07 December 2010

FUNA delivers Allure of the Seas: Royal Caribbean's biggest cruise ship ever, with 3D digital cinema and Dreamworks on board

Emden, Germany -- FUNA International, a global design, engineering, integration and consulting firm employing more than 200 professionals in 11 international locations, provided technical design and engineering for entertainment, display and communications in most of the theaters, restaurants, clubs, and public spaces - as well as the crew recreation and support areas - of Royal Caribbean International's (RCI) new Allure of the Seas. The 16-deck, 5,400-guest, 225,282-ton, $1.5 billion Allure of the Seas shares the title of world's largest cruise ship with sister vessel Oasis of the Seas, for which FUNA provided a similar range of technical services. Of special note is the new, custom 3D cinema in Allure's Amber Theater: a first for RCI cruise ship lines. Royal Caribbean International took delivery of Allure on Oct 28 from STX Europe in Turku, Finland. Her US debut into her homeport of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. occurred Nov. 11.

Guests in Allure's Amber Theater will be able to watch the latest 3D movies from Dreamworks. And due to a strategic alliance between RCI and Dreamworks, the visitor experience on Allure includes additional encounters with Shrek and other Dreamworks characters elsewhere on the ship, in the form of parades, ice shows, mascots and more. Her Nov 28 naming ceremony, streamed live on video, was performed by Dreamworks' Princess Fiona, Shrek's animated life partner and the godmother of the ship.

Building upon the popularity of 3D exhibition and the alliance with Dreamworks, Royal Caribbean will next upgrade several existing cruise lines with new 3D cinemas, starting with Allure's sister ship and immediate predecessor, Oasis of the Seas. "We're doing Oasis in the first quarter next year, Liberty of the Seas in January and Freedom of the Seas in March," confirms Christopher Vlassopulos, Entertainment Technology and Technical Direction for Royal Caribbean International & Celebrity Cruises, adding, "It was a pleasure to work with FUNA. I am always confident that they will do an outstanding job."

FUNA provided technical design of the venues for Allure of the Seas as the company had previously provided for sister ship Oasis of the Seas, under contract to the ship owner, Royal Caribbean. Under contract to the ship builder, STX, FUNA realized those designs, providing equipment, installation, and commissioning. Allure, like Oasis, was a vast, specialized contracting project for FUNA from a management and logistics viewpoint not only in the sheer size and number of venues, but also having to work within the unique requirements of international cruise ship construction. FUNA's various entities came into play: FUNA Oy (detailed design/installation), FUNA GmbH (commissioning) and FUNA Inc. (design, purchasing, logistics, and commissioning).

"These ships are literally vast, floating, state of the art resorts, of the same complexity and scope as a land-based resort complete with hotel, retail and entertainment but totally self-contained," says Doug Ellis, Senior VP of FUNA and Program Director for Finland operations. "But - due to tighter safety regulations and a bevy of special considerations unique to marine projects - they're designed and built to be more robust, more energy efficient and make fuller use of a limited footprint than you find in land construction."

09 November 2010

Judy Rubin's highly selective short list for IAAPA Attractions Expo

My suggestions for people to meet, companies to check out and booths to visit at the IAAPA Attractions Expo Nov 16-19 in Orlando

– This Orlando-based company, providing tech design and tech management, audio system customization and some ingenious, proprietary control software, counts SeaWorld, Six Flags, US Space & Rocket Center, Princess Cruises and Sam’s Town among its clients. ShowSys recently became part of the FUNA International group – it is still headed by Scott Arnold and Jason Pontius but now backed by all the considerable resources at FUNA’s command. They aren’t exhibiting but look for Scott Arnold on the floor – he’ll probably be with Brian Paiva of FUNA business development.

Jumana Brodersen
– Former creative executive with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment gone independent with The J Co LLC, based in St Louis, and now a master planner and consultant for Tivoli, while also serving on the Eastern Division Board of the Themed Entertainment Association. Latest big success: the opening of Klump Island, a new, branded children’s play area at Tivoli. Ask her how she likes commuting to Copenhagen, and stop by InPark Magazine (booth #970) for a copy of the latest issue which includes an interview with Brodersen.

Themed Entertainment Association
(TEA) booth # 1268 – If your time is limited at the show, plant yourself here - most everyone you need to see will make a stop at the TEA booth. Now heading into its 20th year, the Themed Entertainment Association has made its booth the nucleus of the “high-tech” area of the show – a welcoming place to meet and shmooze, get your tickets to the Wed night TEA party (no political affiliation!) and learn more about the association and its activities. Be sure to pick up a copy of the 2011 TEA Annual & Directory, hot off the presses. Want to be one of the first to learn what projects have been named for TEA’s 17th Annual Thea Awards? Be at the TEA booth on Tues Nov 16 at 2 pm when the announcement will be made live. Want to see Rick Rothschild formalized as new TEA president as outgoing prez Steve Thorburn passes the gavel? Be at the annual TEA members' meeting at 8:30 am on Wed Nov 17.

