopping malls and urban entertainment areas, so that the Chariots Of The Gods experience can be added to any other A-class venue with a family market. We see it as an entertainment anchor comparable to an aquarium or an FEC, and something that can be brought to an existing facility or part of the scheme for a new development. Who will design and build the park and the indoor attractions? Are you looking for creative and development partners in this venture? We will work with a local developer for the land chosen to develop the park and will recruit a number of designers and creatives. The creative teams are mainly in place for the different projects, but some slots remain available for certain talents. Is Erich von Däniken directly involved? Yes, Erich von Däniken will have a presence in the various Chariots of the Gods projects - and the presenter and narrator is well-known actor Roger Moore. As producer, how do you see your role on the project? In attraction production, we emphasize finding the best project solution for the client, the client’s guests, the budget and the particular location.

Erich von Däniken

Is Attraktion! involved in transmedia or cross platform ventures? Yes, with one company in our group we do game developments for home, online and themed entertainment. You have done a lot in Europe and Asia. Will the US also be a market for you? Not so much for major project developments, but to support our companies within the group. So yes, besides attraction productions, we are investing in young companies with unique talent, which will do work also in the US.

Dragon’s Treasure at City of Dreams Casino Macau We are the interface between all parties, and we understand all positions. Therefore we can create a smooth project development process with expertise in any discipline. The development of an interdisciplinary team to create something unique and successful is something I find most rewarding. I love working with great designers, architects, media specialists and other creatives. Media production is one of our particular areas of expertise. We have produced numerous films and 3D and 4D attraction media for our projects - I have been involved on some 200 media-based projects. Who are the parties to the IP license deal for Chariots of the Gods? The IP of Chariots was bought by Media Invest Est.

immersive attraction we can think of - if done right. Arthur 4D and Dragons Treasure both received Thea Awards. The Dragons Treasure dome theater in Macau was the biggest single project we had built with my former company. The visitor success of this single project alone defined a new attraction format: the “themed entertainment fulldome experience.”We are now seeing many attempts to replicate it elsewhere in China. We are pleased to be involved in several new major dome developments in Asia and Europe, giving us the opportunity to develop this format further. In addition to big custom projects, do you also work on smaller attractions for smaller venues? Sure, we do several small project developments, from brand lands, tourism and heritage centers...

Getting back to Chariots of the Gods, what other branded experiences or products are planned and when will they appear? The first will be a TV series, starting in 2013. Followed by a computer game later that year. Followed by the touring live show, a feature film, the theme park and indoor attractions. How can the press and the public get updates on the “Chariots” project? Starting with the launch of the TV series, there will be regular announcements and press releases. • • • Websites:, www.attraktion. com. Email:, m.beyr@

How does your new company differ from your previous role? Attraktion! Group is focused on attraction development and production, whereas Kraftwerk is primarily concerned with the delivery and integration of hardware. Over the years, I began to enlarge my professional scope and take on more of a production consulting role with clients, providing help in development and making an attraction right. But this was not really compatible with the system integrator role. This is why I resigned my position with Kraftwerk and sold my shares of the company. What past projects are you most proud of? Three recent ones that stand out in my mind are Marvel Superheroes 4D for Madame Tussauds London, Arthur L’Aventure 4D for Futuroscope Park in France, and the Dragons Treasure Bubble Theater at City of Dreams, Macau. All three are multimedia theater experiences using dome projection. The dome experience is the most

Overview of the Chariots of the Gods theme park


china cinema from a single dome to hundreds more - 20 years of immersive cinema in China by Joe Kleiman


t took a while for the introduction of giant screen cinema into mainland China. It happened in 1992, almost twenty years after the introduction of the first IMAX projector. In that year, Iwerks installed an 870 projector in the dome theater at the Tianjin Museum of Science and Technology, another milestone in the more than two decades Iwerks has enjoyed as a leading supplier of immersive cinema content and systems in China. Now known as Simex-Iwerks, after the 2002 merger of Simex, whose Tour of the Universe at Toronto’s CN Tower was one of the first modern themed motion simulator attractions, and Iwerks Entertainment, founded by former Disney executives Don Iwerks and Stan Kinsey, the company has been at the forefront of a number of immersive theater formats over the

year, including giant screen, motion simulation, 3D, and 4D. In the same year that Tianjin opened, Iwerks moved its Asia Pacific office from Singapore to Hong Kong. Later, it opened a new office in Shanghai. According to Mike Frueh, a veteran of the company since 1988 who currently holds the post of Senior Vice President, Film Distribution and General Manager, “We’ve been in China long enough that we have a great reputation there. Our Shanghai office is staffed by Chinese who can speak the local language and know the customs. And our service department for China is based there as well, with spare parts stored locally. Because of this, we haven’t had to partner up with another company to do business in China.”

