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JOHN SALSBURY Animatronics Specialist 29 years

HAROLD ESPOSITO Supervisor-Animation Dept. 25 years

DAVID JONES Customer Service Manager 31 years

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p. 08 Woodstock & North Conway, NH Traverse City, MI

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TODD GILLRUP Vice President-Operations 20 years

RIC HOSTETTER Supervisor-Scenic Dept. 23 years

STEVE PHILLIPS Supervisor-Pneumatics Dept. 29 years

DREW HUNTER Vice President Creative Design 15 years

p. 22

RAY DOMINEY Vice President-Technical Services 16 years LUDA BUDNICK Supervisor-Art Finish Dept. 17 years

JOHN WOOD Chairman & CEO 34 years

JAN SHERMAN Asst. Vice President Creative Services 30 years

DONNA GENTRY Vice President Projects 29 years

Proud Charter Members of TEA Over 295 Years of Experience! You can count on the Sally team to bring you outstanding dark rides, animatronics and shows... year after year, project after project. 745 W. Forsyth Street • Jacksonville, FL 32204, USA (904) 355-7100 • Fax (904) 355-7170 • • email:

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New Braunfels & San Marcos, TX

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Destin , FL

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2012 tEA DIRECtORy


04 04

President’s Letter From the Executive Director


06 08 11

Participation Attractions Human to Human Interaction The AVATAR effect


14 16 20

China’s Bright Outlook How Family Destinations Grow World’s Fairs: The Next Decade



View from Universal: Chip Largman

24 26

“Tricks” of the Museum Trade Of Theatre and Themed Entertainment


28 30

Producer’s Perspective A What Project Managers Do

34 38 42

The Past is Prologue Notes from the founding of TEA TEA Gallery of Lifetime Achievers


Appreciation: John Wright, 1952-2011

48 86




Rick Rothschild Gene Jeffers

George Wiktor Marissa Garner Jeremy Schoolfield

Chris Yoshii Dan Martin Urso Chappell

Interview by Norm Kahn Joseph Wisne David Barbour

Bob Chambers & Edward Marks interviewed by Dawn Alcott Thursby Pierce

Peter Chernack Ron Miziker

Acknowledgments Very special and heartfelt thanks to Richard Carlow of Concept 2 Creation / C2C Studio, Inc. for his volunteer work in the page design and layout of this publication. Richard proved himself gifted, capable, helpful, responsive, dedicated and untiring. Cover art by Richard Wilks of Studio Wilks in celebration of TEA’s 20th anniversary. Thanks to Richard for expressing the forward-looking, playful, artistic team spirit of TEA with this design. 2012 TEA ANNUAL


2012 tEA ANN UAl

Executive Editor Editor/Ad Sales Graphic Design Directory Management Member Relations Special Events and Relations European Assistance Printing



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TEA20/20 VISION: A Note from the President TEA President Rick Rothschild, FAR OUT! Creative Direction

The TEA Handshake Gene Jeffers, TEA Executive Director

Twenty years ago, a small group of visionaries came together to discuss how they might collectively influence and improve communication within the themed entertainment industry for the betterment of their companies and others like them. The Themed Entertainment Association was born!

You often contact us at the TEA offices to ask how to make the most of your membership. Our answers vary somewhat depending on the individual or company asking - on your specific needs. That being said, there are some basics that apply whether you are part of a large international enterprise or an individual with a briefcase and a dream.

It was only with individual devotion and dedication by those early members (along with way too many extra hours beyond what were already involved with successfully leading their companies) that the Association caught on and began to grow. Today, our TEA family has grown to almost 20 times its original membership - to nearly 700 members as listed in this 2012 Directory. In our first 20 years, we have become an internationally recognized association representing an extraordinary collective of talented companies and individuals dedicated to envisioning, producing and operating the best in compelling Places and Experiences worldwide. We have established grand traditions that nurture, empower and grow the Experience Industry, worldwide. The annual Thea Awards (going strong for 18 years now), recognize outstanding achievements – without borders. Five years ago, the SATE conference was born, offering an annual opportunity to gather and share our collective knowledge. Participation went through the roof this year, and SATE will now alternate between Europe and the US. The annual TEA Summit continues to be a packed event and has added a second day. Tremendous thanks and congratulations are due to all who helped along the way, serving our Association and providing guidance and sheer energy to insure it continues to gain strength and purpose. What excites me as I look to the future for the TEA is that the individual members’ energy, dedication, commitment and passion that helped birth our Association are as alive today as they were 20 years ago. That’s to the benefit of all - and a timely reminder that TEA owes much of its past success and bases much of its future as well on extraordinary acts of volunteerism. I am confident that two decades from now, in 2031, TEA will have achieved growth in its second 20 years proportionate to that of its first 20 - to 20 times our current membership. That’s a lot of 20’s, I know… but think of it, an association of over 12,000 members spanning the globe!!! That’s a thrilling prospect. Growing the TEA community to even half that size in the next 20 years is a goal worthy of all our efforts. To accomplish this calls for us to collectively and actively embrace and engage with the next generation of talented, energetic, dedicated industry visionaries, who are already pounding on our doors. Some of today’s markets for themed entertainment didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Thanks to the combined efforts of volunteers and staff and the support of members and sponsors, TEA is expanding into those markets. There are more options in formal education now than ever before for people who aspire to join our industry. Relevant outreach committees have been formed within TEA to make the most of these developments. If you want to get involved, you will be welcomed – just speak up. The band of kindred spirits who came together 20 years ago to form the TEA shared more than a common interest in themed entertainment. They shared a collective vision that such an association would help assure the industry’s long term health and maintain our collective value with integrity. TEA was born to deliver continuing benefit to an industry we all love and care deeply about. This vision is still shared by all those listed in this TEA 2012 Directory. Our collective challenge is to uphold that vision and shepherd TEA to where it needs to go during the next 20 years. That’s not just a challenge – it’s an opportunity, and one that emerged from 20 years of collective effort and devotion. What an achievement for us all!!! .



Fundamentally, TEA exists to help connect people, companies and projects to best ensure that our industry continues to grow and strengthen. At the core is the concept of involvement. The organization works hard to provide an environment for involvement, but it is very much up to you to engage with (and we hope enjoy) with this wonderful alliance of creative talent. Networking is the fuel of this industry, perhaps more so than in most other industries. Making connections and getting to know people BEFORE you ask for work or a role on a project are essential to long term success. The TEA environment offers many networking opportunities. Face-to-face events include mixers, behind-the-scenes tours, and educational seminars and conferences – all are designed to provide significant networking opportunities in addition to the educational or entertainment component. Face-to-face opportunities will be more numerous in areas where TEA membership is more concentrated, such as Orlando, Los Angeles or the UK. But that doesn’t mean events aren’t held in other areas, smaller in scale but just as rich in networking. If you perceive a shortage in your area, look around for your colleagues and consider organizing and hosting one yourself. Get involved! For guidance and support in hosting a local event, contact either your Division board president (there are three Divisions) or Brian Szaks at the TEA (see contact info below). Sometimes it is as easy as identifying a date, time and location. The now-flourishing Europe & Middle East Division began with a determined handful of colleagues meeting regularly in a pub. TEA also organizes mixers in connection with industry trade events such as AAM, ASTC, IAAPA and EAS. You can stay apprised of these by reading the TEA Connect newsletter and through our social media channels. Another way to put yourself in front of other members is by sponsoring TEA events and activities. This is a great way to put your good name with ours at a time and place where it will get noticed by the right crowd. Kathy Oliver in our office will be glad to help you navigate TEA sponsorship opportunities and choose those that will best help promote your company. We have other networking and marketing opportunities that transcend distance. The TEA Connect newsletter publishes information about member projects and accomplishments, new hires, awards, and so on. send your news directly to me for consideration. TEA Connect is also a great place to advertise along with other TEA publications such as this directory and the Thea Awards Program. Please contact me to talk about your specific marketing needs and how TEA can help. You can also become part of the conversation on the TEA LinkedIn group, and “Like” the TEA Facebook Page. Mine the TEA member list. The online directory and this printed directory provide access to an amazing group of creative professionals. Use them to reach out and contact your fellow association members. For those of you who are terminally shy, Brian and I can assist with introductions – at trade shows, conferences and events, by email or by phone. You can also take a hand in shaping the association and its activities. TEA depends heavily on volunteers to populate its regional and International Board, run its committees and put on its events. If you want to help run the machine, contact me, your local Division president, or TEA president Rick Rothschild (he’s a volunteer, too). The main thing is to jump in. TEA can create the environment, but it is very much up to you to make that environment work for you. 2012 TEA ANNUAL



“We have the means today to invent very powerful forms of Participation experiences and sustain them without breaking the bubble. The question is - How creative can you be? How scripted should you get? How much control do you hand to the participants? We’re heading toward something more open-ended where we give people the tools to participate and create for themselves.”

“Participation” Attractions Interview with George Wiktor, by Judith Rubin

George Wiktor, a past president of TEA, is president of the GW Group, which offers production and consulting services to developers and designers of visitor attractions. His background includes executive positions with top design firms BRC Imagination Arts and The Hettema Group. He has worked on a variety of media-based projects at world expos, theme parks and museums, including the National World War II Museum’s Beyond All Boundaries, which received a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement. Most recently, GW Group produced special effects and consulted on concept design for Barnas Brannstasjon (Children’s Fire Station), an interactive attraction for children ages 4-9 that opened in spring 2011 at Kongeparken in Stavanger, Norway.

TEA: Barnas Brannstasjon follows a classic story arc - starting as a routine briefing during which something goes wrong, prompting the host to recruit the audience to pitch in and save the day - and the kids really do all these things as opposed to it happening in the context of a ride. What is the particular value of making an attraction participatory in a real-world, physical sense?


GW: Yes. Barnas Brannstasjon takes children through a sequence of physical activities that are metaphors of the transition from the everyday self to a new self - they literally cross a bridge, put on new clothes, slide down a pole and then ride the firetruck to a new location. Each act takes them deeper into the new persona. By the time they reach the firefighting site, they are transformed and they play their roles in earnest – it’s quite cathartic for them and surprisingly for their parents as well, who, watching from a separate area, are confronted with a glimpse of their child’s future. TEA: Do the girls enjoy it as much as the boys?

GW: Whether you are a kid at Kongeparken or an adult at Black Rock City, you’re trying out a different facet of yourself - and you’re not alone. You’re trying it out alongside others who are also trying it out, and what they do enhances your experience. You’re working together to enhance each other’s participation and create something great. It’s a form of play that begins in childhood and continues beyond childhood. Burning Man and Barnas Brannstasjon facilitate this with physical environments; there are countless virtual examples well-known to the Digital Natives coming of age in today’s digitally connected culture. They offer a chance to break out of the box that you are in. You curate your own character online, creating a peer persona that interacts with others’ personae – in professional situations it’s called “building your brand.” Your persona is a genuine reflection of you although you may make it up.

Legoland Windsor Driving School

TEA: How is the process of conceiving and creating a Participation attraction different from planning and building an attraction in a more traditional way? GW: It adds a layer, an overlay. The overlay is the interaction: the feedback from the visitor. With a museum or heritage center it can be a way for the visitor to discover and delve into a specific area that interests them – a great way to make the most of a collection. With a ride or attraction it could involve a mobile app, a game aspect that adds layers of complexity for repeat riders, the opportunity to become a character in the story and multiple possible endings. Existing attractions can be revamped to become more participatory. TEA: Are real-world roles more powerful for children’s attractions than fantasy worlds, dinosaurs and princesses?

