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30 November 2011

Turtles and Cruise Ships are the new black: More notes from IAAPA


SeaWorld's Brian Morrow (at Discovery Cove)
by Judith Rubin, IPM co-editor
SimEx-Iwerks keeps it in the family
Established provider of specialty cinema systems and content SimEx-Iwerks has closed its Burbank offices in favor of a smaller location in Santa Clarita. Over the years since acquiring Iwerks Entertainment, the company has consolidated most of its operations in Toronto, where the parent entity is based. At the same time the company has set up a new office in Baltimore to better serve zoos and aquariums, outposts in China and Russia to address overseas markets, and formed a new content-focused company, Synthesiz3D, with Richard Needham as creative director. And that’s not all – starting in spring, SimEx-Iwerks is poised to roll out a series of “5D” theaters on Carnival Cruise Lines ships.

Notes from the Asia-Pacific breakfast
Building on a business background and 15-year career in wireless communications, Charles Oliva recently founded the mobile media company Lavahound. The company has developed a variety of apps for special events and tours, and recently provided a special iPhone app to enhance the experiences of guests visiting Sesame Place for Halloween.

We’ve heard a lot about The Red Sea Astrarium lately – a new, high-tech mega-resort and theme park being developed in Aqaba, Jordan. Its most talked-about feature has been the Star Trek attraction and we were fortunate enough to run into Byung Lee, Technical Director of On-Track Themes in Fillmore, Calif. Lee informed us that his company is helping to develop the Star Trek attraction, under contract to Paramount.

Grand Aquarium, Ocean Park Hong Kong. Image: PGAV Destinations
Some of the projects that people were talking about included Ocean Park Hong Kong’s new Grand Aquarium, the Hong Kong Disneyland expansion featuring Toy Story Land, the 20th anniversary of Tokyo DisneySea, the Singapore Flyer Journey of Dreams and the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort and the forthcoming HappyLand resort said to be opening in 2012 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. IAAPA reports that it is conducting a variety of studies on the Asia-Pacific region, and will hold the Asian Attractions Expo June 5-8 in Hong Kong and that the event program will include opportunities to visit Ocean Park Hong Kong and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Future Legends panel discussion
Kudos to Christian Lachel of BRC Imagination Arts for what was clearly a concerted and successful effort to assemble a panel of intriguing and well-qualified speakers and a very well organized and lively presentation. (The "Future Legends" panel was part of the Themed Entertainment Association's 20th anniversary kickoff. IPM published a preview article about the panel and speakers.) From the session itself, some takeaways...

Interesting phrases that reflect directions within the industry and may catch on: “gaming convergence” (used in reference to the application of video gaming technology to visitor attractions), “kinetic architecture” (referring to a building with a changeable, programmable floor plan, and/or architectural projection and 3D mapping), “connected adaptive infrastructure” (used most intriguingly as part of a discussion portraying cruise ships as ideal vehicles for seamless, immersive guest experiences), “multiverse experiences” (aka Transmedia), “deconstructed screen” (the new projection surfaces).

Our favorites:
From the lips of SeaWorld’s Brian Morrow: “Real experiences” and “planet equities.” Giving the example of swimming with dolphins, and SeaWorld’s forthcoming Antarctica and TurtleTrek attractions, Brian explained (and the truth of it gives us chills) that “the real world is what is becoming rare and sought after,” He also noted, aptly, humankind’s obsession with stories about the world coming to an end.

From Christian Lachel: “The Internet of things,” referring to a world in which all objects will be “smart” and linked to all other things. The nearness of that world is evident by the phrase “story matrix” which promises to replace “story.”

Dan Jamele (Media Mation); Janine Baker & Goedele Gillis (nWave).
nWave’s “trickle around”
Janine Baker and the crew at nWave Pictures filled us in on some of the company’s recent special venue and 3D production/distribution successes. The Moscow Planetarium has booked “Deepo’s 3D Wondershow” (originally produced for the Georgia Aquarium, by Gary Goddard) which was recently added to the nWave library. Moscow also booked “The Little Prince”; Baker reports the latter title is doing extremely well, has soft-opened in a custom 4D version at Futuroscope and is now available in a digital dome version. “TurtleVision” and its popular waterborne characters Sammy and Ray have been so well received as to generate a sequel. Catchy educational shows from nWave include attraction versions of “Dinosaurs of Patagonia” and of “Bugs!” a 3D production with serious legs, originally produced some years ago by Principal Large Format as a full-length giant screen documentary, and testament to the long life and multiple platforms (what Baker refers to as “trickle around”) that a solid piece of special venue filmmaking can enjoy. Classic nWave titles that are still popular include “Wild Safari” and “Haunted Mine Ride.” nWave’s outspoken founder Ben Stassen didn’t attend the show, being busy on location shooting a new film in 3D HD digital.

Spinning Coaster at Kuwait's 360 Mall
360 conviviality
At an excellent party hosted by Steelman Partners LLP, we spent some time learning details of the FEC complex at the 360 Mall in Kuwait from Tony Petruzziello of Electrosonic and John Becker of Leisure Consultants. The mall opened in March 2010 and Becker spent some 3 years on the project as general manager for Tamdeen Entertit of KMCC, who stewarded the design and build of the mall’s 9400 square meter entertainment venue, which comprised three areas: the Bowl Room, the Freeze Club and Infunity. Some of the features found among these areas: a custom LED video wall; an indoor electric go-kart track, an overhead ropes course and an indoor spinning roller coaster. Becker reported that the coaster installation, on the 3rd floor of the cylinder-shaped building, was an elaborate manual process because a crane couldn’t be used. Team members included Robert Boyle Leisure Consultants, local architect SSH, Electrosonic (Tony Petruzziello and Jackson Benedict in the Dubai office) and Christian Delveaux (design consultant).

After some years in Dubai and overseas, Petruzziello is now back in his native Canada, based at Electrosonic’s Toronto office. He is spending a lot of time traveling in Asia on business and is fond of Singapore. He mentioned the Typhoon Theater project on which Electrosonic worked with Super 78 and RalphAppelbaum Associates, and noted that Electrosonic now has full-scale offices in China. Tony’s own background is in architectural lighting, and he explained that Electrosonic’s original business was lighting: solid state dimmers, and that the company’s first big project was to light the Rock of Gibraltar. The company went on to do business in lighting control consoles and architectural dimming racks with a strong European clientele and big dealer conventions in the UK.

Patsy Tillisch of EDG
And finally, the news spread pretty quickly that Disney's Joe Rohde was named for the Buzz Price Lifetime Achievement Award (part of the TEA's Thea Awards announcement on Nov 15 during the show). Joe himself was not on the floor at the time, but we snapped a picture of his longtime colleague, photogenic former Imagineer Patsy Tillisch, now Principal at EDG. Patsy worked closely with Rohde during the creation of Disney's Animal Kingdom, and was kind enough to pose holding the Thea Awards press release.