December 13, 2013
JRA VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy
To wrap up our 2013 IAAPA Expo Wrap Up, we're happy to share Shawn McCoy's Museum Day Presentation on New Attractions and Trends. Through his entertaining and informative presentation, Shawn takes viewers on a whirlwind, round-the world tour of the latest and greatest attractions, and offers some lessons on what the museum community can learn from them. Enjoy!
Next week, we hand over the blogging reins to Designer Colin Cronin, who will continue our view of trends by updating us new video game technologies and how they are currently being used in attractions and museums.
December 05, 2013
IAAPA Wrap Up 2 - Magic Bands, Glowing Ears and Tugged Heart Strings:
How Disney Melds Technology and Story
Welcome back to our 2013 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo Wrap Up. One of the “water cooler topics” of this year’s expo was the intersection of technology and experience. By coupling the latest and greatest gadgets with innovative new storytelling strategies, Disney is revolutionizing guests’ interactions with attractions and each other, and we as attraction designers can learn from their example.
One of the first presentations during the Expo was “New Age of Interactive Exhibits and Attractions”, and it featured Jeff Voris of Walt Disney Imagineering R&D. Voris kicked things off with a cautionary note on technology for technology’s sake. “We are making connected experiences through technology,” he began, but “the more things look like technology, the harder it is to draw you into a story.” Disneyland itself, he argued, was the ultimate virtual reality, taking a story and embedding into an environment through the technology of the time. Walt Disney said himself that “Disneyland will never be completed, as long as there is imagination in the world.” But while imagination is constant, audiences are changing, as is their amount of free time and the ways visitors connect.
A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures of the 7 Seas. Photo courtesy Disney Parks Blog
One of the ways that Disney is changing with its audience is to employ new interactives into its parks. One example is “A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the 7 Seas”. Participants are tasked with helping Captain Jack raid 5 treasures from Adventureland and are armed with a map and a talisman. Along the way, they encounter the formidable pirate Captain Barbarossa, but if they can vanquish him in battle, they are deemed official members of Captain Jack’s crew (Editor’s Note: our own Shawn McCoy recently took his family on this adventure and said it was one of his favorite experiences at the Magic Kingdom). Another interactive game that launched just last month, Mickey’s Fun Wheel Challenge, literally puts guests in control of the giant wheel at Disney California Adventure. Once guests are in the “World of Color” viewing area, all they have to do is join a specific Wi-Fi network on their mobile device within 45 minutes of the show. The wheel then becomes a giant game board, where guests match specific lighting sequences on the wheel to sequences on the device. The winner of the game gets to control the lighting sequence straight from their phone or tablet.
These interactive experiences are just the tip of the iceberg for Walt Disney Imagineering. As we reported during the September SATE Conference, the “Legend of the Fortuna”, a long-form pirate caper currently in beta, raises the bar on guest interaction, offering live actors, mobile gaming and props. Another WDI alternate reality game (ARG) experiment was “The Optimist”, which began with Amelia, a fictional college student, blogging about her journey to discover more about her deceased grandfather. The story of her grandfather, fictionally but not coincidentally, is interwoven with the history of Walt Disney and the World’s Fair. The blog spawned a Twitter account, introduced new fictional characters both online and through live interaction at the D23 Expo, and culminated in an emotional meeting between characters and players at a movie theater, where Amelia’s “film” about her grandfather premiered. Without technology, these kinds of feats would not be possible, but as Voris so aptly explains, “families don’t want to know about the behind-the-scenes work – they want to make memories.”
Making memories is Priority #1 for George A. Kalogridis, President of the Walt Disney Resort. In his Incredibles-themed keynote address, Kalogridis discussed how Disney strives to address the various “merge points” of themed entertainment in the 21st Century:
Photo courtesy DisneyFoodBlog.com
He began by unveiling the latest and greatest attractions to be found at Disney’s parks, several of which can be found at the new Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Instead of being confined to just a ride, Dumbo now has a whole Storybook Circus in which to play. The ride itself has been completely revamped, featuring two sets of rotating elephants, a fountain with colored lighting and a one-of-a-kind queuing system. Upon entering the ride, guests receive a virtual pager that holds their place in line. Meanwhile, kids can enjoy a circus-themed, air-conditioned playground while adults watch from comfortable seating. The new Fantasyland even offers a Tangled themed rest area, complete with tree stumps embedded with charging stations. With its exacting attention to detail and story, the new Fantasyland will continue to be a hit with parents and kids alike.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
In addition to new attractions, Disney is upping the bar with completely re-imagined character interactions. Far from a standard photo opp, “Enchanted Tales with Belle” immerses guests young and old into the story of Beauty and the Beast. A mirror in Maurice’s cottage suddenly turns into a door, where Lumiere and Belle await in the Beast’s library. Guests are then each given a character to play as they re-enact the film’s dancing scene. Since the story is now told by Belle and her guests, no two experiences are alike. “My daughter absolutely loved Enchanted Tales with Belle,” said McCoy, “being able to tell the story together created a lifelong memory for our family.“ Enchanted Tales with Belle is another way that Disney is meshing story with technology for maximum effect and fun for all.
