March 12, 2014
Through his IAAPA Leadership Conference presentation, “Defining Your Story”, JRA CEO/Owner Keith James has so far answered the question of why stories are used to create compelling experiences and offered examples of stories based on history and place. In part 3 of our excerpt, Keith takes us across the country and around the world to illustrate some attraction stories that are based in scientific fact, some drawn from cultural references, and others that are steeped in imagination.
Culture provides a great resource from which designers can develop a storyline and thematic approach. One of my favorite examples is Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawai'i, which literally immerses guests within the art and culture of the Hawaiian people.
The resort features the largest private collection of Hawaiian art in the world, which can be found within its reception area.
Within its architectural details.
At each elevator lobby.
Within each room.
At the bar.
And even within its water attractions, where cultural icons are used as theming
As interactive elements
And are even used as part of a scavenger hunt.
Perhaps most importantly, guests can also learn more about Hawaiian culture through a variety of programs where the meet with native Hawaiians, who share stories.
Teach cultural art,
One of the neater examples of using culture as a storyline and theme can be found just outside of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, where Suo Tien Amusement Park and Water Park is based upon the story of Buddha, which makes for some very elaborate theming.
Sometimes the storyline of a facility is a simple presentation of facts, conveyed in an interesting manner. One of the greatest examples of this is here in San Francisco at the Exploratorium, where Frank Oppenheimer’s vision for a place where art and science inspire guests has served as a model for the modern science museum. Here scientific fact and art is celebrated through exhibits
And even artistic installations such as this fog bridge.
The storyline at MSI’s Science Storms is based upon understanding the science behind nature’s power, and does so in an awe-inspiring manner.
Zoos are also based upon a fact-based storyline, whether its species, environments, conservation or man’s relationship with animals.
The same can be said for modern aquariums and sea parks.
Where even the attractions are based upon fact, such as at Turtle Trek
Or Empire of the Penguin at SeaWorld in Orlando.
At the other end of the spectrum, when we think about stories in attractions, especially at the large theme parks, we think about fantasy, where attractions are based upon the storylines created in popular movies
And children’s toys
And rides can be based upon books, such as at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal,
Or Seuss Landing
And again, to illustrate how stories can impact your bottom line, this is a picture of a restaurant at Kings Island, where, until the late 90’s
was themed as a German beer garden. The per caps were good, but not great.
My firm was commissioned to turn this same building into a shrimp shack, based upon the Forrest Gump story.
And as guests wanted to be immersed in the story of Forrest Gump, revenue skyrocketed, to where it became one of the most profitable centers in the entire park.
In tomorrow’s concluding excerpt, Keith explains that storylines don’t always need to be complete, and that the lines between storytelling styles need not always be defined. He’ll then offer tips on how you can tell your own tale based on one (or several) story types.
March 11, 2014
JRA was a proud sponsor of the IAAPA Leadership Conference 2014.
Yesterday, we introduced Keith’s IAAPA Leadership Conference presentation on “Defining Your Story”. Today, Keith identifies the eight different types of stories. Today, we’ll get an in-depth look at two of those story types – Place and History.
While every attraction really uses a variety of story types, we’ve identified eight (8) basic types of stories, specifically those that are based upon:
And these stories are conveyed in a variety of ways, including:
Let’s begin with Place, which is really about creating an attraction based upon a geographic location or region.
A great example is Disney California Adventure, which by its very name immerses guests within the story of California.
From a nod to its historic piers and boardwalks
To its landscape
To taking guests Soarin’ over the state, including right here in San Francisco.
Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is based upon the immersing guests within the stories of the Smoky Mountains, and does so in its theming, such where this ride is set within an agricultural theme,
or this rustic water play area
or this theatrical experience we created where Dolly Parton talks about how growing up in the Smokies was the primary influence on her life and music.
Living history museums are also primarily driven by the stories of their place, whether it’s the story of Gettysburg.
At these attractions, the story is as much about the place as it is the history that took place there.
Sometimes, an attraction is developed to take guest to another place, such as the New York New York Hotel in Las Vegas, which recreates Manhattan’s iconic skyline
History provides a rich source of inspiration to create stories.
These stories can be about the history of a person, such as here at the Walt Disney Family Museum, which tells the story of the Disney family history...
...as well as Walt’s dream for what would become one of the world’s most beloved theme parks.
An attraction can also be based upon the story of an event in history. For example, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans tells the story of not only an event, but a place in time, through exhibits
An amazing immersive theater created by The Hettema Group
And even a live show venue that immerses you in the history of the 1940’s
Great examples of using history as the basis for a storyline and theme can be found at historic piers, boardwalks and amusement parks both here in the US and around the world, from Santa Cruz
To Santa Monica, where even the rides are classic, as you’ll almost always see a Ferris Wheel
Or swing ride
Period signage and graphics are often retained to convey each location’s rich history. For example, Santa Monica’s iconic entrance has changed little in the past 100 years.
And place guests within an historic setting at the very beginning of their visit.
The leverage of the history story can even be found in the name of an attraction, such as at Galveston Island’s Historic Pier.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Keith’s journey through some of the world’s place and history-based experiences. Tomorrow, he’ll show us attractions based in either fantasy or fact, before wrapping up on Thursday with a discussion on how you can meld these different narrative styles to create your very own story.