TEA: Is this a manifestation of what you have written about as the “Participation Culture,” based on your observations at Burning Man?

TEA: There looks to be a trend in terms of environments where children play actively and seriously in grownup roles. Two examples that come to mind are the driving/traffic schools at Legoland parks, and the Kidzania centers. Like the Kongeparken attraction, they afford detailed, themed physical environments that feel authentic, and the role of adults is George Wiktor: It is socialization downplayed. and education. The idea is to create GW: It’s important to mimimize the role of parents and other adults an environment in which kids can without jeopardizing safety of course. At Kidzania, adults facilitate with do what kids do: Play, take on a light touch, and again you have the kids dressed for the roles they play, roles, experiment with who they which makes it a richer experience. At the Legoland Driving School, the are in a social setting and learn kids get the chance to operate machinery, and how cool is that… The kids from each other. At Kongeparken, get the sense of being in control. Legoland has been taking this approach it is a team experience – they ride for a while – empowering children to build things and do things. KidZania the firetrucks together dressed in TEA: So, key factors of a Participation attraction would be authenticity, the same uniform and when they arrive at the scene, some have to pump, some have sensory effects, interaction with others, and a break from the everyday to aim the hoses; everyone works together. Group participation enhances both the social structure – the chance to get out of the box – plus room to improvise. individual and the collective experience. 6


GW: Kids are as into fantasy land and fairies and reptiles and princesses as they are fascinated by real-world things. It’s all part of trying on roles and thinking about growing up. TEA: And for those who are already grown up?


GW: The girls are just as much into it as the boys – at the same level of interest, participation and enjoyment. Haakon Lund, the owner, speculates that 15 years from now Norway could see an upsurge of female firefighters who will have been inspired as children by this attraction!

GW: You create an environment and a situation, add cues and then add people – whether children or adults. You integrate elements that induce people to team up and experience a level of physical participation that creates a new kind of reality. We have the means today to invent very powerful forms of these experiences – and sustain them without breaking the bubble. The question is - How creative can you be? How scripted should you get? How much control do you hand to the participants? We’re heading toward something more open-ended where we give people the tools to participate and create for themselves.

TEA: Barnas Brannstasjon special effects include fog to simulate smoke, fire effects, water jets and pumps, lighting and multiple sound effects in addition to themed buildings, interiors, vehicles and firefighter jackets. How did you decide which effects were needed for the desired level of authenticity? GW: You want to engage as many KidZania senses as possible but it doesn’t have to be all realistic. What is most important is to create a place that looks and feels appropriate to the story. Sound is most important - it carries 50% of the burden for the suspension of disbelief. The ringing fire alarm and the siren on the fire truck help make things come alive. They trigger the imagination.

Black Rock City (photo: George Wiktor and Burning Man, ©all rights reserved)





to Human Interaction By Marissa Garner

As part of TEA’s SATE ’11 Orlando 2011 conference held Sept 2223, 2011, students from Carnegie Mellon University and Savannah College of Art and Design were invited to submit ideas that imagine an exhilarating future for the themed entertainment industry. Marissa Garner’s entry, “The Human Network” was selected by a panel of judges as the best response to the question, “What will compel you to visit themed entertainment destinations through the next decade and beyond?” Ms. Garner joined the conference in Orlando to present her entry and ideas. “At first, I was intimidated,” said Garner. “How could I come up with an idea that working professionals would take seriously, or one that they hadn’t thought of already? It deterred me from participating at first. But it is funny how some ideas just hit you.” Garner describes herself as “a storyteller who just happens to draw and sculpt. What I love to do most as an artist is to create stories that fully immerse an audience in fun and new ways. And ideally, create an experience that provides an emotional impact that they will remember.” “What will compel you to visit themed destinations through the next decade and beyond?” The concept that I ended up presenting is based on a couple of experiences I happened to witness as a guest and is a simple premise: “Encouraging human to human interaction.” We live in a world of indirect communication. According to statistics I gathered, we spend more time with electronic media than we do with necessities of life like eating and sleeping. Ultimately, we have all Guests often pay seen how this has affected human socialization. more attention to Although we have created larger networks and the technology, communities, we have decreased the amount of characters, genuine, undistracted face-to-face time we have. environments and Themed destinations are renowned for their knowledge that an ability to bring large groups together. But are they really interacting with each other? If you take a experience offers than closer look, guests often pay more attention to they pay to the people the technology, characters, environments and around them. knowledge that an experience offers than they pay to the people around them. Any interaction between guests usually ends up enhancing an activity, or is a reaction to it. What if this were reversed? What if the collaboration and interaction between people creates their own unique experience? This can encourage socialization



Concept illustrations by Marissa Garner (pictured).

outside of net family groups, thus creating a shared community. Since this whole idea is based on people interacting, each experience will be different because of changing group dynamics. To encourage guests to go outside of their comfort zone is difficult, but I devised a three-step, reward-based system to help. This system parallels how the body works. As we all know, no part of the body can function without receiving a signal from the brain. This signal is sent through a chain reaction of neurons. In this system, humans function like the neurons. In order to make an activity or experience work, humans have to use the most primary form of communication – talking. Only by literally sending a signal from one person to the next will the experience be created.

It is essential that visitors to the attraction see how their actions form a network between themselves and the rest of the participants to build a sense of community. The second step is “The Action.” This is The first step is “The Obstacle.” Since this is a reward-based system where guests are working towards a goal, putting an obstacle in their way will give them incentive to work together. Whatever the obstacle may be, it must be absolute. It either needs to be part of a larger puzzle, or it literally blocks the rest of the experience. It also needs to be visually interesting to incite curiosity and humankind’s natural capabilities for problem solving.

the stage where communication between guests must occur. Ideally, it would be face-to-face communication, where guests who have participated in the experience previously instruct newcomers on how to play. Or a group approaches a puzzle, and must collaborate to figure it out. Regardless, the participant groups should be kept small, to avoid complications and frustration. This will also present opportunities for people to watch, which will be good for guests who may be a little more introverted. This will hopefully build anticipation, so that onlookers may be encouraged to play themselves later. Another major factor that must occur in this step is that guests get to see how their individual contributions affect the overall experience. It is essential that they see how their actions form a network between themselves and the rest of the participants to build a sense of community. This leads up to the last and final step, “The Reaction.” Obviously this is where guests have successfully collaborated together, and achieved their goal. This is done in two phases. First guests see how their actions remove the obstacle - either in a physical or mental sense – and then they achieve their goal. This will make the experience doubly satisfying.

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Even onlookers can enjoy this. Much like how sports event attendees get elated when their team makes a goal or a touchdown, people who watched the participant group can feel satisfied seeing them succeed. But it is the participant group that gets the strongest feelings of self-satisfaction. This comes from knowing that they completed the task, they did it collaboratively as a group, and that their actions enhanced the experience for the overall community. Ultimately, the point of this three-step system is to create a “community of fun” to encourage human socialization and interaction. A major theme for the panels at SATE was the issue of creating a shared community. This is just one theory on how we can achieve that, because if we can encourage human interaction, we can remind them how fun it actually is.

Marissa Garner ( – pictured at top right, previous page) is a recent graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, in Sequential Art. She graduated Summa cum Laude. In addition to participating in and winning the SATE Student Challenge, she participated with a team in the Disney ImagiNations Competition for 2011. Her team placed 28th out of the 160 teams that competed, making them semifinalists. Garner currently works as a freelancer specializing in illustrations, storyboards, sculpting, and comics. TEA thanks Peter F Schaab ( – pictured at right), a freelance designer of environments and experiences, for his role in coordinating the SATE Student Challenge. Others who played vital roles in the process were George Head (Savannah College of Art & Design) and Mk Haley (Carnegie Mellon) who championed the challenge at their respective schools. On the judging panel were SATE ’11 Orlando conference committee members Kile Ozier (chair), Larry Tuch (co-chair), Michael McGuire, David Aion and TEA president Rick Rothschild. Rick Rothschild’s commitment to involving more students in TEA provided upper-level support.




the AVAtAR effect by Jeremy Schoolfield

n Dec. 18, 2009, the world changed in the blink of a blue-skinned Na’vi’s eye. For that was the day James Cameron unleashed AVATAR in all of its 3-D stereoscopic glory, and the masses declared it legendary. The impact of this landmark film continues to ripple across the pop culture landscape - the attractions industry most certainly included. 3-D filmmaking is nothing new; its roots trace back to the late 1800s, and there were recurring periods of relevance in mainstream cinema throughout the 20th century. But the format is experiencing a dramatic rise in popularity like never before. Momentum started building after the turn of the millennium, and then AVATAR - with its record-obliterating $2.8 billion worldwide box office haul - opened the floodgates. “AVATAR proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that 3-D filmmaking works as a storytelling medium of consequence,” says Phil Lindsey, vice president of exhibits and business development for The Health Museum in Houston, Texas. George Lucas set Feb. 10, 2012, as the date he will unveil a 3-D version of his “Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace,” with plans to trot out each of the remaining five films in the series in successive years; Cameron, meanwhile, will follow April 6 with a 3-D version of “Titanic.” [And in September 2011, Disney announced the pending rollout of AVATAR lands in multiple parks, starting with Animal Kingdom – see sidebar.]

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But as 3-D becomes more commonplace in the features market (even Martin Scorsese is shooting in 3-D!), what will set our attractions apart from mainstream entertainment choices? What made AVATAR so different from previous 3-D films? Bob Rogers, founder and chief creative officer for BRC Imagination Arts in Burbank, California, says Cameron turned the technique inside-out - or, perhaps more appropriately outside-in. The IAAPA Hall of Famer [and recipient of TEA’s Buzz Price Award for Lifetime Achievement] describes viewing AVATAR as if looking through a window, where all of the spatial detail is on the other side of the screen, rather than popping out at the audience. Lindsey calls AVATAR a “quantum leap forward” because Cameron “was conscious of how that third dimension played in every shot.” “Seeing it in 3-D as opposed to 2-D was a different experience,” says Phil Hettema, founder and president of The Hettema Group in Pasadena, California. “Cameron didn’t use 3-D as a gimmick; he used it as a cinematic tool to create a new way to pull you into the moment.” What does the popularity of mainstream 3-D cinema mean to the attractions industry? Mike Frueh is senior vice president of film distribution and general manager for Iwerks Entertainment, part of the Sim Ex-Iwerks Entertainment group with offices in California and Toronto. SimEx-Iwerks distributes and creates 3-D films and 4-D attractions. Frueh says these remain popular throughout the industry, especially with a growing segment of zoos and aquariums. Frueh maintains that 4D specialty cinema and 3D mainstream cinema are made for completely different ends of the market. “We’re trying to tell a story in eight to 12 minutes,” he says. “I know Cameron has said he’s not doing the stuff popping off the screen, and he’s right - you can’t do it for 90 “Big productions like minutes. But that’s not what our guests AVATAR give us new want to see. They do want to see that butterfly come off the screen - the little tools and make our kids want to grab it. When there’s not products better.” stuff popping off the screen, our clients -- Rob Gagné are complaining.”