The evolution of immersive cinema in China mirrors that of the Western world, although the reasoning behind attractions may not be the same. For instance, the current explosion of cineplex-based 3D and IMAX branded digital theaters that is happening in the States is also happening in China. But whereas here in the States the explained reasoning is higher revenue, there is another motive at play in China. Until last year, both IMAX and 3D were considered attractions by the Chinese government and were exempt from quotas placed on foreign feature films. Recently, that has changed, but up to 14 feature films above the quota can play in Chinese cinemas as long as they also play in either IMAX or 3D. In the Chinese cinema markets, these formats have become a way for studios to bypass the quota and get more Hollywood fare into the lucrative Chinese market. Giant screen and 3D are also seeing growth in the theme park and museum fields, which are still not subject to the government quotas. Ed Capelle, a giant screen industry veteran who currently serves as Vice President of K2 Communications, has been traveling to China for the past six years booking films with local museums, but his time in China goes back farther than that. He asserts that contrary to popular belief, the first American film to play in mainland China was not The Fugitive, but rather the giant screen film Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets, which Capelle produced while President of Destination Cinema, and which screened at the Iwerks theater in Tianjin. “We were in China months before The Fugitive,” he says. According to Tammy Thurmon, Executive Director of the Giant Screen Cinema Association, “Ed was instrumental in getting the GSCA Asian Film Expo in Dongguan.” Held in January 2011, the event hosted over 150 representatives from numerous museums across Asia. Capelle shared his thoughts on why such an event was important in the Chinese market: “Unlike other markets where there are preview prints available, the cost and import restrictions make

Concept rendering of Dunhuang Academy’s Definiti® 8K theater. Photo courtesy China Architecture Design & Research Group


it too prohibitive. We send DVD’s in Mandarin to many exhibitors, but expos such as this provide a wonderful vehicle for a single viewing of a number of films.” One of the attendees at the Asian Film Expo was William McQiu, a resident of Christchurch, NZ who is an import/export broker with China. After an introduction by a mutual friend to executives at MacGillivray Freeman Films, he added giant screen film distribution to his portfolio, later adding the nWave library as well. McQiu is impressed with the quality of 1570 film, but he worries about the institutional theaters that have switched over to non-IMAX digitial projection systems. In recent months, a new product,called DMAX, was introduced by the China Film Group and the governmentassociated China Research Institute of Film Science and Technology, to directly compete against digital IMAX at a lower operating cost. McQui states “If a theater wants to go digital, they should also keep their film projector in the same booth. The quality is not the same and that is what the Chinese public is looking for – a quality presentation.”

McQiu points out that the huge growth in science museums and their accompanying IMAX theaters is the result of a national strategy to bring science and technology education into the community. Capelle adds that “When the Olympics took place in Beijing, that helped because suddenly the government wanted to showcase China to the world and it was putting millions of dollars into cultural institutions. Part of the money went to theaters at museums prior to the Olympics, and not just IMAX theaters. The big museums in China tend to have two or more different kinds of theaters – giant screen, dome, 3D, 4D, or simulator.” One of those dome system providers is SkySkan, whose Definiti® series has been helping to raise standards of fulldome digital projection. The company landed in the record books in 2008, when the Beijing Planetarium opened as the first 8K planetarium in the world. Two years later, in the shadow of the “Bubble” theater at City of Dreams, Sky-Skan installed another 8K planetarium system at the Macao Science Center. This new Sky-Skan system projects in 3D, and is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest resolution 3D planetarium.

“Flying America” ride film at Happy Valley Shenzhen. Photo courtesy of Electrosonic.


One of the newest Sky-Skan installations is at Dunhuang, a World Heritage Site in the Gobi Desert where relics trace the history of the Silk Road and the interactions between the ancient cultures of China, India, Persia, Greece, Rome, and Central Asia. Because of the fragility of the artifacts and the caves where they were found, access is limited. The Dunhuang Academy is digitizing the collection, which will be displayed on two domes and in dual flat-screen preshow theaters for visitors to experience. A Sky-Skan system was part of the experience that attracted large crowds at the Saudi Arabia Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010. A 35 million pixel image projected images of Saudi Arabia, below and around the visitors, on a 17,000 square foot curved screen. “Shanghai Expo was certainly an influence on Chinese theme parks,” says Brent Young, a Principal with Super 78 Studios. “So were the big casinos in Macau and Singapore. But most important were the Disney and Universal parks that opened in Asia. They wanted to give their guests that kind of experience and as a result, regional Chinese parks tend to be much more media-based than American parks.

