23 December 2020

AOA selected by ENR as one of 100 top construction management/project management firms

Mike Ostendorf, AOA Co-Founder and CEO said, “We owe this mark of prestige and success to our clients: to their vision and their confidence in us."

ENR’s (Engineerring News Record) definitive lists of top firms serving the construction sector are published annually and a trusted resource for project owners.

AOA has a portfolio of high-profile, public facing projects each valuing between $2 million to $400 million, from fully immersive entertainment environments to live shows to hospitality spaces, resorts, themed dining and retail, architecture and show set design, rides, training and simulation and more. The company’s international client list includes major Fortune 500 companies and top brands such as Disney, Blackstone, Coca-Cola, Wyndham, Virgin, Tesla, Google, and Meow Wolf as well as numerous distinguished museums, aquariums, nonprofits and corporations.... READ FULL STORY

Houba! Benoit Cornet and his new company, BoldMove, hear the call of the Marsupilami

With the “Houba World” announcement, Cornet indicates that he has done the legwork for BoldMove to facilitate the Marsupilami IP to roll out onto multiple attractions platforms including theme parks, LBE and zoos. 

“Houba” is the call (and the entire vocabulary) of the Marsupilami, a fictional, marsupial type animal originated by the late, Belgian artist AndrĂ© Franquin. The Marsupilami family is best known in Belgium and France, but its international following is growing. Since its first appearance in comic books in the 1950s it has successfully migrated to animated series, a feature film, a video game, a merchandise line and to a limited extent in attractions.... CLICK FOR FULL STORY

03 December 2020

Freetouch BYOD technology helps museums and attractions keep interactives in play

A few issues currently facing the attractions industry: How to keep experiences engaging and immersive while moving toward touch-free; how to engage visitors who are already deeply engaged with their mobile phones; how to reopen and refresh a facility and its exhibits on a pandemic budget – and what to do with touchscreen interactives in a time when touching common surfaces is problematic.

With the launch of his new product Freetouch™ (patent pending), experience designer Darren David offers an umbrella solution that not only addresses the issues but suggests new creative possibilities.

As the CEO of Stimulant, David has been on the design and production end of things, creating many interactive exhibits for clients in museums, visitor centers, brand experiences, retail and other public-facing environments. When the pandemic hit, those clients started calling asking for new solutions. Their touchscreen experiences were now potential liabilities. 

David devised a new, proprietary platform that brings together QR codes, mobile devices, and cloud computing, making the most of advances in the technology to quickly create the Freetouch prototype. “The QR/mobile confluence has hit a tipping point that hadn’t existed before,” he says. “You used to have to download a separate app to read a QR code but now it’s built in to the camera app on the mobile device. Snap, tap and you are there.”

....Story by Judith Rubin for InPark Magazine


Angry Birds are teed off in new branded experience at Topgolf venues

Although it is generally not recommended that one play golf angry, it is enthusiastically suggested by both Topgolf Entertainment Group, the global sports and entertainment company, and Rovio Entertainment, creator of the popular Angry Birds franchise, that you combine your next round of Topgolf with a game of Angry Birds for a unique, extended reality playing experience.

In August 2020, Topgolf and Rovio announced the partnership to bring gaming’s “most enraged birds” to Topgolf venues that has since rolled out the new branded experience in 30 locations across the U.S. The experience applies Topgolf ’s proprietary Toptracer ball-tracing technology to blend the physical act of hitting a golf ball with the digital, physics-based destruction that Angry Birds delivers. Taking on a variety of light-hearted challenges, Topgolf guests can partner with much-loved Angry Birds characters Red, Chuck and Bomb to demolish virtual structures placed on the Topgolf targets.
The combination is designed to please the golfers and the gamers and create new audiences for both. “While the Angry Birds brand has a wide global appeal, we’re always looking for ways to provide new experiences for our existing fans, as well as engage those who may not have interacted with our brand in the past,” says Rovio Chief Marketing Officer Ville Heijari. “What we have with Topgolf is a mutually exciting opportunity to offer something fun and fresh to their guests.”

....Story by Judith Rubin and Michael Oliver for InPark Magazine 

06 March 2018

Expanding horizons: Anthony Esparza talks about his tenure as CCO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Anthony Esparza spoke at the 2016 TEA Summit in his former role as CCO,
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Photo by Chris Chien for TEA; provided courtesy TEA.

"I am most proud of the establishment of SeaWorld’s creative arm, Deep Blue Creative. That brought together attractions, entertainment, media and new business development together under one umbrella and in one place. As Deep Blue Creative, they became a team. This brought a new creative spirit to the way SeaWorld functions – all the creative people aligned around the company goals, communicating and collaborating. The founding of Deep Blue Creative set a strong foundation for new ventures such as the new park in Abu Dhabi, and it revitalized programs such as Sesame Workshop."

Anthony Esparza had joined SeaWorld shortly after former CEO Joel Manby took the helm and had previously been part of Manby’s team at Herschend Entertainment. Judith Rubin interviewed Anthony on March 2, 2018, the day after SeaWorld announced his departure and less than a week after Manby stepped down.