Photo courtesy WDWInfo.com
But for Kalogridis, the biggest Disney technology game changer was MyMagic+, a suite of online and mobile tools enabling the guest to customize their Disney vacation. The MyMagic+ program’s key component is the MagicBand, an RFID wristband that enables Disney guests to enter their (Disney property) hotel room, purchase souvenirs, make FastPass ride and dinner reservations, order photos and have special interactions with Disney characters. Said Kalogridis: “MyMagic+ gives Disney an ability to increase customer satisfaction more than anything we’ve ever done.” But he didn’t want the audience to take his word for it – every member of the audience received a MagicBand loaded with a free day at a WDW park of their choice and three FastPasses so they could try it for themselves.
Kalogridis closed his presentation with a grand demonstration of the power of technology. For the park’s “Glow with the Show” experience, guests purchase interactive Mickey ears for $25, which they then don right before one of the resorts popular evening shows (including “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” at the Magic Kingdom and “Fantasmic!” at Disney Hollywood Studios). The ears are programmed to light up in choreographic fashion, flashing, twinkling and changing color with the beats of the shows’ music. But again, Kalogridis urged the audience not to take his word for it, so all guests in the room were given the colorful ears, which they were then asked to wear. They were then treated to a sound, light and image presentation crafted just for the IAAPA keynote, so they could “glow with the show” right in the Orange County Convention Center ballroom (check out our video on Facebook). From day to night, and from the time the guest plans their visit at home till the time they return from a memorable trip to the parks, WDI technology is at work, crafting the guest’s vacation story.
So what can we as attraction designers learn from all this?
1. All technology must be in the service of story. It is the ultimate “man behind the curtain.”
2. We must continue to innovate, to push the limits of technology in order to tell our stories better.
3. We need to make sure the story is accessible to all, since visitors are increasingly traveling in multi-generational groups.
4. Guests are becoming increasingly eager to become the authors of their own stories and controllers of their own experiences. Creating opportunities for them to do so creates deeper connections with your attraction, more diverse methods of interaction, and a greater likelihood for repeat visitation.
Next week, we'll wrap up our wrap up with a re-cap of Shawn's IAAPA Museum Day presentation, "Museums and Science Centers, New Trends in Attractions Design."
November 27, 2013
IRecently, we shared a video of Casino Pier’s 1-year rebuilding process in the wake of the devastating Super Storm Sandy. Last week, Vincent Storino, Owner of Casino Pier, brought these images to poignant life in his presentation, “Restore the Shore”, at the 2013 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo. Presenting alongside Storino was Nate Bliss, Interim Executive Director for the Alliance for Coney Island, who offered his own story about the rebuilding of not just an historic attraction, but an entire Brooklyn neighborhood.
Vincent Storino, Casino Pier
Storino began by saying that the “storm could have been much worse”, and offered three points of advice:
1. “Heed the warnings”: luckily, the warnings began nearly a week before the storm was scheduled to hit shore.
2. “It’s never too early to prep”: Storino and his team began preparations nearly six days before, which included raising critical items off the floor and finding homes for foreign employees. It also meant keeping detailed records for the insurance adjusters to hopefully make for easier claims. “Have the best insurance company, document everything and hope for the best,” advised Storino. The team finished just in time – one day before landfall.
3. “Expect the worst”: Storino became emotional when he shared how he lost contact with his brother due to cut power lines and cell phone service (luckily, no one in the family was hurt). He had no power for two weeks, and even though the storm had dissipated by October 31st, he could not return to the site until November 12th.
Most of the damage to Casino Pier was caused by water, as the winds were minimal. The waves surged 11.5 feet above sea level, and the flood height reached 7.9 feet. A car featured in Casino Pier’s haunted house attraction actually washed 8 miles north and into one of the Storino family’s arcades. “It was a big mess,” said Storino. “That’s the only way to describe it.” Casino Pier’s power was not restored until May 15th, and the basement “was a toxic wasteland.” But the Storinos were determined to re-open the boardwalk and pier in a miraculous 6 months. It took 1,000 man hours per day to re-open the park, but on May 24, 2013, Casino Pier welcomed visitors to its arcades, restaurants and retail, and two months later, 15 rides (including the aptly-named “Superstorm”) were up and running.