Macao Science Center, home to world record winning Definiti 3D 8K theater. Photo courtesy PCCW-HKT. Young has written and directed two flying attractions for the Happy Valley chain in China. In Shanghai, “Flight of the Dragon” takes riders on a journey above China, while at Happy Valley Shenzhen, it’s a flight above US landmarks in “Flying America.” Both theaters feature a Huss ride system made up of three arms. Each arm contains three sets of ten seats, one above the other. Hanging in the air, visitors are given the sensation of flying. Four Christie Roadster HD18K’s are combined at each park to create a single image on an 80’ curved screen from Spitz. Young says, “Generally, expectation at the upper levels of management is that they want something world class. They’re always pointing at Disney and Universal attractions as the benchmarks. But the reality is that budgets don’t always align with the expectations. A significant part of the job is educating the client and managing the expectations, while also endeavoring to exceed projects done in the past with the available resources.” Another Super 78 film that has played well in China is Dora and Diego’s 4D Adventure, which plays worldwide in Simex-Iwerks 4D theaters. According to Mike Frueh, this is the type of entertainment both Chinese and world audiences are looking for. “Our clients want

Hollywood. Their guests want Hollywood. And they know when it’s not.” Although Simex-Iwerks still provides services in the giant screen and simulator field, the current trend is for family entertainment. One of the best performing Iwerks 3D/4D experiences in China has been Yogi Bear. With attraction alliances with Fox (Ice Age) and Warner Bros (Polar Express, Happy Feet, Wizard of Oz), the company is strategically placed to take advantage of an increasing family-friendly library of key Hollywood licenses. The next frontier in China is making immersive cinema experiences more accessible in a country of over a billion people where most may never have an opportunity to visit a venue with a giant screen, planetarium, or 3D theater. Last year, IMAX tested an inflatable portable theater that could be taken for special engagements to smaller markets in China where it would not be feasible to build a permanent IMAX theater. In North America, Simex-Iwerks converted its entire fleet of mobile simulators into mobile 4D theaters. Frueh says, “We were able to increase the seating from 18 to 50, and it became a family-based experience in the process.” In 2013, Iwerks will introduce its next


generation of portable theater, something Frueh says he is certainly considering for the Chinese market. For fulldome digital, according to Marcus Weddle, Marketing Director for Sky-Skan, the trend will not be to go larger, but smaller. “There will be an explosion in the small dome market. There are hundreds of high schools around China that have planetariums, but the kids are unable to have the kinds of experiences as in the big cities. By digitizing these small domes, it opens them up for travels to places other than space and it excites them in science and technology in a way their existing planetarium star projectors might not have been able to.” From one giant screen dome in 1992 to hundreds of digital domes two decades later, waiting 20 years for a projector is no longer an option. • • • Joe Kleiman ( is a journalist, PR and marketing professional with a background in museums and special venue cinema. He has opened a number of award winning venues, including the Ridefilm simulators at Galveston, TX’s Moody Gardens, the Esquire IMAX Theatre in downtown Sacramento, CA, and the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, GA and has been a consultant to a number of special venue film producers and distributors, including K2 Communications and Big&Digital.

project portfolio a photo essay look at The Producers Group’s projects around the globe photos courtesy of The Producers Group


pecializing in destination attractions for integrated resorts, casinos and theme parks worldwide with significant recent experience in Asia, The Producers Group, LLC works with developers to manage the creation of high-technology guest experiences from start to finish - or at any stage along the process - bringing them in on schedule and on budget. Company principals Bob Chambers and Edward Marks are specialists in balancing creative vision, technical design and budget realities throughout the project development process. They are the experts in the business of this business, with an emphasis on budgets, schedules, legalities, high risk projects and production. The Producers Group, LLC is headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Macau and Paris. 1. The Crane Dance head being assembled and attached to the body. 2. Nighttime programming of the technically complex Crane Dance show. 3. The finished product: Crane Dance, Resorts World, Singapore. Created by Jeremy Railton and Entertainment Design Corporation. Members of The Producers Group provided services to Entertainment Design Corporation. 4. The Wishing Crystals, Galaxy Resort & Casino, Macau. Created by Jeremy Railton and Entertainment Design Corporation. Members of The Producers Group provided services to Entertainment Design Corporation. 5. Area cleaned and prepared for the arrival of the Wishing Crystals.



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6 6. The programming team works on sound, lighting and effects for the Wishing Crystals. 7. Hall of Treasures, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. Created by Jeremy Railton and Entertainment Design Corporation. Members of The Producers Group provided services to Entertainment Design Corporation. 8. Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, Universal Studios Singapore 9. Lake of Dreams , Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. Created by Jeremy Railton and Entertainment Design Corporation. Members of The Producers Group provided services to Entertainment Design Corporation.




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4 1. The Fortune Diamond, Galaxy Resort & Casino, Macau. Created by Jeremy Railton and Entertainment Design Corporation. Members of The Producers Group provided services to Entertainment Design Corporation. 2. The Producers Group’s Co-CEO Edward Marks walking the jobsite of SciFi City at Universal Studios Singapore. 3. SciFi City, Universal Studios, Singapore. 4. The Simpsons Ride entrance, Universal Studios Hollywood & Orlando. 5. The Simpsons Ride simulator, Universal Studios Hollywood & Orlando. 6. The upper grid and rigging that supports The Fortune Diamond. The Producers Group successfully managed the unique installation challenges of this technically advanced project.