Wildfire (booth #671) is the market leader in UV (ultraviolet, aka “black light”) effects for theater, themed entertainment and special events, offering a range of light fixtures and special paint products. Recent clients include Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the MTV Video Music Awards and Santa Monica’s Glow festival. They’re exhibiting together with Modern Masters, which markets Wildfire fluorescent paints. Stop by and say hello to Wildfire president John Berardi.

Mindi Lipschultz
, digital media producer, fulfilled two of her biggest career dreams this year: to work on a world’s fair exhibit, and to work with Bob Rogers of BRC Imagination Arts. She did so by playing a vital role in media production for the Information & Communications Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 – an award winning pavilion that has been highly praised for its “mass customized” interactive experience using handhelds and big screens in concert. Look for Mindi interacting in the high-tech exhibitor area.

LSA - Copies of Lighting & Sound America magazine will be available free in the TEA booth (#1268). LSA is published by PLASA (Professional Lighting & Sound Association, based in the UK) which is in the process of merging with ESTA (Entertainment Services & Technology Association). This excellent and beautifully designed monthly magazine celebrates great lighting, sound, AV and technical design in touring shows and concerts, Broadway shows, performing arts centers, special events, museum exhibitions, theme park attractions and more. Publisher: Jackie Tien. Editor: David Barbour. Subscriptions are free to industry members: sign up at the LSA website.

IPM (booth #970) – InPark Magazine, an independent publication out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin published and edited by Martin Palicki, will be distributing its current issue (#34), with a cover story on the late Harrison “Buzz” Price. Inside there are interviews with master planner Jumana Brodersen of The J Co, ultraviolet scenic specialist Richard Green of UVFX and the outgoing/incoming TEA presidents, respectively Steve Thorburn of Thorburn Associates and Rick Rothschild of Far Out! Creative. There’s also a profile of 4D media entrepreneur Markus Beyr of Kraftwerk, an analysis of the special venue film market by Janine Baker of nWave Pictures and a look at technology trends by Maris Ensing of Mad Systems. A selection of IPM back issues will also be on hand. Subscribe free to the digital edition via the IPM website.

Markus Beyr – the head of Kraftwerk Living Technologies GmbH is the international go-to guy for 4D attractions. Recent projects include Marvel Superheroes 4D at Madame Tussauds London, Dragons Treasure at City of Dreams in Macau and Arthur at Futuroscope Park in Poitiers, France. Beyr is bringing the motion base back into the equation (and calling it 5D) and is now offering a 4D theater package specifically for waterparks (in association with Polin). Kraftwerk partners with 3D movie distributor nWave Pictures – nWave’s content will be running on Kraftwerk’s systems at the nWave booth (#5159), and that and the Polin booth (#4440) will be home bases for Markus Beyr during the show.

Gordon Linden is a world’s fair consultant and co-author of The Expo Book, which garnered such a good response to its initial appearances in print and online (its first publication was chapter by chapter, in successive issues of InPark Magazine) that it is now available in book form (can be purchased at lulu.com). Bob Rogers of BRC Imagination Arts (booth # 668), designer of two highly acclaimed pavilions at Shanghai Expo 2010, also contributed to The Expo Book. With the successful Shanghai expo having stimulated a resurgence of global awareness and interest in world’s fairs, Linden and Rogers have been promoting The Expo Book together and can be expected to do so at IAAPA. A limited number of copies will be for sale during the show at the IAAPA bookstore.

Judith Rubin - a top editor, journalist and publicist for the themed attractions industry. You will likely find Judy shmoozing around the TEA and IPM booths.

05 November 2010

Themed Entertainment: At ETC academic mixer, TEA ambassador David Aion educates while he entertains

David Aion, president of the Western Division of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), strayed east to Pittsburgh for the TEA mixer at ETC (Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, a specialized graduate program created by Don Marinelli and the late Randy Pausch). There, he found himself in the role of TEA industry ambassador.

On Wed 27 October, the day before the mixer, Aion gave a presentation to about 75 students in a “creating alternate worlds” class. After being introduced by Iris Lin, ETC executive assistant for development, Aion summarized the TEA and showed some “sizzle” reels from TEA member companies BRC Imagination Arts, Contour Entertainment, COST of Wisconsin and S&S Worldwide.

