Thursday, December 30, 2010

Five attractions industry milestones of 2010

Here are some of the endeavors I had the privilege of covering this year that I regard as major milestones for the themed entertainment industry. -- J.R.

1. The USA Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010
In a near-miracle, Nick Winslow and partner Ellen Eliasoph created a worthy US presence at the largest world exposition in history. With the official blessing of the US Department of State, they successfully headed the effort to raise the money and realize and staff and operate (and eventually dispose of) the pavilion - despite formidable odds: no government funds, shrinking time window, recession economy and a sketchy US participation record at past expos. A top design team of expo veterans (including BRC Imagination Arts, Clive Grout Architect and Electrosonic) turned out a first-class show and building, and the pavilion operated efficiently and hospitably to capacity crowds throughout the six months of the event.

2. TEA's SATE Conference comes of age
The Themed Entertainment Association went to a project-centric format for the 4th annual SATE Conference (Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience) held in Orlando in September 2010. Conference chairs Larry Tuch and Kile Ozier and their team organized the most compelling SATE meeting so far, with more than 150 attending to hear the inside story from creatives as well as operators on the development of recent successful projects - including Beyond All Boundaries, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Information & Communications Pavilion at Expo 2010, the remade Fort Worth Museum of Science & History and Exploration Space at Kennedy Space Center. Analyzing industry projects using the SATE breakdown is a unique approach that has stood TEA in good stead, promoting fresh thinking and stimulating dialog. 2011 will see another SATE in Orlando in the fall, and the first SATE Europe in the spring.

3. Convergence of digital cinema and giant screen, and the emergence of the digital dome
Facilitated by digital processes, content is now being shared across a network of museums, science centers, planetariums and educational institutions' theaters - including flat screens, 2D and 3D, and domes. The number of digital dome theaters in planetariums alone has burgeoned in a few years to about 700, and it is now seen as inevitable that virtually all planetariums will convert to "fulldome" systems.

The immersive power and the "democracy" of the digital dome were foreseen in this article by giant-screen filmmaker Bayley Silleck, and are being tapped by entertainment markets today as well; high-profile examples include the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios (named for a 2011 Thea Award), Dragons Treasure at City of Dreams (recipient of a 2010 Thea Award) and Marvel Superheroes 4D at Madame Tussauds. Planetariums are starting to expand the way they use digital domes, including live theater productions, and a new trade organization, IMERSA, formed in 2008 to promote the uses of digital dome technology.

4. Museums become experience centers and designers stop hiding their "mouse ears."
Having a theme park or film industry background used to hamper a designer addressing the museum sector, but the stigma has been pretty much eradicated thanks to successful experiential museum projects such as the Abraham Lincoln Museum, the new California Academy of Sciences, CSI: The Experience, the George Washington Education Center and the National World War II Museum. Moreover, Van Romans, the head of the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History is a veteran of Walt Disney Imagineering.

5. Cruise ships set the example for greenbuilding, wayfinding, robustness, self-sufficient operations -- and maintaining the experience bubble. Cruise ships have a strictly limited footprint, a mandate to conserve energy, a harsh operating environment and limited access to outside services. Disparate uses are often cheek-by-jowl and there is minimal margin for error when it comes to design and construction. Modern cruise lines such as Disney Dream serve a family audience that they need to keep happy and occupied for consecutive days and nights. Today's huge new vessels, such as Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Allure rely on extensive digital signage systems to help manage guest traffic and keep passengers oriented and safe. They also boast top of the line entertainment venues and AV systems. Land-based attraction operators and designers would do well to study them.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More IAAPA 2010 snaps from Judy Rubin

From the top: At the InPark Magazine booth, Yas Takata (Blur Studio), Marty Palicki (IPM), Jumana Brodersen (The J Co LLC) and Ty Granaroli (Chimera Design). Shmoozing in the aisle, three distinguished cinematic presentation pioneers: Yves Pepin, Jean-Michel Louis and Robert Simpson (Electrosonic). Basking in the glow of the announcement of their project (ICT device at Information & Communications Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010) being named a Thea Award recipient, Mindi Lipschultz, Sam Russo, Christian Lachel (BRC Imagination Arts) and Shaenon Adamson. Vijay Seghal AIA (2nd from left) of FSY Architects innocently showed up wearing a purple shirt of the same exact hue traditionally sported by Technifex booth staff - he poses with Joe Ortiz, Tracy Klein and Don Simon. Practitioners of the art of show control are three dudes from ShowSys spotted at the Palm Restaurant: Scott Arnold, Jason Pontius and Greg Kirkland. A trio of dedicated and active TEA volunteers: Lucina Selva (La Selva), Michael Mercadante (Main Street Design) and Jay Jensen (VOA Associates).

