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Park People

Goddard Group

have done smaller projects at The Goddard Group. We approach every project as a unique puzzle that needs to be solved within the challenges of the budget, schedule and other limitations. And I can tell you this – playing “safe” is the way to lose. I think people like to have a sense of wonder when coming to theme parks, resorts, or other destinations. To give them a sense of wonder again has become increasingly difficult when the internet and other media tend to bombard people with information, images, user reviews and observations of everything.

How do you ensure the finished project is faithful to your original design?

The thing about making a great project of any kind, in any medium is this: nothing is set in stone until it finally opens to the public. If you truly freeze the “approved concept” and execute solely upon the initial design, without allowing each new team member to add his or her strengths to it, then you kill the baby in the process and wind up with a sterile and bland end result. But any great production needs to have a single voice at the top who is committed to bring that vision to life, and who understands that certain twists and turns will take place along the way. My greatest successes have been those that had detractors along the way.

Other than some of the more obvious projects, what are some of your career highlights?

The Georgia Aquarium is something I am very proud of, in particular the way we conceptualised a more theatrical approach to the presentations there, getting rid of the typical linear progression of other aquariums and creating a new “hub and spoke” layout. Hershey’s Really Big 3D Show was ground-breaking at the time, and has proven to be a hit at Hershey’s Chocolate World for over a decade. The Conan Sword & Sorcery Spectacular we produced for Universal in 1983 is something I am highly proud of to this very day, together with the Saniro Puroland and Harmonyland parks in Japan. And I loved the Ghostbusters Spooktacular at Universal Studios Florida where we created the world’s biggest Pepper’s Ghost illusion with live actors. In recent years, the Glow in the Park parades for Six Flags were really dynamic.

Choose two non-park projects that were important to you and tell us why First, The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas. It’s hard to believe now, but at the time no one thought a mall would work in Las Vegas. The only mall in Vegas then was the Fashion Show and it was an unmitigated disaster. Giving up Caesar’s last prime property on the strip for a shopping mall? Caesar’s then chairman/CEO Henry Gluck said no and sent the developer to me. We created an experience that had shopping as the star. It opened and immediately became the most successful mall in America based upon sales per square foot. Then there is The Galaxy Resort & Casino in Macau. We deliberately created a concept that was Asian inspired, rather than Vegas as prior casino operators had done. We wanted something that would become an iconic destination resort and the new symbol of Macau’s Cotai Strip, replacing The Venetian, which was – let’s be honest – simply a rehash of The Venetian in Las Vegas, and not necessarily the right concept for Macau. Management was split, with one group pushing for something


‘My amazing Spider-Man adventure’

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure remains one of Gary Goddard’s biggest calling cards. Here he explains how this iconic 3D/4D dark ride, due to be relaunched later this year, came into being

Jay Stein, who was overseeing the development of Islands of Adventure as chairman and CEO of Universal Recreation, felt that Spider-Man, along with the Hulk, were the best known Marvel superheroes at that time. He said, “Give us a concept for the

superhero land, with ideas for attractions, but we know we have to have a Spider-Man ride.” That was about it. Now, I had grown up on Marvel (and DC) comics, and I knew them inside and out; I was ready for this. We started development, I think, back in 1993. My first thoughts – as always – were story and creative, not technology-based. However, we were also in the midst of creating Terminator 2 3-D, so had pushed Universal into the 3D world. I set out to figure out what this big dark ride based on Spider- Man, would be. The world of super heroes is dynamic, colourful and bigger than life. Most of all, if you really imagine the experience of reading a comic, it is in your face. What kind of ride system would be to deliver this kind of action?

The technologies available at the time were all unacceptable. Animatronics were too tame, 2D projection with show action animation would allow for some film footage, but it could not penetrate the rider’s space. Then I started thinking about effects like fire, wind, rain, smoke, fog, steam and so on, but remember, in a typical ride, nothing can come within about four to six feet (1.2 to 2-metres) of the vehicle. Then, in the midst of a T2 3-D meeting, I realised why not have 3D on a ride? This way we could bring the action into the ride vehicle and literally have “in your face” action; the 3D combined with 4D effects would form the next step in “total immersive storytelling.” I met with Jay and told him I thought the world’s first 3D/4D ride way the

only successful way to create a superhero story. I took him through some initial beats, like Doc OC bursting through the walls with flaming torches on his tentacles and us feeling the heat. I already had the Green Goblin gag in mind, with the flaming pumpkin that he throws in 3D, resulting in a real time explosion of fire. Jay said he loved it, but would it work? I said yes it would, but from that moment on the internal management at Universal would do everything they could to try and convince Jay, Barry Upson and others to kill the project (“3D in a ride will never work”). Later Scott Trowbridge was brought on board and thankfully he ‘got it’, championed the project and carried the torch forward into production. When it opened, the LA Times described the Amazing Adventures of Spider- Man as, “The best theme park ride in the world, melding story and technology in a way that surpasses Disney’s top efforts.” Since then we’ve had projects like Curse of Darkastle at Busch Gardens

Williamsburg, and others. Darkastle is clearly a rip off of the Spider-Man technology and concept, and for what it is, it’s pretty darn good. But they certainly did not take the concept of a 4D ride to the next level, rather they created a classic “spook house” version. It certainly demonstrated to the industry that you could do a 3D/4D attraction at a cost far less than what it took to achieve Spider-Man. I definitely want to see the Transformers ride at Universal Studios Singapore and plan to on my next trip to Asia. Transformers has the best chance of being at least equal to Spider-Man, at least on the surface, because you have a compelling mythology that can work well within the 4D medium. From what I hear so far, it seems to be effective. The key to this kind of attraction is to elevate it above being just another 3D/4D in the story and set up, with a unique journey that has unexpected moments along the way.


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