Disney’s AVATAR Kingdom From left: Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; James Cameron, award-winning director of AVATAR; Bob Iger, CEO, The Walt Disney Company; Jon Landau, producer of AVATAR; and Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen announce an exclusive agreement to create AVATAR themed lands at Disney parks. (PRNewsFoto/Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide, Scott Brinegar)

From dark rides such as Universal’s “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man” or Busch Gardens’ “The Curse of DarKastle,” to 4-D theater shows like Disney’s “Captain EO” or SimEx-Iwerks’ “SpongeBob SquarePants” adaptation, these experiences offered something our guests simply could not find anywhere else – not in the movie –theater down the street and certainly not in their homes.



“Cameron didn’t use 3-D as a gimmick; he used it as a cinematic tool to create a new way to pull you into the moment.” – Phil Hettema

In September 2011, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide announced joining forces with James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of AVATAR to life at Disney parks. Through an exclusive agreement, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox, Disney will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create themed lands that will give theme park guests the opportunity to explore the mysterious universe of AVATAR first hand. Disney plans to build the first AVATAR themed land at Walt Disney World, within the Animal Kingdom park. “With its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, Animal Kingdom is a natural fit for the AVATAR stories, which share the same philosophy,” states the announcement. Construction is expected to begin by 2013.



SimEx-Iwerks focuses on recognizable brands to draw audiences (recent adaptations include “Happy Feet” and Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer”), and Frueh says the special effects in the theaters are “delivered better, more tastefully, to really enhance the experience - not just a water squirt for the sake of a water squirt.” He looks at AVATAR as a blessing rather than a curse, believing renewed fervor for 3-D entertainment helps anyone working in the medium, be it Hollywood or the attractions industry. What does themed entertainment offer that Hollywood can’t? “Creating enhanced experiences that you’ll never get in a cinema is what we strive to do,” says Rob Gagné, senior producer/director for Science North in Sudbury, Canada. “That is what will differentiate us from the mainstream. The 3-D is fine, but when you combine that medium with environmental effects, sets, lighting, and scent, you’re creating something very special.”

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Working in 3-D certainly isn’t a requirement for those types of experiences, either. For example, the technique was not employed on recent high-profile “AVATAR’s strength projects such as “Harry Potter and was you started to the Forbidden Journey” at Universal’s care desperately about Wizarding World of Harry Potter; nor the characters and did Hettema use it for the “Beyond cultures involved. All Boundaries” 4D experience at Great story is what the National World War II Museum will drive themed in New Orleans. [Beyond All attractions of the Boundaries received a Thea Award future.” – Bob Rogers for outstanding achievement, from TEA; the Potter land received a record four Theas.] 2011_IAAPApostcard2.indd 2

6/10/11 6:51:40 AM

“We didn’t want to burden people with having to wear glasses—that’s a negative part of the experience,” Hettema says of “Boundaries.” “We felt there were other, more compelling ways to add that experiential element to it.” To wit, The Hettema Group used layered projection techniques and multiple transparent scrim screens to provide a sense of depth in the presentation. The Disneyland Resort in California had two major attractions debuting

this year on opposite ends of the 3-D galaxy. Disneyland’s “Star Tours” reboot includes 3D among its enhancements, while “The Little Mermaid - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure” at Disney California Adventure is a classic dark ride with no 3-D glasses in sight. Story is the driver Lindsey’s favorite low-tech example of a compelling attraction is the Rosa Parks bus at The Henry Ford museum in Michigan: “It’s just a bus sitting there, but it’s the Rosa Parks bus. You can make the best Rosa Parks movie in the world, but the real thing will always supplant telling a cinematic story. We can provide, if not the real stuff, then close enough that it’s going to make you think you were there.” “Everybody is making the same mistake about AVATAR they made about ‘Star Wars,’” Rogers says. “When ‘Star Wars’ first came out, critics said ‘it’s just a space Western. Don’t go for the story; go for the special effects.’ Rogers holds that many have similarly missed the point about ‘Avatar.’ “Its strength was you started to care desperately about the characters and cultures involved. Great story is what will drive themed attractions of the future.”

Mike Frueh: Renewed fervor for 3-D entertainment helps anyone working in the medium, be it Hollywood or the attractions industry.

The lesson of the most profitable film of all time, say these experts, is once again that story is key. Gagné says, “The lesson is to keep your work ethic high and keep pushing. Good things happen when you’re creative and innovative.” He also anticipates a trickle-down effect that will benefit themed attractions. “Big productions like that have so much money to push into R&D. That will give us some new tools and make our products better.” “I suppose looking forward it will be fairly simple to have most things we look at be in 3-D, but I’m not convinced we’re going to want or need that,” Hettema says. “It’s always going to be more of a special, added thing that will be appropriate for some stories and not for others.” “Whether 3-D hangs in there or becomes a fad remains to be seen because it’s come and gone so many times,” Rogers says. “It feels like it’s here to stay, but we’ve felt that way before. ‘Avatar just tells me we’re going to need to try harder.” Jeremy Schoolfield ( is Senior Editor of Funworld magazine.

This article is excerpted from one originally published in the July 2011 issue of Funworld magazine, the official publication of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. © 2011 Funworld magazine/International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.






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China’s Br ight outlook

Modern theme parks in China began in 1989 with the opening of Splendid China in Shenzhen. Through miniature replicas and landscaping, this first park gave foreign visitors a glimpse into the natural and cultural icons of China. However, in what was to become a pattern, the park that had been designed for foreigners quickly became a top domestic tourist attraction as well. Its location in Shenzhen was called Overseas Chinese Town or OCT. Today, OCT Group is the largest theme park operator in China, ranked 8th globally on the TEA-AECOM 2010 Theme Index and making no secret of its ambition to move up quickly.

Some two decades after the launch of Splendid China, there are some 100 significant scale theme parks, amusement parks, water parks and cultural parks in the country. The term “theme park” is widely used in China to represent anything from a garden park, to a cultural center or a true theme park that any western visitor would immediately recognize. OCT Group itself has evolved from its initial scenery parks (Splendid China and Windows of the World) to adventure ride and show parks (the Happy Valley parks) and to the recent focus on nature and themed environment parks such as OCT East. Theme parks and amusement parks in China now generate between 60 and 70 million annual visits, roughly equivalent to 1/3 of the US market. This reflects 20 years of strong growth and the future outlook is even brighter, for three reasons: 1) Growth of the middle class, particularly in rural China 2) Dramatic increases in tourism and tourism infrastructure 3) Proliferation of entertainment product types to suit different market segments. Theme parks are fundamentally a middle class product and the developing economies of Asia are seeing the largest formation of the middle class in the history of mankind. The Asian Development Bank defines middle class as those with a per capita expenditure of US$2 a day or more. Others, including AECOM, use a higher standard but the scale and growth of middle class 14


by Chris Yoshii

remain staggering. The economic growth in China has been broadbased and deep with family incomes rising rapidly in cities initially and recently in rural areas.

entertainment and show elements rather than high adrenaline thrill rides. There is a proliferation of sea life parks, culture/ heritage parks, movie based theme parks and water parks throughout China. Shanghai Disney, projected to open in 2015/2016, is expected to dramatically alter the themed entertainment landscape. In many ways it will raise the bar in terms of experience, quality, pricing as well as guests’ expectations when returning to their hometowns. As with the Disney project, the other major new theme park projects on the horizon, such as Monkey Kingdom (opening near Beijing in 2014) and Hello Kitty Park (opening near Shanghai in 2014) are part of large scale, mixeduse complexes that include hotels, retail and often residential communities. Based on these factors - growth of the middle class, rising tourism and a proliferation of parks offering a range of experiences, it’s

Currently we estimate some 600 million Chinese are able to afford a visit to a modestly priced themed attraction. Most are living in Cities (in 2010, for the first time 50% of China population were classified as urban). Future middle class growth will be in the smaller towns and countryside. Assuming income growth rates continue, over the next 5 years some 300 million Chinese are likely to enter the middle class – a number roughly equivalent to the population of the United States. As early as 2020, the number of Chinese middle class could reach 1.1 billion. These new middle class citizens have high aspirations and want to visit new places, and experience new things. They are well informed about new products and services with most homes having 30 or more television channels and Internet access (already the largest user population of any country). This demographic shift is also driving dramatic increases in domestic tourism. In 2010, China surpassed the US in total domestic tourism - reaching 2.1 billion person trips. For most cultural and themed attractions, the domestic tourist market is an important audience segment comprising anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of visitation. Chinese tourists are very active with a high percentage of spending on sightseeing, attractions, dining and shopping. While Chinese travelers’ total per trip spending is considerably lower than that of their US counterparts, it does indicate the strong desire to travel to visit friends and places. Tour companies offer extensive travel itineraries, often including cultural or entertainment programs at competitive prices. Enormous investments have been made in highways, high speed rail and air transports which has greatly opened new markets both as source markets for travelers as well as new destinations. A few theme park operators are finding success in tourism destinations rather than cities. Major cities are where the larger theme and amusement parks in China are found. The country now has about 150 administrative areas with greater than 1 million population, many without a large scale entertainment center. Chinese visitors much prefer the

highly likely China will surpass the United States in theme park visits by 2020. This optimism must be tempered with the realities of financing and delivering quality experiences as well as government restrictions on new projects. Theme parks are no easier to develop successfully in China than they are anywhere in the world. They are sizable capital investments requiring a solid management team, creative content and programs and continued up grading and reinvestment. China’s National Reform and Development Commission recently issued a notice to suspend new large scale theme park projects pending regulations relating to their development. This temporary suspension was largely viewed as a way to control local government investment (and financial risk) in these projects as well as overt land speculation. Regulations will likely require a higher level of due diligence and stronger financial basis for projects to move forward. Chris Yoshii ( is Vice President, Global Director Economics – Asia at AECOM. Mr Yoshii has over 25 years experience in economic consulting for leisure, real estate and infrastructure projects globally. AECOM is a global professional services firm operating in over 100 countries offering a wide range of architecture, engineering and development services. 2012 TEA ANNUAL



how fa m i ly

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de st i nat i ons


By Dan Martin with Dan Wagenmaker and David Versel Quick, name the leading US family destination…..Orlando – good! We’ll accept Florida too. But is that it? No. You could make cases for Southern California, New York City, and various National Parks, but even that’s not the complete picture. Right below the national level, hundreds of millions of people make the trek yearly to 15 to 20 regional family destination communities across the US.

In researching these destinations, our company, Market and Feasibility Advisors (MFA) set some criteria. The communities had to be tourism-driven, drive-to destinations that weren’t part of a metro area – they are places created by a pack of entrepreneurs. We fudged a bit for a few destinations that were close to metro areas but weren’t dependent on them. The mosaic of communities that arose from this exercise is of a surprisingly interesting pack of distinctive places that share some common DNA. The table that accompanies this article is drawn from a larger database of facilities at each of these destinations that we created. It summarizes the attraction of these communities. Below, in addition to brief profiles, we caught up with the leaders of the pack and summarized how they fared during the recession and what they’re up to next.

Blackstone, Cedar Fair, Six Flags, Hershey, Herschend, Ripley’s, Great Wolf Lodge, Schlitterbahn, Kalahari, Simon, Tanger, and Bass Pro Shops: More than half the names on that list started in one of these communities.