07 November 2017

From amusement park cleanup to brand experience expert: Geoff Thatcher, Creative Principals

Geoff Thatcher working with producers from The Brand Experience
at StudioEIS, a sculpture studio in Brooklyn in May 2017.
Geoff launched his own company, Creative Principals, in July 2017.
Photo Credit: Elliot Schwartz.

Geoff Thatcher, grownup, brings the same enthusiasm to his work that Geoff Thatcher, teenager, brought initially, years ago, to Lagoon Amusement Park – whether it was cleanup, feeding the animals or writing titles for training slideshows.

“Geoff always had it in him, even when he was 14. We all knew, ‘this kid’s gonna do something great,’” said Lori Capener, Geoff's former supervisor at Lagoon. "He was always ready and willing to do whatever new thing came down the chute, and he was good at motivating others. He was rarin’ to go.”

Geoff's career took him from journalism to JRA, and then to creating corporate branded experiences, where he's had great success applying what he calls "The Experience Model."

As brands and IP have assumed a new prominence in entertainment attractions, Geoff has returned to the heart of the attractions industry - now, as founder and Chief Creative Officer of his own company, Creative Principals.

Read the full story by Judith Rubin for InPark Magazine issue #70, Nov 2017.

15 Candles: The Hettema Group

The driver of this company’s work is “aiming for awe” – creating projects that give guests goosebumps; borne out by some of their best-known work, such as One World Observatory, High Roller and “Beyond All Boundaries,” each of which has become an icon in its own way.

The Hettema Group got its start when Jeffrey Katzenberg, a longtime collaborator and client, recommended Phil Hettema for a project in Jordan. Katzenberg, whose current company is WndrCo, said, “I’ve known Phil for more than 30 years, having worked with him collaborating all the way back to the days at Disney. I worked with him during his time at Universal when DreamWorks had a theme park deal with Universal, and then with him directly at DreamWorks Animation.

“Phil is one of the most innovative and creative and dynamic storytellers in the world of live experiences,” said Katzenberg. “He’s done so many amazing projects over the years – everything from Seuss Landing at Universal, to One World Observatory in New York. He’s just incredibly diverse and skilled at all the many elements of three-dimensional storytelling. He is pretty unique.”

Click for full story - this was the cover feature for InPark Magazine issue #70, November 2017.

30 October 2017

Peanuts/Cedar Fair deal shows Snoopy is good for the brand, good for the park

Peanuts characters in their Halloween costumes
at Kings Island’s Great Pumpkin Fest event.
Photo courtesy Cedar Fair Entertainment Company.

Cedar Fair and Peanuts recently renewed an agreement of 30 years standing, extending the licensing agreement for their popular Camp Snoopy and Planet Snoopy themed areas as well as for the characters to serve as overall park mascots to 2025 at all 11 Cedar Fair parks.

Craig Herman,
Director, Category Management,
Peanuts Worldwide
The relationship with Cedar Fair has been extremely important to Peanuts Worldwide and their desire for consumers young and old to experience the brand in location based entertainment (LBE). Peanuts Worldwide continues to explore and discuss new opportunities with licensees around the world, and in November 2017, representatives will once again attend the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando to meet with creatives and potential partners.

Peanuts takes the LBE market seriously and has dedicated people to identify opportunities and collaborate with licensees. Two of the main point persons are Craig Herman, Director, Category Management, Peanuts Worldwide; and consultant George Wade of Bay Laurel Advisors, who will both be taking meetings at IAAPA in Orlando.

“This is a brand that appeals to men, women, and children, and is not gender specific,” said Herman. “It’s never been controversial and yet remains universally meaningful, taking on all kinds of life issues. That’s what makes it an evergreen brand that remains relevant to today’s audiences as well.”

Read the full story by Judith Rubin in issue #70 of InPark Magazine

13 September 2017

Flying Dreams attraction at Ferrari Land represents a media production breakthrough in the use of drones for large format dome cinema

“Flying Dreams” represents a breakthrough in the use of drones for specialty cinema. From the first test of equipment in the field, to the international shoot in six countries, to the last pixel in post production, the media production team led by Mousetrappe faced and overcame a series of unique challenges.
The “Flying Dreams” media production team is a who’s who of specialty cinema and special venue attractions, helmed by Mousetrappe, with Daren Ulmer (director) and David Briggs (writer), Don MacBain (producer), Sean Phillips (director of photography), Ken Saba (editor), Rick Rothschild (consultant); Jon Baker and Bruce Broughton (music and sound) and Muse VFX (visual effects).
“Flying Dreams” is a new flying theater attraction in the Ferrari Experience building at the new Ferrari Land, a third gate that opened in April 2017 at the PortAventura theme park destination resort near Barcelona. “Flying Dreams” serenely soars over world landmarks and swoops down to spotlight 11 different models of Ferrari GT™.