The Storino family was determined to build Casino Pier “bigger, better and stronger.” That meant spacing more and larger pilings closer together, raising transformers from the basement to the first floor and including galvanized steel walls to keep out the waves. Some of the greatest challenges to completing the work were the seemingly constant visits from the media, politicians and even Prince Harry. “It was great,” explained Storino, “but it was a big inconvenience.” While Casino Pier was able to somewhat recover from the storm, the beach houses, hotels and restaurants weren’t as lucky (over 650,000 homes were damaged). As a result of this lack of infrastructure, Casino Pier’s 2013 attendance was less than hoped for. “If you build it, will they come? Well, they didn’t come, but they will.”
Nate Bliss, Alliance for Coney Island
Nate Bliss of the Alliance for Coney Island also began his presentation with three valuable tenets of wisdom:
1. “Mother Nature always wins. Water seeks its own level.”
2. “Everything comes out in the wash.”
3. “The only way to deal with hard luck is hard work…we fought back.”
Unlike Storino, Bliss’ team was able to get to Coney Island the morning after the storm and begin its rebuilding efforts, but historic buildings took a beating, and “Surf Avenue literally became Surf Avenue.” Bliss recalled a “huge outpouring of support,” and a year after Sandy, his prevailing memory is of the “inexhaustible drive” of those who pitched in to help. “There was no time for wallowing,” said Bliss. “It was a marathon at a sprint’s pace.”
In unprecedented fashion, Coney Island’s businesses, community, not-for-profit organizations and residents banded together to form the Alliance for Coney Island and to launch the fundraising effort, Coney Recovers (#coneyrecovers on Twitter). The effort raised $700,000, and the monies were funneled not towards business losses, but to a local neighborhood that was “reeling”. The various attractions on Coney Island saw the post-Sandy era as an opportunity to re-invest, while they worked tirelessly to make opening day business as usual. The Alliance engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign, with such slogans as “Keep Calm and Visit Coney”. As a result, only a few months after “Frankenstorm” descended on the East Coast, Coney Island welcomed its biggest opening day crowd ever. The 2013 Coney Island season offered a remodeled, iconic Nathan’s Famous hot dog store, a new carousel (which opened on schedule), and a $2 million upgrade to its iconic parachute tower, including the addition of 8,000 programmable LED lights to the tower’s exterior. Alliance member organization Coney Island Generation Gap trained dozens of area students as Tourist Greeters, communicating the message that Coney Island was ready and welcoming for visitors.
So what’s next for Coney Island? According to Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, “the future is unlimited!” Among the attraction’s plans are a concert venue, a new coaster and expanded programming at Coney Island’s New York Aquarium. Farther on the horizon are proposed resiliency initiatives to prevent future hurricane damage, such as the addition of a tidal gate. But for now, Bliss credits the success of Coney Island’s recovery to the fundamental human need for escape:
“Coney Island has a beautiful beach; it’s in a 20-million-person metropolitan area and it has access to public transportation. But more than that, it speaks to the innate human desire to escape to the seashore. No storm can take that away.”
November 20, 2013
The Mind Museum, located in Taguig, Philippines, has been named to receive the coveted Thea Award in the Museum Exhibits category. The Thea Award is presented annually by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), and the 2014 award will mark the fifth time that a JRA-designed project has received this honor. The award will be presented at the 2014 Thea Awards Gala on Saturday, April 5 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. The Thea Awards, celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2014, were created to bring recognition to achievement, talent and personal excellence within the themed entertainment industry. From a modest beginning in 1994, the Thea Awards have become internationally recognized as a symbol of excellence.
Part of the Bonifacio Global City, The Mind Museum hosts over 250 interactive “minds-on” and “hand-on” exhibits, making it the first world-class science museum in the Philippines. JRA, in collaboration with the Bonifacio Arts Foundation Inc. (BAFI), provided master planning, conceptual and schematic design for this 4,900-square-meter facility.
“When choosing the design team that would work with us in The Mind Museum,” said Manny Blas II, Managing Director of BAFI and The Mind Museum, “we looked for both talent and chemistry. We had to make that judgment based on videoconference interviews. It turned out that the JRA designers were more than telegenic – they are designers that could help us visualize our vision; they understood our limitations; and they were just a fun team to work with.”
Visitors begin their journey in the spacious Mariano K. Tan Hall lobby, where they are greeted by a robot, created by Japanese company Kokoro, Ltd., who introduces them to the overall mission of the museum. They can then choose among five gallery spaces, all of which offer compelling stories related to science and technology: The Universe, The Earth, Life, The Atom, Technology and How We Work. The galleries are linked (both spatially and contextually) by a series of exhibits and audio-visual presentations called “Nature’s Webways,” and each gallery features a diverse mix of interactive exhibits, graphic displays and media-driven experiences.
