Author Archives: Rick West

Theme Park Design & The Art of Themed Entertainment Book by David Younger Arriving Soon

BookCoverFrontWant to design a theme park? Over the past century, theme parks have created worlds where pirates still loot Caribbean towns, where daring adventurers explore booby-trapped temples, and where superheroes swing from New York skyscrapers – and allowed us to step into them too. This is a book about how to design those fantastic places, and the ingenuity that goes into their creation.

This is a handbook for the practicing designer, a textbook for the aspiring student, and a behind the scenes guidebook for the theme park fan, drawing on hundreds of interviews with accomplished designers from Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Creative, Merlin Entertainments, and more. Theme Park Design & The Art of Themed Entertainment explores everything from the stories, themes, and characters that theme parks bring to life, to the business models, processes, and techniques that allow them to do it.

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A Tour of Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood With Supervising Art Director Alan Gilmore

Wizarding World Hollywood 2016_5589From the door knobs to the aged walls and textured flooring. From original merchandise to table tops in Three Broomsticks. These authentic details are an integral part to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Supervising Art Director Alan Gilmore has a story to tell behind it all. Gilmore worked on the Harry Potter films as an Art Director, and was brought on to work cohesively with Universal Creative to bring Hogsmeade to life and help translate the film design into a real place.

“I’ve learned so much with them [Universal Creative]. It’s been a really fascinating journey for the last seven years with us working together,” Gilmore explained to a group of us as we walked together into the Wizarding World.

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Butterfly Jungle Opens March 12 at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

It’s Time to Spread Your Wings and Fly, Little Butterfly: Annual Butterfly Jungle Lands at the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkThe butterflies are fluttering, the birds are chirping, and the nectar plants are in. This week, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Butterfly Jungle opens to the public, and the excitement is palpable. Thousands of butterflies from more than 20 species will flitter around guests as they make their way through the tropical Hidden Jungle aviary. Safari Park visitors will get the chance to see butterflies from Asia, Africa and Central, South and North America—including the electric blue morpho, the exotic giant owl, and the brilliant orange Julia. There may even be a surprise species or two this year.

“We are always pleasantly surprised if we get an unusual species that is on our import permit, and so will our guests be,“ said Michael Mace, curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “With 20 species of butterflies, there’s every color, shape and size for everyone.” Guests will also be mesmerized by the lush greenery and many exotic birds that populate Hidden Jungle, such as red-crested turacos, African pygmy geese and beautiful sunbirds.

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New Revolution Virtual Reality Component Unveiled by Six Flags Magic Mountain

SFMM VR Revolution Key ArtSix Flags Magic Mountain, the undisputed thrill capital of the world, today announced final details for The New Revolution, North America’s first fully-integrated Virtual Reality (VR) roller coaster from Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus, to develop a multi-dimensional virtual coaster experience. The Valencia-based theme park stays true to its history of launching coaster thrills to new and unprecedented levels of exhilaration by immersing riders in a completely virtual world. From the moment riders board and don Samsung Gear VR, the traditional roller coaster experience is transformed. High-definition imagery and storytelling syncs with the unique track configuration creating a one-of-a-kind seamless “real world” to “virtual world” thrill ride experience. Riders now become co-pilots seated in the cockpit of a true-to-life fighter jet, flying through a futuristic city while virtually engaged in a battle to protect the Planet against alien invaders, all while racing over the 3,500 feet of twisting, turning, looping coaster track.

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New Details Revealed About Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Universal Orlando

Skull Island Reign of Kong Great Wall Night time shot IOA

Soon, you will be transported to an island shrouded in mystery and legend.  It is a lost world where adventure – and the unimaginable – will challenge you in unforgettable ways.

When it opens this summer at Universal Orlando Resort’s Islands of Adventure, Skull Island: Reign of Kong will bring the next generation of the King Kong legend to life.  You will be thrust into an exotic world filled with the menacing, the intense – and the wildly entertaining.  A powerful storyline, a stunning 3D experience, innovative technology – and the unexpected – will pull you into one of Universal Orlando’s most massive adventures yet.  This is a multi-dimensional experience filled with surprise – all wrapped into what will be one of the longest Universal ride experiences ever created.

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Ocean Explorer Attraction Announced for SeaWorld San Diego in 2017

Ocean Explorer - Submarine Ride

SeaWorld San Diego will unveil an extraordinary, new attraction in 2017 that will create an expedition of wonder across the seven seas. Ocean Explorer will combine multiple aquariums, exciting rides and digital technologies to engage park guests in an experience centered on exploration and adventure inspiring them to protect the wonders of our oceans.