Most of these places are so well known we’re not including their states. They are: Myrtle Beach, Williamsburg, Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, Branson, Lancaster, Wisconsin Dells, Niagara Falls, New Braunfels/San Marcos, Lake George, Destin, Sandusky, Traverse City, Frankenmuth/Birch Run, Tannersville, Woodstock/North Conway, Galveston, West Yellowstone, and Hershey. (Our apologies to the places not included. We could have gone another dozen easily and hope to expand next time around.) Entrepreneur-driven Several leading location-based entertainment and retail groups are invested in these destinations, including (but not limited to) Blackstone, Cedar Fair, Six Flags, Hershey, Herschend, Ripley’s, Great Wolf Lodge, Schlitterbahn, Kalahari, Simon, Tanger, and Bass Pro. More than half the names on that list started in one of these communities. Even today, these regional family destinations are largely driven by local entrepreneurs. Evolution Almost all of these regional attractions started with a natural or cultural attraction that drew visitors. Upon seeing the conga line of guests flowing through town, local entrepreneurs built amenities to get them to linger longer. Eventually, the mass of linger-longers became part of the attraction and visitors’ attention shifted away from the original draw. The hard-to-top Niagara Falls is an exception. On the other hand, Branson cave 16


tours anyone? In Williamsburg, the theme park draws more than double the historic town. In a few cases there has been an elegant transition. River tubing on the Comal River begat Schlitterbahn – which amplifies the attraction. Sometimes the main attraction comes close to suffocating the original draw. For a time, tourism made it a challenge in Lancaster for some Amish families to live lives their way. Motor cities These attractions are drive-to One trend that destinations. Clark Griswold (Chevy has been observed Chase) would love these places. They is the increase of don’t require a long planning horizon; inter-generational someone’s always offering deals on travel parties, with cable TV, radio, and Internet in key metro areas; and it’s a tank of gas in the grandparents, car you already own - not four airline parents, and kids all tickets. People can fly to some of these traveling together. destinations – but most don’t.

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Updated Some of these family destinations go back several decades and a few a century or two, but all broke from their 1950s/60s kitsch and put a new gloss on the experience, updating their appeal and adding new magnets in synch with the 1990s/2000s. New magnets - most year-round - include dozens of waterpark hotels as well as outlet centers, aquariums, indoor amusement parks (very large FECs if you prefer), waterparks (at least one with a movable roof), theme parks, spas, theaters, and destination restaurants. The additions were all targeted to middle- to upper-middle-class markets – an economic step above the previous generation of visitors. Including grownups The same reality that has Disney targeting adults is affecting these destinations as well: Today, only about 20% of US households include children age 12 and younger. In a sense, this is not a problem as population increases means that there are numerically more children in the US than ever – but it’s hard to ignore the large and bountiful adult market. So, adults are the new frontier. This reality may play out via spa packages, riverboat tours, or arts/crafts shopping. Related amenities may include skiing, golf, and casinos. In this vein, many of these locations also have more upscale restaurants, although truly formal or high-end establishments are rare. Open for business Furthermore, almost all of these locations have attempted to attract meetings and conventions to their lodging facilities. Initially, lodging usually consisted of campgrounds, from which sprang cabins and mom2012 TEA ANNUAL



Woodstock & North Conway, NH Traverse City, MI

West Yellowstone, MT

Niagara Falls, ON Wisconsin Dells, WI

Lake George, NY Tannersville, PA

Frankenmuth & Birch Run, MI

Hershey, PA Sandusky, OH

Lancaster, PA

Williamsburg, VA

Branson, MO

Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg, TN Myrtle Beach, SC

New Braunfels & San Marcos, TX

Destin , FL

Galveston, TX

Map courtesy the Weber Group and pop-motels. Eventually, entrepreneurs added a plethora of condominium and hotel lodging options. While chain hotels do exist in these locations, they tend not to be the driving force for lodging. In addition to the already mentioned waterpark hotels, many regional destinations have some outstanding properties, such as Branson’s Big Cedar Lodge and Chateau to quite beautiful cabins in the Smokies above Pigeon Forge and grand old New England mountain hotels in or near Woodstock and North Conway. Current visitation profile In fall of 2011, MFA staff contacted representatives from family destinations throughout the country and asked them to comment on how their areas have been affected by the recession and how they have responded.

In general, family destinations are not undertaking major investments right now, but are instead using the recession period as an opportunity to refine or even overhaul their brands to be ready for the recovery.

In most areas, visitation is generally either flat or down slightly from 2007, but tends to have risen over the past two years since bottoming out in 2009. Spending per party is down across the board, however, as visitors are spending less on dining and shopping than they were prior to the recession.

Most areas are not seeing major variations in the demographics or habits of their visitors as a result of the recession, but several have induced changes through niche marketing and aggressive advertising to new markets. One trend that has been observed in multiple locations is the increase of inter-generational travel parties, with grandparents, parents, and kids all traveling together, ostensibly to save money. Areas dependent on international visitation like Niagara Falls and West Yellowstone are seeing typical fluctuations due to external factors like exchange rates and natural disasters (e.g., tsunami in Japan). No major visitor attractions have closed at any of the destinations surveyed, and only older/weaker businesses shut down during the recession. 18


another new attraction planned to debut next year. • Niagara Falls opened a new convention center in 2011 with hopes of using it to help extend its season beyond the summer peak.

In general, family destinations are not undertaking major investments right now, but are instead using the recession period as an opportunity to refine or even overhaul their brands to be ready for the recovery.

Most destinations have opened new hotels within the past few years, with more on the horizon, although financing remains a challenge. Big ideas Several of the representatives MFA spoke with had something big (but unspecified) in mind for the future. All had ideas related to destination conference/meeting facilities - perhaps on the heels of successful meeting/convention center facilities in many other family destination communities. One respondent who was interested in such a project was adamant that it would only work on two conditions: 1) emphasizing combined business/leisure trips; 2) privately developed and operated. This response nicely illustrates how small many of these communities are (not a lot of bonding capacity) and that they’re just a generation away, in many cases, from their entrepreneurial founders. A concept from one on the east coast: Expanded rail service to boost the attractiveness of its newly opened convention center. Dan Wagenmaker, Principal of Market and Feasibility Advisors, has a practical analytical approach with a focus on creative implementation. He is well-versed in the financial structures and strategies in both the public and private sectors and has negotiated loan documents, partnership agreements, purchase / sale contracts, leases, reciprocal easement agreements and other aspects of real estate transactions.

Dan Martin (, Managing Principal of Market and Feasibility Advisors, has directed more than 300 land use economics projects over the last 25 years and assisted on many others. He is a 21 year veteran of Economics and Vice President of Economics Research Associates and has also collaborated with Real Estate Research Corporation (RERC) and Cornerstone Development. Projects include redevelopment strategies, feasibility studies, master plan economics, and economic impact studies. David E Versel AICP is a Market & Feasibility Advisors consultant based in Atlanta. His experience includes market and feasibility analyses, development plans, and fiscal and economic impact studies for a variety of project types including entertainment and visitor attractions. He is a former Associate with Economics Research Associates (now AECOM) and Senior Planner for the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission, as well as a contributing author of the Urban Land Institute’s Mixed Use Development Handbook.

Some examples include: • Branson is continuing to diversify its brand as a family vacation spot and not just a destination for country music fans. • Traverse City is advertising in major metros outside of Michigan (particularly Chicago) to offset the erosion of its traditional base of instate visitors. • The Poconos region has recast itself as a four-season outdoor adventure area and has put a particular emphasis on having pet-friendly hotels and attractions. • West Yellowstone is crafting a variety of fly-in vacation packages targeted to active mature visitors seeking particular experiences such as fly fishing. Projects such as a $7 million dollar undergrounding of utilities and streetscaping in Gatlinburg and the continued development of Branson Landing are examples of continued public sector investment in these communities. Many destinations have seen new attractions open even in the teeth of the recession: • Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and indoor waterpark at Lake George • The Turkey Hill (ice cream) Experience in Lancaster • Kalahari’s continued expansions with attractions and new lodging in the Wisconsin Dells and Sandusky • New properties and additions at existing Great Wolf Lodge locations • Continued development of the Branson Landing entertainment district • Schlitterbahn, in New Braunfels, continued expansions with a substantial new attraction and distinctive tree house lodging units. • Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, continues to invest in its property with 2012 TEA ANNUAL



’, Wo r l d ’ s Fa i r s :

t h e ne x t de cade By Urso Chappell

Thanks in great part to Shanghai’s Expo 2010, the largest world’s fair in history (in terms of attendance, area, and participating nations), there’s a greater awareness of expos worldwide. Unfortunately, this awareness doesn’t necessarily extend to North America, where the last world’s fair was Vancouver’s successful Expo ’86. This, however, could change in the next decade as we see four new world’s fairs: two being planned and two where the bidding process is still underway.

Under the relatively new scheme as laid down by the governing body of world’s fairs, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), large “sanctioned” 6-month expositions are held in years ending in “0” and “5.” Smaller 3-month “recognized” expositions are allowed once in-between each of the larger expositions and are designed to allow participation by smaller cities and developing nations. Expo 2012 - Yeosu Next year, the small coastal town of Yeosu, South Korea hosts Expo 2012, an international exposition exploring the topic of oceans under the theme “The Living Ocean and Coast.” Over 100 nations are expected to participate in South Korea’s second world’s fair – nineteen years after Taejon’s Expo ’93. The 62-acre site is situated along the coast of this small town of about 300,000 residents. Surprisingly, Yeosu will not be the smallest city to host a world’s fair. Both Spokane, Washington (host of Expo ’74) and Knoxville, Tennessee (host of the 1982 World’s Fair) had smaller populations. Given the exposition’s smaller size, participating nations (other than the host nation) will be exhibiting collectively in one large structure rather than building their own stand-alone pavilions. These modules are given to the country free of rent and charges. The United States will mount a pavilion at Yeosu despite funding pitfalls and political issues that have impeded US expo participation in general since the 1990s. A team led by Nick Winslow and Ellen Eliasoph organized the pavilion for Shanghai Expo 2010, with exhibits by BRC Imagination Arts and architecture by Clive Grout. It was well-received but putting together its funding was a close call. At the two previous world expos – Zaragoza 2008 and Hanover 2000, the US had no official presence. [See sidebar for more about USA Pavilion 2012.] Australia’s Think!OTS is creating the Australia Pavilion and Crystal CG is creating the digital content for the Marine Life theme pavilion. Expo 2015 - Milan



Milan, Italy is gearing up to host Expo 2015, the next large world’s fair. Under the theme “Feeding the Planet – Energy for Life,” the event will likely present venues for both great culinary experiences as well as alarming exhibits about world hunger – a paradox that seems to be the lot of expositions tackling difficult global issues. The site itself will be spread out among 420 acres just northwest of Milan proper in the towns of Pero and Rho. Countries are still accepting invitations to exhibit, but over 120 are expected. As Expo 2015 is an exposition of the larger variety, countries with the resources to do so will build their own pavilions, providing a venue for a wide variety of architectural expression and experimentation. Bids for Expo 2017 and Expo 2020 At press time, the bidding periods were still open for cities to propose hosting either Expo 2017 or Expo 2020. Bids for Expo 2020 are due by November 2, 2011, six months after the first city’s bid. Expo 2017 bids must be in by December 10th, 2011. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada was widely considered the frontrunner in its bid efforts for Expo 2017, an exposition to celebrate Canada’s 150th year, but that was put to a quick end when federal authorities decided not to fund the bid. This has left the cities of Liége, Belgium and Astana, Kazakhstan as the sole bidders unless another comes forward prior to the deadline. Newcastle, Australia might enter the fray, however, as this was a stated goal of new political leaders in New South Wales. Thailand and Turkey have, so far, been the only two countries to officially put in bids for Expo 2020. They did so for the cities of Ayutthaya and Izmir respectively. Media reports indicate that Russia will likely also vie for the honor of hosting this expo, on behalf of the city of Yekaterinburg. There is also still the possibility that the United States may bid for Expo 2020 on behalf of either Houston or Silicon Valley. American participation in the bidding process is, however, complicated by the fact that the United States Congress allowed the nation’s BIE dues to lapse in 2004. World’s fairs are alive and well and the next few years will see at least one expo in Asia and at least one in Europe. Additionally, we may finally see a world’s fair in Australia and North America for the first time in decades. It is the opinion of this author that efforts should be made to support bids in continents and countries that have either not hosted them before or haven’t had the opportunity in over a generation.