March 10, 2014
Keith co-presented with Jim Pattison, Jr., President of Ripley Entertainment
Last week, our JRA CEO/Owner Keith James presented to an eager group of listeners at the IAAPA Leadership Conference 2014 in San Francisco, California. The Conference, which continues today and tomorrow, provides top industry leadership the opportunity to discover the latest industry trends and hear how attractions around the world have addressed business opportunities and challenges to create compelling experiences.
During the learning session “Defining Your Story”, Keith discussed how storylines have been used to create some of the world’s best visitor experiences. Over the next four blogs, we’ll share with you the transcript from his presentation, beginning with why we tell stories at all:
Thanks for allowing me the chance to speak with you today.
Like many of you, over the past forty plus years I have made my living immersing a variety of guests within stories – be they in theme parks, attractions, museums, halls of fame, etc.
But it occurred to me, that while our industry often talks about stories, we don’t often talk about why we use stories, how these stories are developed, and how each of us can determine what story is the right fit for each our facilities and project.
So, that’s what I’d like to discuss with you today, specifically:
So, to begin with: why do we in the leisure industry use story? What are the benefits?
There are a variety of reasons, some of which are very obvious, some of which may not be:
Now that Keith has helped us explore why we use stories, in tomorrow’s excerpt, he identifies the various types of stories that can be used within leisure experiences.
February 19, 2014
For our latest Meet the Team segment, we're talking iPod, superpowers and Angry Birds with Senior Project Designer, Rick O'Connell.
Best advice anyone ever gave me: If you shake someone's hand and agree to do something, you do that something and do it the best you can.
My iPod is full of: Everything. If it's ever been on the radio, I probably know it. Country, Motown, 80's, whatever...
If we had recess during the workday: I would play golf or go skiing depending on the weather/season. I like being active outside.
If I could have any super power: Flying for sure. I could skip traffic or if I needed a break I could "go for a fly".
Best thing about the industry: All of the extremely different topics you learn about. I never thought I would know as much about the oil industry, Ferarri, Angry Birds, and children's safety issues as I do know.
Tags: JRA Team
February 12, 2014
You may not know that by night, designer and JRA+blog contributor, Colin Cronin, is a sketch comedy artist! His troupe, The Company Productions, unveils their Valentine-themed show "loveprobably" this Saturday, so we thought we'd ask him a few questions on the intersection of design and comedy, because we all know that sometimes, the process of designing an attraction can be pretty darn funny.
1. Tell us a little bit about your theater company (how it started, the kinds of people involved, etc.).
Well, I've been involved in community theater with a number of groups for almost my entire life. I think my first production was at age 6 or 7. I've met most of my close friends through these groups, and it's become an integral part of my life. Over the last few years, myself and a few of my theater-minded friends have moved more into the production side of things - producing, directing, and designing shows. We started to come up with tons of ideas and concepts for the types of shows we wanted to do, but no one was really putting on those types of productions. Well, after complaining about it for a while, we decided to just man up and create a new theater company.
We formed The Company Productions late last year. Our mission statement is that we "create and perform the theater we love with the people we like". Starting out, we've been writing and performing our own original sketch comedy, and we hope to put on our first full production later this year.
2. Much like with a new design, in comedy writing you're not really working from something that exists. How do you create something from that blank piece of paper? What kind of research do you do to stay current?
Well, the topics of our sketches are extremely varied. We've done scenes based on properties like Harry Potter, Star Wars, "Game of Thrones". The way our writing process works is that anyone can bring a concept to the table, and we all start riffing on the idea, and seeing what jokes come out. Some of our best sketches have really been written by a couple of us just acting out scenes and seeing what sticks. The advantage of this is that really by just being a part of popular culture, we're already doing our research. You've been watching a lot of "The Walking Dead"? Write a sketch. Had a weird experience at the DMV? Maybe there's a sketch there. (In fact, we've started to use "maybe there's a sketch there" as our mantra. Really, anything is up for grabs.)
3. In design, feasibility is always a big concern, as is matching the exhibit or ride mix to the target audience. You've mentioned that you've needed to cut jokes form time to time based on your audience. How do you determine your "joke feasibility"?
Well, if anything, we sometimes skew a little too "nerdy" with some of our sketches. But in general, our group itself is a mix of people from different backgrounds, with different likes, dislikes, and senses of humor. And just like an attraction like a theme park, it's not like every sketch needs to appeal to every person. Just like there are rides for families, and thrill-seekers, and kids, there will be sketches featuring sarcasm, nerd humor, or maybe something a bit cruder. There's something for everyone!
4. Right now, making guests part of the experience is a hot topic from design. How much audience participation do you do, and how do you think it enhances the experience?
It's very important for me as the MC of our shows to keep the audience engaged and an integral part of the experience. We have an interesting format that helps us do this - the audience picks which sketches we do. While we have written and rehearsed everything over the previous month or so, we don't know what order everything will be performed in. Not only does this make the audience part of the show, it also adds an excitement and a freshness to the show. Every performance is different.
We've also done some fun things such as pulling audience members into sketches, having sketches that take place in the audience. We've even done "Mad-Lib"-style sketches where the audience will fill in the blanks in the dialogue.
5. In what other ways do you find sketch comedy akin to design?
You know, if you're looking for the "common denominator" between these two rather different disciplines, it would probably eventually come down to something like this: "In both design and comedy, you take a collection of disparate elements, let them rattle around in your brain for a bit, and then create something completely new that's even better than the sum of its component parts." Huh. That's not half bad.
Thanks, Colin! And to our readers, check back to this blog and on Facebook next week for photos from the performance!