“I’m extremely excited about Ocean Explorer and I know our guests, of all ages, are going to love this fun, interactive and educational new area of the park,” said John Reilly, SeaWorld San Diego’s park president. “The opportunity to see and learn about some of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures, coupled with a mix of distinctive rides and activities, will give our visitors a meaningful experience only SeaWorld can create.”

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SeaWorld Orlando Unveils Lead Car for Mako Roller Coaster

20160216_MakoRideVehicleReveal_018This week, SeaWorld Orlando unveiled the custom-built Mako lead car that will take riders on a thrilling experience this summer – the tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster in Orlando.

Mako’s design and engineering was inspired by the real Mako shark – one of the ocean’s fastest shark species.  When it opens, Mako will top 200 feet high and reach speeds of 73 mph on a track that’s nearly a mile long. The new ride will be a hypercoaster, which means it’s all about speed, tight turns and that weightless feeling riders get at the top of each hill.

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Stars to Shine Bright on The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60

Disneyland 60ABC has announced that a star-­studded line-­up of music, film and television personalities will participate in the festivities on The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60.  Stars include Jessica Alba, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson, Priyanka Chopra, Viola Davis, Hilary Duff, Ginnifer Goodwin, Nolan Gould, Neil Patrick Harris, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sarah Hyland, Jimmy Kimmel, Dame Helen Mirren, Lupita Nyong’o, Pink, Alfonso Ribeiro, John Stamos, Eric Stonestreet, Kiefer Sutherland, Kerry Washington, Ariel Winter and Zendaya. The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60, with Master of Ceremonies Derek Hough, airs SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 21 (8:00 – 10:00 p.m. EST) on the ABC Television Network.

Previously-announced participants and performers include  Kelsea Ballerini,  Witney Carson, Harrison Ford, Josh Gad, Jessie J, Elton John, Tori Kelly and Kermit the Frog, Maddie Ziegler and The Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by music and artistic director Gustavo Dudamel.

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Wizarding World of Harry Potter Soft Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood Soft OpenAt about 2:45 PM on February 12, 2016, history was made here in Los Angeles as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter soft-opened for the first time to park guests at Universal Studios Hollywood. The moment marked the end of a long journey that began on December 6, 2011, when Universal made the official announcement that Harry and the gang from Hogwarts would indeed, be coming to Southern California. Since then, Universal Studios Hollywood has embarked on an unprecedented growth spurt – a transformation unlike the property has ever seen.

You may find yourself asking what a “soft open” actually is, and that’s a valid question. The term “soft open” is often used in themed entertainment (and other industries) when it comes to new rides and attractions that are in their preview stage. Once a new attraction is ready for its first guests and a series of technical/dress rehearsals, it will often be put into operation during park operating hours, allowing guests the opportunity to experience it unannounced. Not only is this a thrilling revelation for guests – it’s an important period for the park in question to start understanding guest flow patterns, focus on tweaks and adjustments, and to really polish the show before the grand opening date arrives. Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is now in its soft open stage. It’s very important to point out however, that a soft open period also comes with risk and uncertainty to guests arriving with the expectation that the attraction in question will actually be operational. In the weeks to come, Universal will be adjusting various aspects of the new land and its attractions. Guests may or may not be allowed into the area, and should understand that if you go to Universal Studios Hollywood prior to April 7, there absolutely is a chance that Potter may not be available, or that one of the land’s two attractions may not be operational. If you happen to own an annual pass, a soft open period can be a “safe bet” because you really have nothing to lose – except a few hours if you choose to wait around for the area to open. However, if you are planning on visiting and buying a ticket to get in to Universal and are expecting to experience the Wizarding World in all of its glory, you really should wait until after April 7, to ensure the land is opening and everything is ready to roll.

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TPA Mixers at Don the Beachcomber off to a Great Start in 2016

Winter Nights at Don's January 2016It’s hard to believe we’re already two month into 2016, but we are! With the temperature a chilly 86 degrees outside, it’s definitely wintertime here in Southern California, as El Nino plows into us with wave after wave of devastating storms. At this rate, we may never see summer. It’s a good thing we have each other to raise our spirits and keep each other warm and safe inside the Hidden Village at Don the Beachcomber as our mixers continue in this new year!

On the evening of Sunday, January 17th, more than 100 theme park fans and haunt enthusiasts gathered at the famous tiki restaurant in Huntington Beach to kick off our Winter Nights at Don’s 2016 gatherings! It was tremendous to see everyone come together after the holidays, and ring in the new year together with potent tropical cocktails and exotic (okay, not so exotic) eats and treats!

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