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your 4D film librar y Los Angeles: +1 323 576 4005

London: +44 20 3514 9167

Hong Kong: +852 5808 2647

a picture tells 1,000 stories the value of great photo opportunities for attraction operators by Norman J. Kahn


ver since I first started in the theme park business I knew pictures were a big deal. Back in the 80’s when I worked part time at Universal Studios Hollywood as a merchandise cashier we all knew that pictures were BIG business. The top selling location for merchandise was the Kodak film booth at the main lobby entrance for the Backlot Tour. Back then, people would load up on as much film as they could, so when they came across Lucille Ball or Alfred Hitchcock walking on the back lot as they rode by in their vehicle, they were ready to snap that shot. Now, people have no need to buy film. An entire line of revenue vanished and theme parks have learned to adapt accordingly. As a result, the idea of “monetizing” photos is a challenge for theme park operators all over the globe. The iPhone and Android have replaced Kodak, and people

happily click away as many shots as they can to catch whatever they can. Savvy theme park operators are now providing photo opportunities as a form of enhanced entertainment, and it is working to great success. On a recent trip to see one of our clients, Ocean Park Hong Kong, I saw one of the most vivid examples of how creating superior photo opportunities for your guest can not only enhance core entertainment value, but can also allow you to take “ownership” of your location and exploit not only its present, but also its past. Ocean Park’s 40,000 square foot “Old Hong Kong” area is filled with sentimental and vintage settings and offers an immersive experience of culture, history, and tasty delicacies. Old Hong Kong showcases the streetscape and spirit of Hong Kong between the ’50s and ’70s from

Author Norman J. Kahn poses for a photo in a rickshaw at Ocean Park Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Norman J. Kahn. various perspectives, including a replica of Star Ferry Pier’s clock tower, a manually retrofitted heritage tramcar and rows of classic “tong lau”style apartment buildings. Guests can even sample more than 70 local street foods and beverages to enjoy the flavor of old Hong Kong. While taking a historic look at Hong Kong is a great idea for a tourist destination such as Ocean Park, the attraction’s pure genius lies in its ability to get those iPhones and Androids out and clicking. These photo ops not only provide great memories for the visitors, they allow these visitors to instantly share their experience with family and friends on their social networks. I experienced this first hand as my 10 year old son jumped at every opportunity to ham it up for the camera. From the Rickshaw ride, to the labor of carrying heavy baskets on a pole, to getting water from the communal tap, he enjoyed every minute of it, and our family members 6,000 miles away in Los Angeles also got to instantly share in our experience, as we were both texting and emailing our photos away! We call this first step in the photo opportunity process, “socializing” the opportunity. When a guest texts or emails their photo to their friends and other contacts in their social network, they are “socializing” the experience.

The author’s son poses for a photo at Ocean Park Hong Kong that was instantly sent to family and friends halfway around the world. Photo courtesy of Norman J. Kahn.


We are working on enhancing the guest experience for another one of our clients, and one of their main goals is to not only improve the guest experience but to find additional sources of revenue. One of our solutions is to try

are trackable and measurable for purposes of determining impact. While these ideas are just being experimented with now, in the future the truly integrated photo opportunity will continue to evolve and provide much more than just a picture. In fact, they can provide so much more to sophisticated operators, the old adage “A picture is worth 1,000 words” may need to be updated to “A picture provides 1,000 opportunities.” • • •

This promotional photo of Old Hong Kong Street at Ocean Park Hong Kong showcases the many different photo opportunities available in this section of the park. Photo courtesy of Ocean Park. and convert this “socialization” of the photos into “monetization.” We have begun to experiment with creating photo opportunities that also include a QR bar scan code. When the guest snaps their pic, they can also scan this code, which takes them to a custom designed interface portal where they can do the following things: 1) upload their photo to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,

email, or other social networks as appropriate, 2) enter their photo to “win a contest” for their pic, 3) get a 10% off coupon or free dessert at an in-park dining location, or 4) get a discount or free item for purchasing merchandise today. These last two items are intended to monetize the photo opportunity, and they provide not only additional revenue opportunities, but they

Norman Kahn is an award-winning producer who has spent the last 25 years designing, producing and operating large-scale attractions for theme parks and special venues for clients around the globe including Universal Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount Parks, and Six Flags. His most recent projects include “Symbio” a new nighttime spectacular multi media attraction at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, and events for the Olympics and Live Nation Entertainment. He is CEO of Utopia Entertainment located in Los Angeles, California. For more information visit:


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