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Related stories from InPark Magazine and InPark News:
IPM interviews Jumana Brodersen about Tivoli and designing for theme parks on two continents -
A good run for BRC Imagination Arts at Shanghai Expo 2010 -
Electrosonic provides AV for multiple expo pavilions -
FUNA acquires ShowSys

Sunday, November 21, 2010

People pictures from the IAAPA Attractions Expo, Nov 2010

Snapshot encounters at the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando

Themed Entertainment Association past presidents line up to mark the 19th anniversary of TEA's founding. Left to right: Craig Hanna (Thinkwell), Keith James (JRA), Roberta Perry (ETI), George Wiktor, Monty Lunde (Technifex), Pat Gallegos (Gallegos Lighting), Steve Thorburn (Thorburn Associates).

Top to bottom: Jeff Rosen and John Kasperowicz of The Hettema Group. Media producers Mindi Lipschultz and Doug Yellin (Matilda Production Services).
John Berardi, president of Wildfire Inc. Tony Petruzziello and Thursby Pierce of Electrosonic. New mom Dina Benadon (Super 78) and son Truman. Truman's parents Dina Benadon and Brent Young of Super 78. Architect David Price, son of the late Harrison Price. Roberta Perry congratulates Bob Rogers of BRC Imagination Arts on his induction into the IAAPA Hall of Fame.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

IMERSA Fulldome Summit Report , live from Denver

Spoken at the IMERSA Fulldome Summit at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. This is an event within an event: the Fulldome Summit constitutes the “Fulldome Strand” of Symposium 2010 held by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The event is targeted to museum and media professionals and explores tools and techniques and showcases work across multiple formats. In addition to the fulldome sessions and screenings there are sessions and screenings exploring 3D, giant screen cinema and mobile media. The event dates are Oct 26-28 and is being attended by a cross-section of industry professionals: system suppliers, distributors, producers and some exhibitors. The program can be seen here.

At last night’s cocktail reception sponsored by National Geographic, we canvassed a few prominent folk about the convergence of media and content and community that is taking place, from giant screen to digital dome, from planetarium to science center, primarily facilitated by digital media:

Rick Rothschild of Far Out! Creative and Global Immersion, as well as president elect of the Themed Entertainment Association: “We’ve got a diverse group of people here who benefit from the opportunity to come together and network by way of this event. For instance, there are content producers who have been thinking about digital dome video (fulldome) and this gives them the opportunity to learn more about it. The fresh energy resulting is a tribute to the people who put on the event – they’ve orchestrated an opportunity for something to happen – not knowing exactly what that something will be. It’s a very fresh and appropriate thing to do.”

Rick Gordon of RPG Productions and a board member of the Giant Screen Cinema Association talked enthusiastically about the convergence of media and the desirability of strengthening the relationship between GSCA and IMERSA. There has already been very positive interaction between GSCA and IMERSA including IMERSA sessions at GSCA’s annual Dome Day event.

Jonathan Barker, CEO, SK Films

“We’ve just released Bugs! in 3D for fulldome presentation. The only 3D I ever previously saw in the dome was Echoes of the Sun (originally shown at Expo 90 Osaka, the first 3D dome film) and Into The Deep, a version Graeme Ferguson and I modified so that it could show at Futuroscope (we had to do a lot of shrinks)”...

“3D digital is good and digitally facilitated cross-platforming is good. Certainly they are good for my company. On Feb 1 we expect to commence filiming on the butterfly film [sequel to Bugs], that because of digital media will have a huge additional life beyond its primary release for giant screen theaters. We are now in discussions that I believe will lead to producing a 75 min commercial theatrical release, in addition to the 40 minute special venue film, and probably a 20 minute version for 3D digital.”