“Many of the students are very focused on video games,” observed Aion. “I told them about location-based entertainment and traced a connection for them between video games and consumer experience. I explained that what they are learning now can translate into a visitor attraction such as Disney’s Toy Story Mania. They were enthusiastic.” He finished his presentation and pronounced “class dismissed!” Then, reported Aion, “about 25 students cornered me, excited and animated, wanting to know more about the industry, the companies and how to find out more about them."

The conversation continued until it was time for the next class. "Iris moved me into the library and notified the students I was available for more questions, and the conversation went on for another three hours. We got really in depth on a lot of things concerning the industry.”

At the mixer the following evening, Thurs 28 October, the 100+ attendees comprised students, alumni, professors, support staff, and an intriguing cross section of people from area businesses, nonprofits and creative entities, including: Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Kennywood park, Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Caterpillar, Braskem, Evil Genius Designs (founded by ETC alumni), girlsFIRST, IBM, Idea Foundry, Integrated Industrial Technologies, Kellner’s Fireworks, Pittsburgh Opera, Schell Games LLC (also connected to ETC alumni), Tepper School of Business, Andy Warhol Museum, Toonseum, and YoGeek (that last takes the prize for a descriptive company name). Penny Peavler of The Weber Group and Lenny Larsen of Next Generation Creative were there, both active volunteers within TEA.

There were a number of student projects on display in the room, and plenty of inquiring minds. “The students all cornered me again with more questions,” said Aion. “It was a terrific time and it’s clear that TEA has a lot to offer this group, and they us – they need to know about our industry, and our companies and projects will benefit from this new young talent pool. I want to express heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped organize and participated in this promising event.”

TEA gained several new student members as a result of this event, which grew out of a visit David Aion paid to ETC to meet with Don Marinelli and his team and tour the facility when he was traveling in the area several months ago. There are plans to repeat it again within the year, and to continue to build in other ways on the relationship between TEA and ETC.

Photos from top: David Aion, Don Marinelli

29 October 2010

You Gotta Believe: Transitioning from corporate to independent in the themed entertainment business

by Jumana Brodersen, The Jco, LL
This article has been published in the 2010 TEA Annual & Directory as well as on Blooloop.com.

Jumana Brodersen is president of the J Co, LLC, a design consulting firm that specializes in planning and design of venues that entertain and immerse guests. With a background in architecture, she has designed and managed projects as a consultant since 1982. Since 1998, she has worked on the owner side, planning and developing new attractions. She specializes in balancing vision and logistics. Prior to founding the Jco, she was corporate director of creative development with Busch Entertainment Corp. for 10 years. Website: http://thejco.com

Before launching my own business, I could count on one hand (actually, on one of Mickey Mouse's hands) the number of positions I'd had to actually interview for - when I joined a small firm in Dallas Texas fresh out of architecture school in 1981, when I joined RTKL in 1986, when I moved to St Louis and joined PGAV in 1988, and when I hired on at Busch Entertainment Corp. in 1998. (I have held numerous other positions but they all came to me through recommendations.) I stayed on at Busch as Director of Creative Development until, in 2008, the company announced it was relocating to Orlando. Rather than resettle myself and my two girls, I decided it was time to take the plunge, and I started The Jco, LLC.

That minimalist record of job interviews is something I was very proud of. But it's in the past. Now, virtually every day there's some kind of interview. It's called selling yourself, and it's something I thought I'd never have to do again after joining Busch, but I've embraced it. It is a necessary step to getting work, and it must be repeated many times per project. That's right – per project. Before you land that contract, chances are you will have to sell yourself and your skills to four or five different people in the organization, so they can all feel they are on board with the new consultant.

The world is a different place when you're on your own. Although I left Busch voluntarily, I'm facing many of the same issues as those who were laid off or downsized in this economy.

The good news is that no matter how bad the economy is, there is work available. But you do have to dig hard to find it. And just as there's no one person to interview with on a project, there's no one way to find a job. One of my current projects, the renovation and expansion of  a children’s play area for Tivoli Gardens, came about through my participating in a trade seminar (the TEA Summit). The client liked my presentation on the work I had done as Creative Director on Jungala for Busch Gardens Africa, and contacted me later.

When the client pre-selects you, that's as good as it gets. Also pretty good is when a third party recommends you to the client and they invite you to come out and sell yourself.  You sometimes have to pay your own way, but you don't have throngs of other candidates to compete with. The more challenging, common and confidence busting scenario, of course, is the RFP. As you write your proposal, you know that everyone else (including your former corporate colleagues) is writing theirs.

