13 May 2011

Interview with Phil Hettema about designing the Hello Kitty Park, set to open near Shanghai in 2014

Photo courtesy The Hettema Group
It might seem incongruous for a company coming off an American historical attraction (Beyond All Boundaries at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans) to next announce designing an entire family theme park in China, but as Hettema points out in the following interview, storytelling is storytelling. And he’s no stranger to large-scale undertakings: prior to establishing The Hettema Group about 9 years ago, Hettema oversaw the creation of Universal Islands of Adventure in the role of senior vice president for Universal Creative. 

Here's an excerpt of my interview with him, done for InPark Magazine:

Phil Hettema: "Hello Kitty has a pretty strong presence in China, but we will go beyond her immediate circle to have about 35-40 characters appear in the park. I think part of the reason Sanrio is doing this is to open their demographic amid the developing market in China. The first goal is to make it a great place for families to come: as the middle class in China grows, there’s a corresponding need for family entertainment and family activities.

"The secret of building a really great theme park is that all the elements combine: food and merchandise, landscaping, area development, the technology in the rides and so forth. It’s all interrelated - so the biggest job on a project like this is communication. There is so much happening so fast. Once concept and design are complete, it becomes a real project management challenge to bring all the entities together and maintain the quality of design throughout.

"Nowadays, these kinds of projects are built on business alliances with a combination of government involvement and private interests bringing talent together to make it happen..." see the full interview here.