Related from InPark Magazine:

Digital Dome-Ocracy by Bayley Silleck

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All about the Arch grounds competition (Saint Louis MO)

Here in St Louis, Missouri USA, the community has been watching for several months as the competition has unfolded to redesign the grounds around the Gateway Arch, the Saarinen-designed landmark. The victorious team recently named is headed by landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Assoc. of Brooklyn NY. While the Arch with the museums and other attractions connected to it is a major attraction of the city and has a picturesque riverfront location, the area needs a revamp to make it more cohesive - to tie it in better with the rest of the city and as a multifaceted destination, and give it more coherence in terms of its appearance and visitor flow. The goal is to have the project completed in 2015, but fundraising is not yet complete.

Fly-through video:

More info:
City Arch River competition website
St Louis Post-Dispatch stories and videos

Friday, September 24, 2010

Halloween & Christmas, Tivoli-style

We're sharing here two reports that have come in from Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen about how they will be celebrating Halloween and Christmas. These fall and winter occasions have been found to be excellent customer draws and revenue generators for many parks. Last year 275,000 guests visited Halloween in Tivoli.

Halloween Fun and Giant Pumpkins
In 2006, Tivoli set out to create the standard for Halloween celebrations in Denmark. With the fifth Halloween celebration at Tivoli coming up, this goal has been reached. Halloween in Tivoli (and in Denmark) is dominated by pumpkins, but also by traditional harvest paraphernalia. The festival is scheduled for 15-24 October to coincide with the traditional autumn break in the Danish schools.

Tivoli’s Halloween is based on the “horrific fun” principle, so even the youngest children can participate. There are daily opportunities to meet Tivoli’s witches and heroes (Petzi, Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbine) on the Halloween Square by the Open Air Stage where the big mill is located and see them march through Tivoli with the Pumpkin Band (the Tivoli Boys Guard). At the square it will be possible to carve your own jack-o-lantern and buy sundry goodies. Tivoli’s rides will all be running.

The Danish Championships for Giant Pumpkins will take place at Tivoli on Saturday 16 October. A bunch of competitors will arrive on the day with their largest pumpkin to see who wins the price. Children up to 12 years old can compete for best costume. After 5 pm the theming ramps up with spooky roller coaster rides and vampire dance performances. There will also be some 50 trade stalls around the Gardens with specialties, small dishes and lots of Halloween-stuff.

Christmas in Tivoli - a winter fairy tale
Tivoli first opened its gates for Christmas in 1994. This year, the Gardens introduce a new winter theme where guests can play on the 45 metre long toboggan run, see an ice sculptor carve ice sculptures and many other things. It will also be the première of new winter illuminations, ice crystals and glistening snow on the pine trees. A new square offering delicacies will be opened, the pixies have moved into Pixie Ville, children will be received by Santa Claus, and the season will be concluded with a film music Fireworks Festival. This all takes place in Tivoli in Copenhagen from 12 November to 30 December 2010, with the exception of 24 and 25 December.

The toboggan run will be three metres wide with a gradient of 20 degrees, so that children will feel the wind in their hair when they scorch down the run in the cool new ring toboggans. The trip has a total drop of approximately three metres. The last few metres of the run are covered with a material to slow tobogganers down so you do not end up in the Tivoli Lake.

New Delicacy Square
Many Danes have made taking a trip to Tivoli at Christmas into a tradition, whether it is for the annual company Christmas party or to go on the rides. Over 70 decorated stalls along the paths in Tivoli are bursting with everything from hand-blown glass balls, caramelised apples to steaming mulled wine and Danish doughnuts (æbleskiver).

Pixie Ville and the Christmas Market
The pixies' market town, Pixie Ville, with the country's largest collection of mechanical pixies is an attraction in itself, where children and adults alike can immerse themselves in the skating pixies and igloos in the display. The train trip on the Christmas Express takes passengers through snow-covered landscapes where they can see the pixies, Santa Clauses and their wives getting ready for Christmas at close quarters.