US participation at Yeosu Expo 2012 formally announced In October 2011, the United States officially announced plans to participate at Yeosu Expo 2012. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement during a State Luncheon at the US Department of State in honor of Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak. The State Dept. noted in its written statement following the event that “participation in this Expo demonstrates U.S. commitment to strengthening U.S. - ROK relations and engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and deepens our friendly ties with the people of the Republic of Korea.” The US State Department selected a team centered on Philippe Cousteau, Jr., grandson of the legendary Jaques Cousteau, who is involved in environmental and conservation issues in his own right. Joining Philippe Cousteau, Jr. is a creative team headed by pavilion CEO Andrew Snowhite. The team also includes Robert Ward (recipient of TEA’s Buzz Price Award for Lifetime Achievement) as executive producer, and The Hettema Group. Cousteau said of the pavilion efforts: “When we first got word of the project and began to envision what the story could be it was humbling to consider the full scope and scale of the diversity of the oceans and coasts of the United States. From the fishing boats of Massachusetts to the sandy beaches of the Caribbean, from the surfers of California to the polar bears of the Arctic and everything in between the United States is one of the most diverse countries in the world when it comes to the variety of ocean and coastal environments.” USA Pavilion 2012 is a public-private partnership. Corporate sponsors include: Chevron; Citi; Boeing; Corning Incorporated; Hyundai Motor Company; Kia Motors America; Lockheed Martin; Samsung Electronics America, Inc.; GE; and Becton Dickinson. The official website for USA Pavilion 2012 is

Artists renderings of Yeosu Expo 2012; artist’s rendering of proposed Expo 2020 in Silicon Valley.

Urso Chappell ( is a graphic designer and branding specialist. As a chronicler and advocate of world’s fairs, he founded in 1998 and the World’s Fair Podcast in 2009. He was the winner of Expo 2005’s international contest to design the Linimo maglev train exterior and has visited eight expos thus far. 2012 TEA ANNUAL



V i ew f ro m


Un iver sa l : Ch i p L a rgm a n

Akshardham, Permanent Show 2010, India

For over 25 years, ECA2 has been creating and producing major events and shows around the world. Renowned for its outstanding creativity, innovative designs and technical expertise, ECA2 delivers unique special events, ceremonies for World Expos, Olympic Games and permanent shows for theme parks.

Interview with Chip Largman by Norman Kahn

In September 2011, Chip Largman was promoted to Senior Vice President, Universal Creative at Universal Studios Hollywood, with responsibility for the development and execution of all rides and attractions for the entertainment landmark, including the theme park and Universal CityWalk. Largman’s recent accomplishments included execution and development of the theme park’s acclaimed Studio Tour thrill ride, “King Kong 360 3-D” created by triple Oscar®-winner Peter Jackson, which was awarded “Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project” by the Visual Effects Society. The prestigious VES award was the first-ever presented to a theme park ride. Recent other projects included oversight of Universal CityWalk’s “5 Towers” interactive outdoor concert venue. The multi-million dollar project features a technologically advanced staging system equipped with thousands of LED fixtures, motion capture sensors, five soaring 42-foot light tower sculptures, a massive video monitor and a state-of-the-art audio system. At publication time, Largman was deeply involved in the development of “Transformers: The Ride 3D,” based on the iconic brand from Hasbro and electrifying film franchise directed by Michael Bay. It opens in spring 2012. Chip Largman is also a member of the TEA International Board of Directors. We asked his longstanding colleague, Norman Kahn of Utopia Entertainment Inc., to catch up with him for an interview. TEA: You have a background in theater and lighting design. Can you describe the synergy between your foundation in theater and your creative role developing themed entertainment for Universal Studios? Chip Largman: Bringing a themed attraction to life within a theme park environment calls for an array of skills, creative sensibilities, and disciplines very similar to what’s required to bring a theatrical production to life. There is storytelling behind both forms of presentation. Certainly there are differences in the commercial aspects, but I think a background in one really supports one’s ability Photos: Universal Studios to excel in the other. From my perspective, theater was a perfect training ground for my role in themed entertainment. As our attractions become more technologically advanced, we’re tasked with assembling the right teams to ensure the communication is fluid. The most important tool I have at my disposal as a project director is the power to communicate. The ability to articulate a very specific design to a very large and diverse group of designers, programmers and technicians is imperative to implementing the design of a themed attraction – just as it is central to realizing the Director’s vision in theater. This is vital to the success of any project.



TEA: What do the big picture and future look like at Universal Parks & Resorts? Largman: The future is bright for Universal Parks & Resorts. We’re excited about the many opportunities that lie ahead. The tremendous successes of the past few years, including “King Kong 360 3D,” and the anticipated success of our newest attraction – “Transformers: The Ride 3D” - have established a really strong foundation for our business. The Universal approach going forward emphasizes international expansion while continuing to build the brand of Universal Studios Hollywood, the “Entertainment Capital of LA.” That includes intellectual property partnerships, state-of-the-art technologies and of course the delivery of exceptional guest experiences. Photos: Universal Studios The prospect of international expansion represents a way to broaden brand awareness. We’re a cutting edge theme park that employs the latest, state-of-the-art technologies in our rides and attractions. We strive to deliver immersive, action-packed rides with compelling storylines. Situated adjacent to one of the world’s largest movie and television production studios, our goal is to offer guests exceptional experiences they can’t find anywhere else. We want to engage them at a visceral level, so that every one of their senses is touched by the experience. In today’s world of rapidly changing technologies, we’re constantly challenged to stay at the top of our game. So far, I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job. As a movie and television-based theme park, our goal is to create the best rides and attractions based on the most fascinating intellectual properties. Our current slate of rides and attractions represents a diverse portfolio of top, well-known and highly regarded IPs. We’ve become skilled at nurturing relationships and maximizing various endeavors and partnerships to enrich our theme parks’ offerings with projects like The Simpsons, King Kong, Harry Potter, and now, Transformers. TEA: Did your theater background play into bringing Universal CityWalk’s “5 Towers” project to life? Largman: The creation of “5 Towers” was the logical next step in enhancing CityWalk’s position as Southern California’s leading music playground, and as such, it was a project very close to my passion and my roots in the theater. I was able to provide a lot of input on a very specific creative and design level.

Mobile Fountains of Opening Ceremonies of Shanghai 2010, China

Production Creation Experience

Water effects

World Class Events Beyond limits





Under construction BIG-O Nightime Multimedia show International Expo Yeosu 2012, South Korea

Contact: Emmanuelle Charotte: emmanuelle @ eca 2 .fr Tel: +33 (0) 1 49 46 30 58 eca2_tea_oct_2011_print.indd 1

Photos: Universal Studios For years, Universal CityWalk has been one of Southern California’s top destinations for enjoying free outdoor concerts. The new “5 Towers” arena is not only an amazing, state-ofthe-art performance venue in terms of acoustics and audio; it’s interactive and aesthetically unique. Located in the heart of CityWalk, “5 Towers” needed to function as an effective, usable space; to provide a diverse environment for guests passing through at any given time, whether or not there was a performance onstage. We worked to ensure there were enough variables for the look and feel that guests would be constantly engaged by this new setting and experience a different environment each and every time. We were up for the challenge and exceptionally pleased with the results.

“Mangrove Groove” Permanent show OCTBAY 2011, China

12/10/11 19:50

interactive components of “5 Towers” utilize sensor cameras situated on the stage. These detect crowd movement and the system uses their signals to mimic the body forms on the LED backdrop of the stage. There is visible cause-and-effect as guests quickly become aware of the interactivity and respond to it, which in turn further impacts the program. It’s an amazing platform for spontaneous, collaborative live theater, and I’m so proud to have been a part of it. Aesthetically, “5 Towers” looks and feel like an outdoor nightclub, and achieving that had its own set of challenges. We sought to create a series of elements to replicate a live concert venue and serve the needs of stage performances. But, we also required a degree of automation in order for the system to function without full time, hands-on operators. In creating the project we established a virtual environment and pre-programmed about 80% of the various looks prior to actual installation, leaving the other 20% to be programmed on location. The venue offers many exciting visual opportunities and its programming is easily modified to mark special occasions, such as the great surprises being choreographed for the holidays. We’re thrilled that we achieved our objectives with “5 Towers” and feel we have set new standards for the medium. TEA: What can we expect from the upcoming “Transformers: The Ride 3D”? Largman: The project will introduce new levels of technological achievements in digital projection, special effects and ride technology. The ride opens in Singapore in December 2011 and at Universal Studios Hollywood in spring 2012. “Transformers: The Ride 3D” is the first-ever ride created based on the enormously popular Transformers franchise. It will offer fans an unprecedented opportunity to truly live the movie, becoming fully immersed in the story, action sequences and next-generation visual effects. We believe this ride will be a game-changer.

“5 Towers” is in a word, dynamic. The design team developed a cutting-edge, interactive system that allows for 12 continuous hours of distinctly unique programming. The system Norman Kahn ( is an award winning producer who has spent the last 25 years designing, producing and operating large scale atfunctions to some degree as a living robot; it tractions for theme parks and special venues for clients including Universal Studios, processes the feedback it receives from the cameras Warner Bros., Paramount Parks, and Six Flags. His most recent projects include and self-adjusts to create and project new imagery. “Symbio” a new nighttime spectacular multimedia attraction at Ocean Park in Hong For live performances, the system controls can be Kong, and new shows for the San Diego Zoo in California. He is CEO of Utopia programmed and operated to create a desired effect Entertainment located in Los Angeles, California. with the ease and simplicity of an iPad. The




“t r i cks ” of t h e mus eum busi ne s s By Joseph Wisne

For years now we’ve heard all about the supposed confluence of museums and entertainment, about the blurring lines between institutions of learning and attractions dedicated to fun and profit. As part of this trend, we’ve seen museums wrestle with their identities as they strive to upgrade or re-spin their core experiences, borrowing techniques and approaches from themed entertainment in an attempt to draw and retain an audience in – what’s the phrase? – an increasingly competitive market.

The Kinderstudio at Don Harrington Discovery Center in Amarillo employs authentic materials to inspire young artists and entrepreneurs.