I have submitted about 10 proposals in response to RFPs and been shortlisted for two, and of those two I landed one, with the St Louis Zoo, where I am currently working on two animal attractions, and the renovation of the North Entrance “The Living World.” There were seven Zoo board members to sell myself to, but it was a gang interview, so I only had to clean and wear the suit once. Being shortlisted is exhilarating but it also leads to some of the hardest work you'll ever do, trying to sell yourself for the last leg of the journey. (And then, they may pick someone else. You're allowed to say “Bummer!” once, forcefully, when this happens. Then, talk to the person who did get the job. Find out how they positioned themselves, and learn from it.)

Cultivating visibility is extremely important, and your next opportunity could depend on it. Wouldn't it be marvelous if the client already had a pretty good idea of who you are, what you can do and if they want to work with you? That's fantasy. Once you are outside the corporate cocoon, you will find that people (a) very often don't know who you are or what you did, (b) treat you very differently now that you are no longer a potential route to employment. Of course, you need your own website and business card, you need to become active on social networks and in trade associations, be visible in the media, attend industry events and so forth. These all take time and money. And they take a lot of hard thought, because you have to figure out and communicate, in meaningful terms, who you are, what you have that clients value, what you can do and also what you want to do. Think hard about your skill set, and about who will be reading your information. (Also, think about how busy they are. Don't make it complicated for them – spell it out.)

Don't be vague. There are a dozen – or a hundred - other people who worked on the same projects you're laying claim to, and are waving around the same photos. (I know, because their brochures used to come across my desk.) What, exactly, did you do (and what exactly can you do for your prospective new client)? The more precise you are, the easier it will be for a client to visualize where you fit on their team. Depending on the role(s) you have played, there may be challenges in substantiating your work. My thing is front-end concept design. That's a key role in the early stages, but by the time the project opens and the greatest attention is focused on it, I'm no longer front and center. For example, on Jungala I had an internal design team working with me to flesh out the concept from my vision. Then, I parceled out the contract work to different companies. I'm not the architect of record and I didn't produce the end product. Recommendations from past clients and colleagues who can testify to my role and value on this and other projects have been very important to me in building an independent image and creating greater awareness of my contributions to the field.

Don't be over-selective – times are hard and it's good to broaden your horizons – but at the same time it is important to stay within the boundaries of what you are really good at. Because when the recovery hits, you don't want to be on the wrong path. Don't have your nose in the air, but before pursuing an opportunity, ask yourself, “Is this really my forte? Suppose I get this job – how will it position me for the future? Is this a branch of my path, or is it another path altogether?” Follow your bliss, even in bad times. The work you do now will be the best proof of what you can do next.

Over-selectivity will definitely work against you in the networking arena. Keep all your connections strong and keep making new ones – you can't know which of them may lead to your next job, or who you will find yourself working alongside, or under, next time around. It's a small world: don't burn bridges.

Finally, there's a kind of acceptance or even fatalism that I've cultivated in this new phase of doing business. I recognize that I don't have ultimate control. I may have drive, confidence, and skill but I'm not going to win every time. As they say at SeaWorld, you gotta “Believe.”

28 October 2010

Political background on US participation in world expos

by Alfred Heller with commentary from Judith Rubin and Gordon Linden

The USA Pavilion at the upcoming Shanghai Expo 2010 marks a significant turnaround (hopefully for the long term) in the US administration's attitude toward participation in world's fairs. Since around 1990, US presence at world expos has been very uneven and Federal support had fallen off dramatically. This 1992 editorial by Alfred Heller, editor of the former World's Fair magazine, provides some excellent background on the state of affairs at the United States Information Agency (USIA), which headed up US participation in expos abroad. The USIA was founded in 1955 as an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch, to explain and support American foreign policy and promote US national interests through a variety of overseas information programs. In 1999, the USIA was integrated into the US Department of State. – Judith Rubin

The US Eliminates Its Expo Office in Spite of Post-Cold-War Opportunities
by Alfred Heller

If you thought the worldwide criticism of the half-hearted, almost distracted US presence at Seville Expo 92 would somehow inspire the revitalization of the responsible federal agency, think again. The BIE (International Bureau of Expositions) office of the exhibits service of the United States Information Agency (USIA), never a robust unit, has not only not been revived, it no longer exists. John Coppola, former chief of the office, took a job at the Smithsonian Institution in 1991 and was not replaced. Kathleen Kalb, a career civil servant with plentiful world's fair experience, was removed as project manager of the US pavilion at Genoa's Colombo 92, after fundamental disagreements with representatives of the Amway Corporation, who had been allowed to take over the administration of the exhibit. Anita Grinvalds, an exhibits administrator in the office, was dismissed.

