Special Feature Themes and perspectives

Five different experts give their view on what’s driving the demand for themed rides and attractions

Rob Wyatt, programme director, nFusion

Consumers have more options than ever. With access to endless

entertainment – movies, TV series, games, etc. – available at their fingertips, they are demanding more out of experiences that involve leaving the house, driving 20 minutes or more, paying parking and entry fees, and braving crowds. Today’s sophisticated themed destination guests

expect highly immersive environments which require a complete integration of the facility, creative, and the IP. They want it to feel like they are actually seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and interacting with the theme. Utilising theming to create a strong sense of place – so that when guests walk into an environment, they are transported to Hogwarts or a Galaxy Far, Far Away – can provide the unique sensation of being at a magical destination. Guests are experiencing themes in new and heightened ways. One of these is through food and drink – a notable example of this being Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, opening this year at Disneyland in California. The iconic Cantina will be operating as an actual bar, serving themed alcoholic drinks and colourful milk, which is also a tie to the movie universe.

Developers who cannot afford the highest-level

IPs are still finding success through committing to reimagining older, under-utilised IPs in a fresh way. These IPs can present the opportunity to build a completely unique and new way to experience familiar characters and concepts. We’ve found that theming a destination with its

own brand that is uniquely tied to the area and culture where it is located can also be highly lucrative and cut out steep IP costs. An example could be a paradise-themed park in a tropical location, appealing to both local and tourist demographics. We’re also seeing our clients establishing new

ways for guests to experience adventure within their destinations with immersive themes. For example, a theme park client we work with is currently considering park wide gamification. Our sister company Nassal recently worked with

the Jacksonville Zoo on its African Forest Exhibit, which was a prime example of creating an immersive environment and enrichment-focused habitat that directly related to the theme – the animals of the African forests and the story of conservation.

This was achieved through re-modelling an

existing containment wall to feature scenic and themed elements – including waterfalls, branches, rockwork, and artificial trees. A couple of current projects for which we are bringing uniquely themed experiences to life are an Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park in Canada and the Doha Oasis Theme Park in Qatar.

Russ Van Natta, vice president of sales, Creative Works

Entertainment operators want to get customers off the couch and deliver

amazing experiences they can’t get at home. Attractions are one of the best ways to accomplish this, and every successful attraction has 3 core elements: story-driven, immersive, and social. Theming directly impacts the story and the

immersion of an attraction. And indirectly, it impacts the social portion; customers share pictures and videos of their experiences to participate in the social economy of the Internet. In our entertainment-driven culture, people want

to be the main character of their own story. These consumers have extremely high expectations, and they are demanding better experiences from entertainment venues. Theming has the ability to enhance the experience and be the difference between a memory and a forgotten moment. Video game and movie franchises have always played a part in pop culture. Over the last several

years, these franchises have had an even greater influence on attraction theming. The current trends go beyond the theme itself.

Right now, we’re incorporating more technology into immersive and themed attractions. But technology for technology’s sake is not the answer. Rather, the technology must enhance the story and the immersion. We’re using DMX to trigger pre-designed sequences with special effects lighting and sound. A perfect example is Electric Edging, a patent- pending technology that our team invented for mini golf. This hole edging product is made of highly durable plastic composite material and is illuminated internally with LED lights. Electric Edging can be programmed to respond to triggers and DMX controls, making the course come to life in a way that’s never been done before. In the future, we’ll continue to see a blending of digital and physical elements. Mixed reality and

augmented reality will be incorporated into both themed and unthemed attractions. Facilities will have more flexibility to provide new content over time. Plus they’ll have the ability to serve different content to different audiences and age groups.

MARCH 2019 35

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