One of the primary “classic” differences in these two broad market categories is authenticity. Museums tend to offer “real” experiences through collections, hands-on experiments with physical phenomena, and opportunities for genuine personal expression and creativity. Themed attractions, especially those whose creative ambitions outstretch their capital, tend to offer fabrications, simulations. You touch a meteorite at the American Museum of Natural History and you know it’s actually from outer space. The facsimile at the theme park has a rather more terrestrial resin-based origin. The key here is that the public knows the difference. There is an overwhelming number of family leisure-time options that are largely synthetic or virtual – 3D movies, video games, the themed seafood restaurant hundreds of miles from the beach, the haunted spookfest. Against this backdrop, we believe there is a demand for more actual, tangible, real things to do. Ironically, the most authentic parts of a theme park experience (thrill rides, corn dogs) are often subsumed by our preoccupation with storytelling, which tends to wrap these real components in shrouds of further fabrication and unreality. Fake sets, fake characters, fake events: they have their place, but let’s not forget that often the most memorable are the authentic, visceral experiences that you cannot do or see anywhere else. (I would contend that even highly-authentic fantasy is powerful: fans don’t view Universal’s Hogsmeade as a movie set, but as the real place.) We should celebrate authenticity, and on occasion, we should think about telling real stories, for their entertainment value if nothing else.

Sounds good, and no doubt much of that is true. These considerations are played out in museum boardrooms and at executive strategy retreats from coast to coast. Many museums have adopted (or attempted to adopt) the “tricks” formerly known only to themed attractions, including (gasp!) calling their visitors “guests.” I believe the museum field has learned important lessons from these experiments. But what if we turned the tables? Are there trends, values and design attributes traditionally held in the domain of museums that theme parks and FECs can (and should) learn from? Are there “tricks” of the museum business that the attractions business can adopt, not at the expense of their profit motivated goals, but in pursuit of them? Let’s explore some possibilities. Of course, as we do so, we should remember that most generalizations made of the complex commercial arena such as “the leisure industry” will instantly trigger myriad exceptions. For every “typical” museum that acts like a museum, there are examples of museums – even the stodgier ones – that share key behaviors and characteristics with their commercially-oriented entertainment brethren, and vice versa. There really are not two distinct markets here, but rather a broad continuum of location-specific destinations, each with its own unique mission and operational attributes. We’ll use the typical stereotypes, whilst acknowledging the limits of their application. Authenticity – The Public Knows the Difference 24


Forces of Nature at Whitaker Center for Science & the Arts contains dramatic interactive weather phenomenon such as a Hurricane Chamber and this Giant Tornado.

Quality, Hospitality and Design The term “museum quality” is supposed to represent the highest standard of production, and fabrication budgets for museum experiences are generally higher on a per-visitor basis than those for entertainment attractions. However, the apparent quality of the finished product is often more directly the result of the quality of the design, which occupies a fraction of the overall project budget in both types of markets. Top

museums tend to pay close attention to design quality, hiring firms and individuals with track records and portfolios clearly in the top quartile of the field. Resulting spaces, whether built on a shoestring or a river of gold, tend to look better, feel better, work better and last longer. Once again, the public can tell the difference. The evolution of the Las Vegas strip over the last 15 years illustrates the point. The public senses and recognizes quality, and will pay for it. And nowadays, that quality is most often the result of strong contemporary design, secured through a competitive process that values qualifications over low bid. That one or two extra percent of budget devoted to design can create the needed edge. As traditional sources of tax-based and philanthropic revenue continue to shrink, museums are also increasingly focusing on true customer satisfaction in order to earn their bread. While guest services are still a priority at major theme parks, especially through hospitality/ resort operations, can the same be said of many regional entertainment venues? Educational destinations like zoos and children’s museums have been talking about “brand customers” for years, and frequently eclipse the local FEC or regional attraction in customer service. Call me a “guest” all you want, but if the queues are long, the food generic, the floors sticky, and the staff mindlessly untrained, then I know I’m really just a ticket stub. The public recognizes quality service as well as design. Why Museums? A final thought. Why do people go to museums in the first place? Why, for hundreds of years, have humans built temples to preserve collections of old things, large and small? Why do millions in public dollars continue to be spent for gleaming new riverfront interactive discovery museums? If you ask museum visitors why they came, the top answer isn’t generally “to learn something,” so purely educational motives don’t explain the attraction. What does? I think the answer is at the core of what drives much of the human experience. It is the same reason some people read books, raise families, take a walk through the woods. Perhaps what distinguishes our stereotypical museum experiences from entertainment is meaning -- or to make a more complex noun, meaningfulness. We’ll go to the aquarium to feel a connection to the environment, the planetarium to ponder mysteries of the universe, the zoo to witness the truth of our evolutionary human ancestry. We go to quench a thirst, fill a void.




And we pay money to do it. Thus, a competitive advantage that one themed attraction may possess over its rivals -- a quality that can help drive guest satisfaction, spur repeat visits, and strengthen support for a higher ticket price -- may simply consist in a greater infusion of authentic meaningfulness.


Of course, many TEA members know this instinctively, and even at our most cynical project moments yearn wistfully for something more.




We call it heart. Joseph Wisne is founder and President at Roto, an international firm specializing in the planning, design and production of world-class attractions for museums, zoos and entertainment. This article first appeared in the 2007 TEA Annual & Directory and is reprinted here as one of our favorites.






of theatr e & themed entertainment By David Barbour

I had a revelation the other day. I was editing an interview with John Haupt, who has done just about everything that one can do at Disney. When asked to name the major professional influences on his career, the first name out of his mouth was Jo Mielziner. Jo Mielziner? Anybody? Okay; for the younger among you, he was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s favorite scenic and lighting designer - and, before that, he was Rodgers and Hart’s favorite. His extraordinary resume includes the original productions of Pal Joey, The Glass Menagerie, Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific, Gypsy, and 1776, to name a very, very few. For two generations, he was one of the dominant names in professional theatre design.

Consider also the case of David Rockwell, one of the top designers of restaurants, museum exhibits, and just about anything else you can think of. I remember the first time he told me that what he really wanted to do was design a Broadway show. I said nothing, but my skepticism was sky-high - what are the chances of that happening, I wondered to myself. Now Rockwell is, in addition to everything else, a sought-after Broadway designer, thanks to his work on The Rocky Horror Show, Hairspray, and last season’s stunning revival of The Normal Heart. The man who creates environments with a theatrical flair also creates set designs that are like little worlds of their own.

In a way, it’s almost inevitable that there should be so much two-way traffic between the theatre and the experience community. It’s a reflection of what I think is the biggest But, really, why was I fundamental change in American surprised? In the course society since World War II: The rise of nearly two decades of of the culture of entertainment. As covering various forms of Scene from a special musical theater production of “Creature from the Black Lagoon” at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo: Universal Studios. anyone reading this knows, almost entertainment, I’ve learned everything in our lives has been one thing: Everybody, but everybody, gets their training in theatre school. It’s true transformed into an entertainment experience - shopping, dining, of designers, directors, and producers; once they have their degrees, they branch travel, even the act of worship. A theatrical sensibility now informs out into film, television, and, yes, the experience industry. (Yes, there is film school, our daily reality, a fact that makes a major challenge out of each new but so many people get their start in theatre first.) Some of them find a career in entertainment project. How do you astonish an audience that has the theatre to be too daunting, precluding a stable life with a family; others want to already seemingly seen it all? work on a bigger canvas. Still others want the chance to experiment with the latest technologies.

Whatever the reason, I always think the best entertainment experiences are informed by a theatrical panache - whether it’s the skillful lighting of a dark ride, the stunning reveal in a museum exhibit, or the all-encompassing installation that creates a unique world of its own. It’s all theatre. Nowadays, of course, we find the world of themed entertainment is, in return, influencing the theatre. The most notable example is the emergence of the Disney organization as a major producer of Broadway musicals. It’s typical of Disney, I think, that, to mark this endeavor, the company restored an ailing Broadway house, The New Amsterdam, creating the perfect, larger-than-life environment for its shows. And, of course, the Disney shows are known for their astonishing designs and effects, from The Lion King’s animal parade to Mary Poppins’ airborne nightly ride through the auditorium. (By the way, it has become fashionable to denigrate the so-called “Disneyfication” of the Times Square District; as someone who lived in that neighborhood in the 1980s, when it was a teeming mass of grind houses, sex shops, and massage parlors, I assure you, we can only be grateful to Disney for helping to spearhead the rescue of this storied neighborhood.) 26


There’s another sense in which Jo Mielziner anticipated what’s going on in the world that is now called themed entertainment, and that TEA has helped to define. In addition to his design duties, he was also a sometime producer, at a time when a Broadway producer was often the driving creative force behind a show. So it is with so many TEA member creatives, who take the wispiest of ideas and flesh them into 3-D experiences with fully formed narratives – excuse me – fully formed stories. In a very real sense, TEA members are taking theatre in new directions, making it meaningful to people who have never seen a play - who maybe never will. That’s a remarkable achievement.

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David Barbour ( is editor of Lighting and Sound America magazine, published by PLASA. This article first appeared in the 2009 TEA Annual & Directory and is reprinted here as one of our favorites.

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a producer’s p er spect ive Bob Chambers & Edward Marks, interviewed by Dawn Alcott

To realize great themed attractions in today’s environment of super-tight budgets and warp-speed timelines, Bob Chambers, Edward Marks and Don Burgess, principals of The Producers Group, advocate a producer-driven model. Putting the producer in charge, they maintain, is the path to balancing (and preserving) creative vision against practical demands. Chambers and Marks recently worked on the now-world-famous Crane Dance Spectacular, designed for Resorts World Sentosa by Jeremy Railton of Entertainment Design Corp. Marks served as Producer and Project Director while Chambers was Senior Technical Director. Dawn Allcot interviewed Chambers and Marks to explore these issues… and to learn more about how to make a pair of 100-foot, 150-ton cranes dance.

hire out all those pieces separately. We set to figuring out how to get the holes filled and keep everybody moving along at the right pace. TEA: Looking at the industry’s growth in the East, and considering your recent experience there, what have you learned about balancing Eastern and Western styles of doing business while also balancing design and production? Chambers: Conflicts can arise when the firm that is brought on to do the design work for a project is different from the one engaged for production; and there are differences of opinion about the role of project management. I think a lot of Western design firms would like to see Eastern clients embrace project management more fully, and involve them more on the production end. Marks: A project can look good on paper, but when it gets installed in the field without a certain kind of oversight, can risk falling short of the original vision. Chambers: As producers, one of the things we think about is: How much can you buy locally, how much do you have to go elsewhere for, and how much of it can be a hybrid? Knowing the best sources and resources on whatever continent - is important.

How did the Crane Dance project spur you to form your new company, The Producers Group? Edward Marks: It all started in September 2009. We were hired by Jeremy Railton to produce three attractions: the Crane Dance, Lake of Dreams and the Hall of Treasures at Resorts World Sentosa.

TEA: That certainly makes sense from a logistics, timeline and budget standpoint, but doesn’t every project have to start with an idea?

We were tasked with assembling a team, managing contracts, managing vendors, managing accounts payable/accounts receivable... essentially the entire deal. While we were engaged on that project, Jeremy got two more jobs in Macau that we were also brought in to manage. In the course of the two years spent doing that work, we established a set of project producers’ operating criteria. It made sense, from our perspective, to keep doing it.