With so many expos coming up – Taejon next year, Budapest 1996, Lisbon 1998, Hanover 2000 – the exhibits service ought to be hard-pressed without expo staff. It isn't. The US is not exhibiting in Taejon, Budapest or Lisbon. That's official, that's policy, says John Carroll, chief of the operations division of the service. Instead, the USIA may designate the state of Alaska, possibly in combination with the Amway Corporation, never far from the expo scene these days, as the US representative in Taejon.

William K. Jones, director of the exhibits service, took Coppola's seat as US representative to the general assembly of the BIE, and has since become vice-chairman of the BIE executive committee, even as the expo office in his own agency has disappeared. Under the USIA's just-say-no policy, he abstained from the vote that selected Lisbon over Toronto for the 1998 expo, an undoubted cause of frustration for the losing bidder (and the US's good neighbor).

US policy toward expos has been under scrutiny by the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. With staff director Bruce Gregory, members of this presidentially appointed group visited the Seville expo to see the beleaguered US pavilion for themselves and talk with expo officials from Spain, Japan, Australia, France and the BIE. They must have gotten an earful, but all Gregory will say is that the commission has always believed, “if the US government is to become concerned in these events, we [should] do it well.” The conclusions of the current review won't be available until next year.

In its last annual report, the commission said world's fairs occur too often and “have outstripped the nation's willingness to fund them,” an opinion that has little or no factual basis. Congress does not jump to attention when asked for funding for US pavilions, in part because the second-rate exhibits the nation has been producing would give anyone pause. Nor are there too many world's fairs as the USIA, along with the advisory commission, believes. Some countries might not be able to justify spending a whole lot for expos; however, the US, Japan, Canada, Germany, the UK and others are always seeking new markets for their products and hoping to attract foreign visitors. They can probably derive, from each and every expo, benefits that far exceed the costs of participating. But I doubt the US government has ever conducted a broad-ranging cost-benefit analysis on the subject. In the meantime, no federal money is to be spent in any fashion on the three remaining expos of the '90s. Per order of Henry Catto, Jr., director, United States Information Agency.

With the sudden end of the Communist threat, budget-makers have been taking aim at the USIA, traditionally the propaganda arm of the government. What, after all, is left for the agency to do in a de-demonized world? In this atmosphere, the annual appropriation for Will Jones's exhibits service has been reduced from $1 million to $600,000. The money goes for such items as modest, portable shows of posters at US stations abroad. But to survive, the USIA still has to define a compelling new role for itself. The Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy should consider whether consistent, artful, expanded participation by the United States in world's fairs would be effective in helping the nation win the peace following decades of cold war: win the essential economic and cultural competitions, secure global environmental quality, and inspire those struggling for democratic rule. In my view, an exhibits service should be a growth industry in the USIA or some other, more receptive agency, and I would so advise the White House and the next president.

Reprinted with permission of World's Fair Inc. www.worldsfairs.com.

Editor's updates: John Coppola retired from the Smithsonian in 2005 and became a museum consultant. James Ogul, US project manager at Seville and atprevious expos, retired in 2011 from the Department of State. He played a role in vetting Nick Winslow's team for the USA Pavilion at Shanghai 2010... The Budapest 1996 expo was canceled... Bruce Gregory is currently an adjunct assistant professor at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. Henry Catto is currently vice president of the Aspen Institute... US membership in the BIE lapsed in 2002... In 1992, George HW Bush was ending his presidency, and William Clinton was elected to follow him. The US did ultimately have a presence at Taejon Expo 93, a small exhibit paid for by Amway Corp. and other private entities, designed by Stuart Silver in association with Rathe Prodns.

Present-day US government players whose actions have been instrumental in raising funds and garnering support for the USAP at Shanghai 2010 include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley and the Office of Public-Private Partnerships, Kris Balderston (Clinton's former chief of staff during her Senate years) and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Jose Villareal is Commissioner General, named by Clinton. The team producing the pavilion is headed by Nick Winslow and Ellen Eliasoph. – J.R.

Postscript: The US Presence at Seville Expo 92
Gordon Linden

Gordon Linden, who played a consulting role on the US Pavilion at Seville Expo 92, contributed the following postscript. It further illustrates how a lack of Federal support undermined the project. Linden is currently consulting for the city of Edmonton, Canada in its bid to host the 2017 world expo. He is author of The Expo Book, www.theexpobook.com.