During Christmas in Tivoli, children and adults can meet the new Tivoli character Rasmus Klump on weekends between 11.00 and 14.30. Until 23 December, children can also visit Santa's sleigh where they can leave their old dummies and give them up for good. The Tivoli Boys Guard and the Tivoli Pixie Band will be playing Christmas songs and parading. In the Tivoli Concert Hall, the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! attracts a huge audience and is performed in Danish for the first time.

Nimb and Christmas
Almost all Danish restaurants are closed over Christmas, and certainly on Christmas Eve, as it has been a Danish tradition to celebrate Christmas Eve at home. However, this is changing. Last year, Nimb launched a Christmas Eve event which was sold out and even had people signed up on a waiting list. This year, the gourmet restaurant therefore repeats the success for those who want a "Christmassy Christmas" but do not want to go to all the trouble themselves.

Fireworks Festival
Tivoli counts down to the new year with a Fireworks Festival, which will start on Boxing Day. This year's theme is composers of film music, including i.a. Hans Zimmer, famous for composing the music for the epic Gladiator, and, undoubtedly, the music from the film Schindler's List by John Williams will create a beautiful ambiance on the pitch-black night sky. Tivoli's pyrotechnician, Gunnar B. Knudsen, has this year entered fireworks competitions in i.a. Belgium and France and was awarded a bronze and a gold medal. The Fireworks Festival takes place from 26 December to 30 December 2010 at 18.00, with the exception of 29 December.

Lighting used for Christmas in Tivoli:
* A total of 1,800 fairy lights with 120 lights each are used to decorate the willow trees around the Tivoli Lake, the Christmas tree by the great fountain and to create the illusion of luminous snow in various places, alone.
* 5,000 metres of fairy lights are used for the 400 illuminated trees.
* It takes two people three weeks to decorate the great Christmas tree. All branches and shoots are covered with fairy lights. There are a total of 200 fairy lights with 120 lights each = 24,000 lights on this tree.
* A total of 1,000 metres of fairy lights are used for the illumination of various buildings.

Photos: Tivoli

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SATE Conf Sept 30-Oct 1 in Orlando hosted by the Themed Entertainment Assn

SATE = Storytelling - Architecture - Technology - Experience
Organized by the Themed Entertainment Association
Sept 30-Oct 1, Orlando

Click here to register for SATE 2010
Click here for SATE info on the TEA website

Overview press release

- Walt Disney Imagineering presents Keeping the Magic Fresh: Evolving the Legacy
- Architecture, branding and themed environments (press release)

Featured projects:
Beyond All Boundaries, National WW II Museum
Ft Worth Museum of Science & History
Exploration Space at Kennedy Space Center
Information & Communications Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Video: The Making of Beyond All Boundaries

Partial list of speakers
Kristy Scanlan, Production, Threshold Entertainment
Matt Solari, Director, Education Development, BRC Imagination Arts
Lui Berrios and Ken Larson of Kennedy Space Center
Christian Lachel, VP & Creative Director, BRC Imagination Arts
Mindi Lipschultz, independent media producer
John Paul Geurts, Nickelodeon Recreation VP and Creative Director
Tina Skees, Corporate Director Guest Experiences, Herschend Family Entertainment
Donald J. Weber AIA, The Weber Group, Inc.
Penny Peavler, Director of Brand Development & Marketing, The Weber Group
Frances Boettcher, AIA LEED AP of PBS&J
Jonathan F. Douglas AIA, Managing Principal, VOA Associates Inc.
Dave Eagleson, Vice President, Forrec Ltd.
F. Randall Webster, Fort Worth Museum of Science & History
Chick Russell, Chick Russell Communications
George Wiktor and Anthony Pruett of The Hettema Group
Walt Disney Imagineers Joe Tankersley and Gary L Landrum

Video: Information & Communications Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010

SATE is organized by a volunteer committee of TEA leaders in conjunction with TEA staff. SATE 2010 committee chair is Kile Ozier, working with Larry Tuch of Narrative Concepts, Dan Christman of X-nth, Steve Birket of Birket Engineering, Penny Peavler of Weber Group and George A. Head.

SATE 2010 sponsors include Birket Engineering, Electrosonic, PBS&J, Thorburn Associates, Universal Studios and VOA Associates Inc.