Marks: It’s a matter of who drives the overall process. There are three big issues to address at every step of a project: creative, business (capitalization and operational) and technical. Producers address projects as a balance of all three.

Bob Chambers: In a nutshell, the producer leads. The production-based model is a recalibration of the more typical, design-headed process. We are not a design firm. We collaborate with designers; we hire them and work with them (and vice versa).

Chambers: Today, the industry is moving away from the one-stop shop and a client shops around to assemble their team. Of course a project always begins with the creative spark, the initial idea. The producer will work to preserve that – to keep budget and schedule from swallowing up creative, and vice versa. No one thing should be sacrificed to the others. The producer will strive to keep the balance. Dawn Allcot (dawnallcot@gmail. com) has been a writer in the audiovisual industry for more than 15 years. Her work has appeared in industry-leading publications such as Sound & Communications, Live Design and Church Production Magazine, and on AV blogs.

TEA: What were some of the unique challenges in the Crane Dance project, and how did the productioncentric approach help meet those challenges? Chambers: Crane Dance is a unique one-off, so it was breaking new ground in terms of how we went about the production process. But we have a pretty strong foundation in our approach to fixing problems. We break things down into manageable steps and execute those steps in a timely fashion. We look for scope gaps. We look for red flags, aspects of the project that are not solved yet. One of the challenges to the Crane Dance was that it was a giant piece of machinery that was designed, built and installed by seven different primary vendors. There was the team that did the hydraulics system, the team that did the structure of the bird itself, the control system team, the lighting team, the company that made the screen on the bird’s chest. You can start to see how there might be some holes when you 28





W h at project m a nager s d o

Photos: Electrosonic

By Thursby Pierce

It’s dark. There’s a chill in the air. You enter a dimly lit labyrinth where a slight haze is hovering above the floor. Music plays softly in the background. Character 1 appears on a screen in front of you seemingly out of nowhere. He tells a story about how the hero can save you if you follow his lead. You step onto the platform and board the ride vehicle to begin the journey. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich UK

Ok, so I’m not a scriptwriter.You can laugh. I’m just trying to get you to put yourself into the creative and planning process of a fictitious attraction optimistically scheduled to open in the next two years on a foreign continent in some theme park in a galaxy far, far away from here. Your firm was hired to develop this attraction (Let’s call it Project A). You have the creative concept finished. You know you have the most thrilling, never-beendone-before, dark ride concept on the planet. You have been working with the hottest attraction designers and architects in the business. You have the base building drawings in your hand. Now how do you make it all happen? You had better hire a good project manager. If you want to bring this attraction to life as the quality guest experience you know it can be, without destroying the finances and the timeline of the owner, this is the critical time - after concept and

prior to execution - for the project manager to get involved. The PM will help you fully develop the project scope, schedule and budget for the different vendors, i.e. who does what and when, how much space and time they need to do it, and what is it going to cost. Your PM will hire knowledgeable staff who will write the RFPs for the different disciplines of the project. Your PM will negotiate the contracts, help acquire permits, wade through the mountain of paperwork required for the local authorities having jurisdiction. Your PM will also quell worker uprisings; make arrangements to repair the turf that got ruined by the cement trucks during the super flat concrete pour. Sometimes your PM will even grill steaks for the mid project barbecue. Project A – with the PM Continuing with our hypothetical Project A, the PM you hired is very experienced. Once you have familiarized her with the project, she sets to work immediately on your behalf, skillfully coordinating all of the show and ride vendors’ schedules. She holds the general contractor to his schedule for the base building. She schedules and conducts regular progress meetings to enable the process to go smoothly with as little conflict as possible, and make sure everyone is up to date, aware of their responsibilities and deadlines, and interfacing with the other team members as they should. The ride testing and certification will be completed with enough time to adjust the programming for the content changes the VP of creative wanted to add at the last minute. As a result, your dark ride is opening on time and on budget to the acclaim of theme park blogs and critics everywhere, and the owner is pleased. Project B – without the PM Now, let’s look at another hypothetical situation (Project B). Your colleague’s firm was hired to develop a museum project where the decision was made not to hire an overall PM. He has been dealing AT&T Dolphin Tales, Georgia Aquarium. with vendors pointing fingers at each other over whose fault it is that everything is late. He’s fielding questions from his superiors about why he is 35% over budget. Not only is he dealing with his usual work load, he’s wading through the myriad of change orders that are pouring in. Lacking a properly coordinated schedule, this project will open late and may even have a few exhibits that don’t work as they should at opening. Instead of helping to build public interest in the finished project, the media and bloggers are reporting on its latest setbacks. The PM Universe To be successful, today’s world of themed entertainment attractions and venues, like all businesses these days must operate as efficiently as possible, and hiring a good project manager to organize the process is critical to this success. But before going any further, let’s discuss the project manager universe:

On large projects, each major supplier or creative discipline on a team will have its own designated project manager. One manages the planning and site coordination of the general contractor’s activities for the base building. Others work with the facility mechanical and electrical systems, the ride system, control systems, AV, lighting, special effects and scenic elements. These project managers each manage their own portion of the project – the pieces of the puzzle, but not the whole puzzle. They report to the overall project manager, the one who keeps the entire process running smoothly for the developer and owner - the one you need to hire. A complex attraction wherein the owner is spending $130M to $150M needs this kind of specialized function. The services the overall PM provides are crucial for coordinating the intricacies of realizing a world class attraction. Apollo/Saturn V Firing Room, Kennedy Space Center But an overall PM is critical for many smaller projects, too. This person is simply your best hope for maintaining your budget, rolling out your project and building up your professional reputation. When and how to hire the PM There are varying opinions about when to get the overall project manager involved. My thinking is you should bring in the PM as soon as you have the concept finished. Other situations warrant the PM assisting as you pitch the idea to the client. Their experience may help close the deal. Having experienced project management as part of your team can help put the client at ease knowing that their money is being managed and spent wisely. Either way, this person will be a sounding board and will help formulate the methodology of how to actually implement the execution phase of your project. To find a good project manager, consult your colleagues in the industry for recommendations. When you have a list of candidates, look at the projects they have completed and inquire into how they were managed. Sometimes you don’t need to hire your PM from outside - the owner may have someone qualified within their team. Alternatively, the design firm may recommend a freelance project manager, or another team member – possibly one of your project vendors or the general contractor - may have a person able to step up to the task. Notify your vendors prior to submitting their bids so they can include the PM costs in their proposals. So, who would you rather be? The happy developer of Project A, with the satisfied client, good press reviews and enthusiastic public? Or the downtrodden developer of project B, the one with the cost overruns, negative press coverage and a product that doesn’t live up to expectations? Project management is integral to success, so start thinking about it early on and incorporate it in your overall work plan. When your project is staffed with a great creative team that has a great idea, you need a great PM to make it a reality. The creative team realizes the vision, the vendors succeed in their tasks, and the business objectives of the owner are met – in other words, everyone wins.

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Thursby Pierce (, project manager for Electrosonics Inc., has more than 25 years of multimedia entertainment technical show and project experience. This article first appeared in the 2009 TEA Annual & Directory and is reprinted here as one of our favorites.

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the Past is Prologue By Peter Chernack

on behalf of the Past Presidents TEA 20 Anniversary Committee

In September 2011, each of the TEA’s three Divisions held membership events that included a preview of the Association’s 20th Anniversary plans in advance of the official launch at IAAPA in November. The first was put on by the Western Division and hosted by Walt Disney Imagineering, a member company, at their legendary Glendale campus; the birthplace of themed entertainment placemaking and home to countless creative luminaries who defined the lexicon of our industry.

Herschend Family Entertainment, Merlin Entertainments Group and Center Parcs Europe along with specialists in every aspect of attraction management, design and fabrication. There is recognition between owners and suppliers that we need one another and that the resulting work we do in partnership makes for a better exchange of information, collaborative process and result.

There in the surreal beauty of an expansive, Disney-esque outdoor garden setting, hidden completely from its industrial surroundings, gathered more than 250 TEA members, including over 75 Imagineers, enjoying abundant hospitality and convivial conversation with old friends and new acquaintances. Even the most jaded among the guests could sense the awesome power of history and the magic of tomorrow, present on this hallowed ground.

The Association has been instrumental in promoting a culture of strong professional and personal relationships with shared common values. A community, in other words, where members work together to shape an environment in which they can thrive - and support each other in an atmosphere of trust and integrity.

How appropriate it was to kick off the Association’s 20th Anniversary at the very place where so many of the core values that define what is best in our industry were developed and where so many of our colleagues honed their individual art and craft of storytelling. Of course, story is at the heart of what we do in our projects. But as members of the themed entertainment industry and of TEA, we are also players in our own story, in our own time, on a global stage. We are emotionally involved in a very personal journey that is genuine and filled with memories, regardless of the whimsical tides of success and failure. The founding of TEA, and the first 20 years Twenty years ago, that story reached a turning point that had a profound and positive impact on our collective journey. At the urging of a young entrepreneur named Monty Lunde, a small and diverse group of independent industry players gathered in early 1991 at a hotel meeting room in Burbank, California. Monty thought we should consider banding together to increase our viability in a challenging and competitive business environment. Though many had just met for the first time and there was apprehension about competitors in the room, a pact was made. The vote to formally establish the association occurred several months later at the IAAPA Attractions Expo, on November 16, 1991. Two decades later, IAAPA continues to be a primary annual nexus for the TEA community – we host a large exhibition space, put on seminars, announce the new Thea Award recipients, bring out the latest TEA Annual, host a fabulous party, and hold our annual Membership meeting where the gavel passes to the next president and new Board members are installed. Relationships, trust and integrity Since that time 20 years ago when many of us possessed more or darker hair, the TEA has grown from a 40-member regional association of vendors to a globally recognized trade alliance with three Divisions and over 700 member companies worldwide. TEA has established close working relationships with IAAPA, AAM, IMERSA and other industry trade groups, educational outreach programs with schools such as UCLA and Carnegie Mellon, and puts on successful, unique business and design conferences including the Summit, and SATE in the US and Europe. Membership today has diversified to include representatives from major operators and developers such as Disney, Universal Studios, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, 34


This working relationship is strongly evident at the annual Thea Awards where our community comes together to celebrate the outstanding achievements of an international array of developers and the project teams that create them. Established 18 years ago, these inclusive honors have become the Association’s signature event and the coveted Thea is recognized as the highest accolade within our industry. Welcoming TEA’s Next Generation From IAAPA 2011 to the 2012 Thea Awards and beyond, there will be opportunities for the entire TEA international membership to participate and we welcome your involvement. This milestone anniversary provides a unique opportunity for the Association to energize its brand, engage its members and affirm its ongoing and valuable role in an evolving industry for the next 20 years. A key part of the 20th anniversary mission is to identify, support and encourage the next generation of industry leaders through an ongoing and multifaceted mentoring initiative. This will bring together up-andcoming professionals with industry veterans, through a series of intimate gatherings, to share their experiences in design, production and business. Find out how you can participate. The Association welcomes new member companies and professionals who would like to join in shaping the next generation of guest experiences. Membership in the TEA is an opportunity to participate in a culture that values and supports mutual respect and assistance, even in the face of the competitive nature of our business. Working together, TEA members have set a higher bar in standards of excellence throughout the industry. In appreciation The TEA story can be told thanks to the dedication and commitment of hundreds of volunteers who have given generously of their time and resources to serve on boards and committees, and participate in creating conferences, panels, meetings, trade shows, social events, education seminars, galas, mixers, parties, publications, videos and more - all around the world, and mostly at their own expense. TEA also owes boundless thanks to the generosity and contributions of scores of sponsors who have graciously underwritten these endeavors. And special kudos to the TEA staff who regularly go above and beyond the call in order to handle the day-to-day business of the Association.