Plans for the U.S. presence at Seville’s Expo 92 initially coalesced with the US announcing the team of Barton Meyers Associates, BHA Design (Barry Howard) and Sussman/Prezja as the winner of an architectural competition to design the pavilion and exhibits. The project began to go forward but without firm financial commitments despite the efforts of commissioner general Fred Bush (no relation to the presidential family). When the costs started adding up and government oversight began in earnest, the project was halted and a hasty re-design ordered. Only a few design elements from the winning concept were retained. To save money, two used geodesic dome structures which the US Government owned were brought to the Seville site to provide interior exhibition spaces. Major League Baseball, attempting to promote the sport in Spain and Europe during the run-up to the 1992 Olympic Games which were held in Barcelona, had an outdoor exhibition in which Spanish-speaking players from the Major Leagues demonstrated their skills. General Motors had a display, as did Seville’s sister city, Kansas City. Bowing to pressure from outspoken Senators who sought to further control cost, project management of the pavilion was assigned to the US Navy submarine base in nearby Rota. Inexperienced in this type of undertaking, the Rota team became embroiled in several disputes and internal difficulties; these were eventually were sorted out and the pavilion was finished in time for opening day. The conceptual cost estimate, provided by the original architectural team, for the pavilion structure was $7 million. Yet, even with the redesign and use of prefabricated structures, it actually cost twice that - $14 million; the total US participation costs, including the pavilion, were about $35 million. In spite of the trials and tribulations the US team faced in mounting the exhibit, over 3.1 million visits were recorded which put the pavilion in the top quarter of the participating nations in terms of popularity.

14 September 2010

All about Expo pavilions with Electrosonic: Sept 2 TEA gathering draws 80 people

Under the umbrella of the Themed Enter-tainment Assoc-iation (TEA) Western Division, Robert Simpson and Chris Conte of Electrosonic addressed a crowd of almost 80 attendees at the company's Sept 2 TEA presentation, held at Electrosonic's Burbank office. Conte introduced and Simpson narrated an AV presentation about the various pavilions at Shanghai Expo 2010 for which Electrosonic was an AV systems provider. David Aion, president of the TEA Western Division, provided photos and reported to us some indicators of how lively and successful a gathering this was.

"The angle was what to do and what not to do when planning and building an expo pavilion," noted Aion. "When it comes to world expos, Electrosonic is very experienced, and Bob Simpson's remarks were insightful as well as funny. We all enjoyed his British sense of humor and learned that we'd better plan well when it comes to a world's fair, especially one that covers such enormous physical distances as Shanghai 2010.

"Bob also reinforced the point," continued Aion, "that everything we do in this business of themed entertainment and attractions design/production is a collaborative effort. It isn't as difficult as it may seem to plan for huge crowds, but you do have to plan. Some Shanghai Expo pavilions worked well when others did not. Some were there to actually showcase their countries and some were there to sell souvenirs."

Companies represented at the event included AKA Engineering, Disney, TransFX, Mousetrappe, Gartner Design, Sacher Creative, Utopia, Methodology, SimEx-Iwerks, Universal Creative, The Hettema Group, The Attraction Services Company, Monteverdi Creative, David Kneupper, David A. Price AIA, WET Design, Matilda Entertainment, Atomic Ant Models, The Scenic Route, Taft Design + Associates, Ltd., S.C.T., Next, Visual Terrain, CIA-Artists, nWave Pictures, Technomedia Solutions, Lexington, LA ProPoint, Lighthouse, Thinkwell, Ride Games, Fountain People, Attraction Media & Entertainment, Jordan Coleman, Extron, Wyatt Design, MGM, USC, Mindi Lipschultz, Harman, The Ride Guru, PHA, Vertex Productions, Mountain Ear Productions, TransFX, Far Out Creative, Gary Goddard Prodns., Sound Marketing Reps, Leff Brain, ShoConcepts, Sywa Sung, fsy Architects, Inc. and Wendy M Benitez.

10 September 2010

Two or three things I knew about feasibility pioneer Harrison "Buzz" Price and "Markets, Markets, Markets"

The late Harrison "Buzz" Price, who died August 15 at the age of 89 was, as many better acquainted with him than I have already said, a person of great vision and accomplishment, with both hemispheres of the brain deeply engaged, and also a man of wit and warmth. I had the good fortune to meet Buzz shortly after I stumbled into the themed entertainment industry in 1987. That was the year I joined World's Fair magazine (no longer published), and as I got to know world expos, I also got to know industry players such as Buzz Price, who had done numerous expo feasibility studies.

This article also appeared as the cover story of InPark Magazine in November 2010.

To me as an editor and publicist, Harrison Price was a great resource - he didn't just know the industry, he was part of the fabric of the industry. He could always be relied on to provide a razor-sharp, witty observation or analysis - and was eminently quotable. In 1994, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) established the Thea Awards, beginning with just one award - for lifetime achievement. Buzz Price was the recipient. Back at World's Fair magazine, we tapped Buzz to write "So You Want to Have a World's Fair" - a breakthrough article that holds up quite well today and which was reprinted, with updated commentary, in the 2011 TEA Annual & Directory (the same issue also contains an article by Leslie Morisetti about Buzz Price's legacy as the founder of economics feasibility for entertainment.)