The Mind Museum also takes the science and technology story outdoors with “Science in the Park.” The 800-square-meter park offers a variety of entertaining experiences entitled “Natures Artful Play” and offers four play pockets: Water, Math, Music and Living, where guests can climb a curved wall, play indigenous drums or chase bubbles. All of these indoor and outdoor educational attractions bring the guests closer to themselves, their planet and their technology future.
JRA strived to design these galleries as dynamic and engaging spheres of learning that would inspire the youth of the Philippines to explore the realms of science and technology and bolster the country’s growing reputation for innovation.
“The JRA people didn’t just do great work for The Mind Museum,” said Blas. “They became great friends. After they completed the contracted work, they kept in touch with us to check on our progress, and to just spur us on. When we opened five years later, JRA was there to celebrate with us.”
“We are ecstatic that The Mind Museum has received this prestigious honor from the TEA,” said Keith James, JRA Chief Operating Officer/Owner. “Our team very much appreciated the BAFI team’s passion for the museum, for science education and for their home country, and the Thea is a fantastic reward for all of their hard work and dedication to the project."
Other Thea Award recipients include Garner Holt of Garner Holt Productions, The Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland Resort, Oceaneering's Revolution Tru-trackless Ride System, Marine Worlds Carousel at Les Machines de l'Ille, Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, Enchanted Tales with Belle at Walt Disney World, The Railway Museum in Utrecht, Netherlands, Polynesian Cultural Center Revitalization, Titanic Belfast, Gardens by the Bay, Michael Jackson: ONE at Mandalay Bay, and The Song of An Angel at Universal Studios, Japan. JRA congratulates all of the 2014 Thea Award recipients.
Tags: Project Spotlight
November 19, 2013
Tom Zaller of Imagine Exhibitions and Shawn McCoy of JRA celebrate the Angry Birds Universe announcement at IAAPA's Museum Day Reception.
Rovio Entertainment announced today at the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions conference that it is developing a 10,000- square-foot traveling exhibit called ‘’Angry Birds Universe: The Art and Science of a Global Phenomenon.”
The exhibit, which will be designed, produced and toured by Imagine Exhibitions and JRA (Jack Rouse Associates), invites guests to explore the world of Rovio’s Angry Birds and will feature a variety of immersive environments and interactive media activities. Angry Birds fans will not only learn about a wide variety of educational concepts in an entertaining manner, but will also have the chance to experience Angry Birds in real life.
‘’We are really excited about bringing a new kind of Angry Birds experience to life with key players of the exhibition industry,” said Dan Mitchell, Rovio’s Director of Location Based Entertainment. “From astronaut Don Pettit demonstrating physics concepts using our characters while aboard the International Space Station, to stories about physics teachers using our games in their lesson plans to inspire their students, Rovio is always proud to be part of fun learning. The experience uniquely helps foster the science, technology, engineering, art and math initiative by creating a dynamic environment where the whole family can enjoy themselves and learn together." Tom Zaller, CEO and President of Imagine Exhibitions, Inc. concurred: “Imagine Exhibitions provides inspirational, thought-provoking and immersive exhibitions, making this partnership with Rovio a perfect fit. The Angry Birds brand provides an excellent opportunity for Imagine to bring to market a blockbuster exhibition that will educate and entertain visitors around the world.”
"JRA is looking forward to bringing the world of Angry Birds to science centers, museums and other venues around the world. The brand is not only immensely popular, but its natural ties to education will make the exhibit experience one of learning as well as entertainment," says JRA Vice President Shawn McCoy.
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About Rovio Entertainment Ltd.
Rovio Entertainment Ltd is a global industry-changing entertainment media company headquartered in Finland, and the creator of the globally successful Angry Birds™ characters franchise. Angry Birds, a casual puzzle game, became an international phenomenon within a few months of its release. Angry Birds has expanded rapidly into multifaceted entertainment, publishing, and licensing to become a beloved international brand. Rovio's animated Angry Birds feature film is slated for July 1, 2016.
About Imagine Exhibitions
Imagine Exhibitions is the global resource for all things related to exhibitions. From design to creation, placement to presentation, marketing and operations, Imagine has the experience and inspiration to bring the best possible exhibition to any venue. Imagine is currently producing 20 traveling exhibitions. In the last year, Imagine Exhibitions has worked in cooperation with the Andy Warhol Museum, Dali Universe, Georgia Aquarium, Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, and the Mob Attraction in Las Vegas. For more information, visit www.imagineexhibitions.com or visit its Facebook page.
About JRA (Jack Rouse Associates)
JRA plans, designs and realizes exceptional visitor experiences for museums, theme parks and cultural, sport and corporate clients around the world. JRA has provided design and project management services for a variety of high-profile branded projects, including The Crayola Experience, World of Coca-Cola and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
Tags: Project Spotlight