12:55:44 PM

TEA History Sidebars

Researched & compiled by Ron Miziker, Miziker Entertainment Group

Attendees of the first TEA Meeting October 10, 1991 at the Hilton in Burbank, Calif. [given here with 1991 company affiliations] Name Monty Lunde Cindy Aylward Frank Bencivengo John Wright David Strole Dean Sharits Craig Barr Mike Morris Michael De Land David Hall Jim Goyjer Duf Sundheim Tom LaDuke Dutch Folcremer John Lindsay Ross Petersen Theo Mayer Ed Feuer Joe McHugh Peter Chernack Mike LoCelso Andrew Kunzie Vince Gabinellie Erik Johnson Chris Senshack Roberta Perry Steve Schklair Keith Melton

Company Technifex Basix Lexington Scenery Lexington Scenery The Works Landmark Entertainment Barr & Associates Panatom Entertainment Engineering AVG AVG Doty & Sundheim Artifex Corp. Geitner Associates Panatom Inc. Mee Industries Metavision Corp Ride & Show Engineering Ride & Show Engineering Metavision General Insurance Inc. Museum Services Museum Services Cinnabar R. A. Gray, Inc. Edwards Technologies Infinity Filmworks Infinity Filmworks









Logo & Brand Development Marketing & Advertising Strategic Planning Writing Graphic Design Website Development Social Media Strategy & Implementation Packaging Environmental Graphics Retail Product Development

Members of the first TEA Board of Directors

Elected November 16, 1991 in Orlando, Florida at the IAAPA Attractions Expo [given with 1991 company affiliations] Name Company Frank Bencivengo Lexington Scenery Joe McHugh Ride & Show Richard Crane Richard Crane Productions Monty Lunde Technifex John Lindsay Panatom Hugh Darley ITEC Jonathan Katz Cinnabar David Hall AVG Larry Ziebarth HHCP

Discipline Sets & Props Ride/Mechanical Systems Producer Special Effects Project Management Design Sets, Props & Effects Animations Architects

Presidents of TEA Monty Lunde - 1992, 1993 Jo e McHugh – 1994 Roberta Perry – 1995, 1996 Peter Chernack – 1997, 1998 John Wright – 1999 Brian Edwards – 2000 Keith James – 2001, 2002

George Wiktor – 2003 Pat Gallegos – 2004, 2005 Craig Hanna – 2006, 2007 Nick Farmer – 2008 Steve Thorburn – 2009, 2010 Rick Rothschild - 2011

Peter Chernack ( is the Chair of the TEA20th Anniversary Past Presidents Committee and is a principal of The Chernack Group, consulting on show development for destination attractions and branded experiences. Planning and programming for the TEA 20th Anniversary activities are led by a committee of the TEA Past Presidents formed in the spring of 2010.

AudioVisual Consulting Lighting for Architectural & Live Events Theatre & Facility Consulting nautiluS

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Offering Courses in Themed Entertainment and Attraction Design Learn beside industry leaders including GEORGE HEAD and MICHAEL DEVINE. Professor Head spent 30 years at Walt Disney Imagineering, 12 of those as vice president of show quality standards. As an award-winning designer, creative director and consultant, Professor Devine has also worked for Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Studios Creative, BRC Imagination Arts and more. He was the founding director of a renowned performing arts design and technology program and served as dean of a theater school. Enroll today and discover why SCAD is the university for creative careers in themed entertainment and attraction design. Enroll in undergraduate courses such as: Survey of Themed Entertainment Industry Rendering for Entertainment Design Themed Entertainment Design Large Project Design Studio The Public Event: Concept and Collaboration Off-campus Disney Imagineering

Learn in graduate courses such as: Design for Themed Entertainment Theme Entertainment and Attractions Industry Concept Design Studio Component Design Studio

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The business of entertainment AECOM provides unrivaled expertise in the business of entertainment. We are in a collaborative community of multidisciplinary consultants enhancing and sustaining the world’s built, natural and social environments. We are part of an integrated practice that brings together planning, design, architecture, and landscape architecture, in addition to the pioneering economics expertise that we’ve provided to developers, operators, and investors for the world’s leading attractions.





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Experiential Themed Environments Evolving attraction concepts to tangible realities is completed through the ingenious team of Attraction and Entertainment Solutions, a creative services firm specializing in conceptualization, fabrication, and installation of interactive, themed spaces guests will never forget-a world that sheds its own passionate story. Experience aesthetic excellence and authenticity of AES. Through transparency and trust, we enhance our client’s perception of value.

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All written, photographic and conceptual art material is the exclusive property of Concept 2 Creation, LLC and their respective owners. No portion hereof may be used or reproduced in any manner without the express prior written consent of Concept 2 Creation / C2C Studio Inc. Š 2012 Concept 2 Creation / C2C Studio Inc. - All rights reserved.

Industry Snapshots

Gallery of

thEA lifetime achievers

Harrison “Buzz” Price (1921- 2010) Harrison Price Company


Jon Jerde The Jerde Partnership

John Hench (1908 – 2004) Walt Disney Imagineering

Don Iwerks Founder, Iwerks Entertainment

Bob Gurr GurrDesign, Inc.

Barry Upson Barry Upson Company


Mark Fuller WET

TEA’s annual Thea Awards include a Lifetime Achievement category. These are all the recipients to date. The award was renamed the Buzz Price Award in honor of the 2010 passing of Harrison “Buzz” Price, who was the first recipient of this honor. Please visit the TEA website for more details about the Thea Awards and award recipients. Many thanks to Claudia Sieling for her volunteer assistance in rounding up all the photos.

Marty Sklar Marty Sklar Creative, Inc.

Tony Baxter Walt Disney Imagineering

Group shot: from left, Don Iwerks, Marty Sklar, Barry Upson, Bob Rogers, Monty Lunde, Harrison Price, Tony Baxter

George Millay (1929 – 2006) Founder of SeaWorld

Bob Rogers BRC Imagination Arts

Kim Irvine Disneyland

Jack Rouse Jack Rouse Associates

Robert L Ward Strategic Insights & Creative Imagination

Monty Lunde (TEA founder) Technifex, Inc.

Yves Pépin 2012 TEA ANNUAL


Industry Snapshots

Economic Insight for the Attractions Industry Last year we started ECA. This year we are working with industry-leading clients in markets around the world. • Universal Parks & Resorts • Merlin Entertainments Group • LEGOLAND • Cirque du Soleil • Paramount • BBC • KidZania • Danish Natural History Museum • General Growth Properties • Village Roadshow • R&F Group (China) • Guangdong Development Group (GDD) • Khazanah Nasional • Themed Attractions & Resorts (TAR) • Reliance Big Entertainment • Shanghai Expo Development Co. • Singapore Tourism Board (STB) • Delaware North Corporation

ECA Projects



Los Angeles · 9430 Olympic Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California 90212 +1.310.862.9555 Hong Kong · Suite 2909-10, 29/F, China Resources Building, No. 26 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong +852.9403.3533

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Appr eciation:

We build Excitement!

John Wr ight,

Recently completed at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry: The Sunlight interactive experience, part of the new Science Storms exhibition.


moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. There, he met the love of his life, Molly Miles. They married and were together 25 years. They lived in the Hollywood Hills, under the second “L” in the Hollywood sign, until last year when they moved back to John’s beloved hometown of Detroit to work on the downtown redevelopment project.

We bring more than 30 years experience in the development of complex mechanical interactivity. Our team creates meaningful visitor experiences that focus upon safety, reliability and relevancy. We continually explore new ways to employ interactivity to illustrate powerful messages and illuminate complex concepts that captivate, entertain and educate audiences.

Science Storms

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

His unique career included a stint in the Army as the head of their Theater Department. He founded and ran the Matrix Theater in Los Angeles for 5 years. In the 1980s, he co-founded Lexington Scenery & Props (now Lexington Design & Fabrication) with Frank Bencivengo. The company has continued to grow and thrive and make a significant impact on the development of the industry. He served as President of TEA in 1999.

Learn about this project and others at: 312.274.9900 •

Though we have had much to celebrate since the TEA was established, we have also had some painful losses. On 5 October 2011, John Wright, a founding member and past president of TEA, passed away from complications in surgery. John was still a relatively young man and we are saddened by his death. His life was filled with accomplishments, creative pursuits and friends, all of whom will miss the great pleasure of his company. John was a native of Detroit where he lived until 1973, then



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John was an upbeat, joyous, outgoing and kind person with a huge love of the arts and music, and great intellectual curiosity. He enjoyed playing all kinds of musical instruments, and had a vast collection of classic guitars. He will be remembered and greatly missed by his friends and colleagues in the professional community. He is survived by his wife Molly Miles, his sister Nora Wright, his beloved nephews and niece, and hundreds of friends and admirers.



Index of Advertisers AECOM Attraction & Entertainment Solutions BaAM Birket Engineering C2C Studio Inc. Canyon Creative Chicago Scenic Studios CIA Darklight Darrias Baker Dillon Works! ECA2 Entertainment & Culture Advisors ETC ETI Gallegos Lighting Garage Graphics & Visuals Garner Holt Productions Jack GILLETT The Hettema Group Hunt Design The JCo Lexington

back cover 40 46 12 41 35 46 40 02 12 31 23 44 17 09 45 40 32-33 19 37 17 39 15

Main Street Design 31 Mario Kamberg Design 37 Medialon 19 Modern Masters 27 MorrisTerra 15 Mousetrappe 00 Narrative Concepts 46 NatureMaker, Inc 31 Nautilus Entertainment Design 35 Pro Forma 31 RGH 25 Judith RUBIN 44 Sally Corp Inside front cover Sanderson Group 10 Savannah College of Art & Design 36 Lucina SELVA 39 The Shop@ShowReady 29 Sywa Sung 13 TEA 05, 00, 00 Thorburn Associates 45 Trans FX 13 Wildfire 00

New/Updated Contact Infor mation

New/Updated Contact Infor mation

Did you know that ANyONE can submit a project for a thea Awar d? - You don’t have to be a TEA member

- You don’t have to be an owner of a project - You don’t have to work in the industry - Projects can be anywhere in the world - Projects can be any compelling experience including museum exhibits, traveling experiences, unique and interactive shows. They can even be a portion of a project such as new usage of technology or a very unique preshow. - There are special categories such as “Limited Budget” and “Classic” - People can get nominated as well for “Lifetime Achievement”

For more information, visit http: //, or contact Gene Jeffers -





The business of entertainment AECOM provides unrivaled expertise in the business of entertainment. We are in a collaborative community of multidisciplinary consultants enhancing and sustaining the world’s built, natural and social environments. We are part of an integrated practice that brings together planning, design, architecture, and landscape architecture, in addition to the pioneering economics expertise that we’ve provided to developers, operators, and investors for the world’s leading attractions.

2012 TEA Annual  

The yearly publication of the Themed Entertainment Association. Contains articles about the international attractions industry, and about th...

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