Thinking about Buzz Price and the good things that came to me from the privilege of intersecting his grand orbit, the word "breakthrough" keeps coming to mind. After I became a freelancer in the mid-90s, Buzz recommended me for a marketing research project with a top company. It was a career breakthrough in terms of what I was able to achieve for the client and what I learned in the course of the project.

A few years later, in 1999 it was a thrill to be part of the team that brought Buzz Price in to deliver the keynote address for the annual conference of the Large Format Cinema Association (now merged with the Giant Screen Cinema Association). Chris Reyna was LFCA president and Therese Andrade was conference chair. Buzz took the assignment very seriously and did a complete market study of the industry. I was in a position to furnish him with leads for his study, and we spent a lot of time on the phone together. At the conference itself, I had the honor of introducing Buzz for his keynote.

I haven't been able to locate a copy of my speech introducing Harrison "Buzz" Price to a roomful of special-venue cinema producers, filmmakers, distributors, equipment suppliers, service providers and theater operators. But in my media relations role for LFCA I wrote a number of press releases about the conference, and there are two about Buzz Price. Click here to view them.

Buzz Price's LFCA keynote, "Markets, Markets, Markets," (a playful reference to Peter Guber's "story, story, story" keynote given the previous year) was extremely positive and received with huge enthusiasm. His research showed that there was plenty of room for growth in many areas of the special format cinema industry. I believe Harrison Price's vision of the possible futures of giant screen cinema was instrumental in helping an industry that was founded on a somewhat narrow footing and struggling with its business models begin to achieve a breakthrough in perspective. His findings are to a great extent being validated now with the explosion of special venue and special format immersive media such as 4D theaters, 3D cinema, and digital dome displays (fulldome) we're seeing in a wide variety of entertainment and education markets.

Thank you, Buzz. You had a gift for being professional and confident while also being genuine and friendly, and disarmingly frank. You were a powerful person but what you projected was joy and deep interest in the world around you.

Photos: Roy E Disney and Buzz Price, Harrison "Buzz" Price at his desk. Thanks to BRC Imagination Arts for the photos and video.

07 August 2010

Triumph of the USA Pavilion at Shanghai

The video speaks for itself. Thanks to Nick Winslow, BRC Imagination Arts, Clive Grout, Norm Elder, Hillary Clinton and other determined and talented individuals in government and in business, plus the generosity of the pavilion's sponsors, the US has a meaningful presence at the largest international cultural event in the history of the planet. This team knows what world expos are all about, they understood why the US had to be there without fail, and they made it happen against considerable odds.

02 August 2010

Primates interact at Garner Holt booth at Asian Attractions Expo

What's going on in this picture?

At the recent Asian Attractions Expo in Malaysia, Garner Holt Productions (GHP) attracted plenty of booth traffic with the company's popular animatronic gorilla.

"We were virtually inundated with people attracted to the gorilla," reports Jody Van Meter, VP marketing and sales for GHP. "We had it on a radio controlled sensor that lets the operator decide when to trigger it to growl. Seemed everyone wanted their picture taken with it, and we tried to trigger the snarl and growl as someone was cuddling up to it for a shot. It was a great crowd pleaser as throughout the show people were startled when it came to life."

Of course, some people don't want to cuddle with a gorilla - they'd rather ham it up. The guy you see wagging his finger at the beast is Bob Chambers of It's Alive Co.

17 July 2010

Themed Entertainment Association Western Division havin' too much fun at FlightDeck event

Flightdeck Air Combat Center in Anaheim was the venue for the July 14 Western Division mixer of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). TEA Western Division prez David Aion of Aion Creative is shown here getting 100% into the spirit of the event, which was completely full - 23 industry members suiting up for simulated in-air combat. Working in this industry does have its perks!

21 June 2010

Building bridges between film and digital exhibition

My column for The Planetarian, published by the International Planetarium Society, and reprinted on Blooloop.com. This first appeared in June 2010.

"The rapid growth of digital dome theaters in planetariums and science centers signals an exponential and very welcome increase in the potential distribution market for creators of educational content for special venues. In addition to the relatively small and finite Imax/70mm theater network they can now have the much larger, and rapidly growing, network of digital domes in mind."

Full story here.

Oasis of the Seas - World's largest cruise ship, world's coolest AV systems

My tome on Oasis of the Seas, said to be the largest passenger cruise ship ever built, gets into detail about some of the many, very impressive audiovisual and control systems on this vessel and the companies and consultants who worked with Royal Caribbean to build it. It was published in the March edition of Sound & Communications magazine and can be viewed in the digital issue here.

Another Oasis story in IPM
'The Marine-Land Industry Crossover
FUNA president Rex Stull has a background in live audio, touring as a sound engineer with Broadway productions and concerts. He had his first taste of working on a ship in New York City, mixing for headline entertainers on cruises to Bermuda, then worked his way up to being a project manager for installations. “A core thing for making a cruise ship work is to come at it from both sides: balancing the issues of permanent installation, proper techniques and install practices vs a one-off or temporary version. We try to blend those two things so that we can get the system installed correctly to hold up to the hard conditions, and serve the needs of the group of people who will come in and run it. We try to have both creative people and tech people on the design staff – to use both sides of the brain.”

On Oasis, FUNA’s initial design team was led by Marc Goossens, who has an electrical engineering background. Goossens was assisted by Derek Warner and senior technician Andy Clement. As the project transitioned from conceptual design to supply contract, Warner headed the team for detailed engineering from FUNA’s Finland offices (the shipyard that built Oasis is in Finland as well). Stull notes that FUNA tends to put together its commissioning teams out of live theater, and hire its engineers from Europe where there are strong vocational programs (140+ employees in Europe).

Photo: Royal Caribbean
Stull sees a “huge crossover” between cruise ships and land-based projects today. “Oasis has its Royal Promenade, carousel, comedy clubs, restaurants, theaters and large themed entertainment spaces. Today’s leaders in the cruise ship industry are taking the entire concept of themed entertainment environments and applying them.” The crossover also manifests in personnel: Numerous senior FUNA employees have backgrounds in theater, at major theme parks and Las Vegas resorts.

The family market is another parallel. “What we are seeing now is demand for a more active vacation by families, and a younger crowd. Oasis has a 28,700 square foot Youth Zone with areas for four separate age groups: teen clubs, outdoor teen areas, more than 50 child counselors on the ship, plus zip lines, rock climbing, surfing machines... Entire families take these cruises.”

In terms of building culture, “The cruise ship can be the model for the new lean and mean greenbuilding age, now that they are starting to rein in space requirements in buildings and developers want to consolidate to a smaller footprint,” said Stull. “Leading with such things as the employment of LEDs and other low-power, low-heat components, ships set an example of how to build in cost savings all the way down the line.” As a model for entertainment complexes, “the ship is 24/7, multipurpose and multi-use, running 12 hours a day or more. You need things compact and reliable. You’ve got to have safety compliance.” People flow is another finely honed art on a well-run cruise ship: Oasis of the Seas can have more than 6,000 people moving among its multiple entertainment venues.

Stull feels that land-based projects would also benefit by observing the planning phases of marine-based jobs. “On land, many times the planning phases are not given enough time and emphasis.” He emphasized that “because ships are cutting steel very early in the process, architectural coordination and integration, the process of defining your scope, and planning your systems” are more thorough. “Ships are forced into that because there’s not a lot of room to miss. Apply those processes to land and people will see much greater impact for the money they spend.” He also advises taking a harder look at the long-term footprint of a project. “The final piece would be people worrying about things like usage costs. A lot of times it seems cheaper to put in an incandescent light bulb, but look at the life of the project down to its environmental impact, and the lifetime costs of the product vs the initial startup costs. That’s something cruise lines do because they know their single biggest expense is fuel.”

Isn’t that true of all projects on Cruise Ship Earth?'

23 January 2010

Concerning Theme Park Special Effects, WED Illusioneering, Bill Novey, Epcot, Mark Fuller, Monty Lunde...

Here's an article about the genesis of the theme park special effects industry, tracing it from Yale Gracey and Bill Novey at Disney to the post-Epcot diaspora and formation of such companies as Art & Technology, WET and Technifex. I first wrote it in 1997, and it is now on Blooloop, with some where-are-they-now updates and photos. It is timely in light of Mark Fuller (WET founder and CEO) having recently been named to receive the Thea Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Photo: Young Monte Lunde (later, the founder of Technifex) working on a projector at WED Illusioneering. Courtesy Technifex.

04 January 2010

New stories on the US presence at Shanghai Expo 2010

This excellent Jan 2 story in the New York Times by Mark Lander and David Barboza chronicles Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's role in raising awareness and funds for the USA Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010.

This reprint of a 1992 World's Fair editorial by Alfred Heller (with updates and commentary) provides background on the thorny political climate that has hampered the US participating in world expos since around 1990.

Both articles help underscore the importance of US participation in expos and the dramatic accomplishment that the USAP at Shanghai represents. Let us hope this signals a permanent shift back towards the US government furnishing support (both political and financial) for exhibiting at world's fairs on a regular basis.

Photo: Philippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images