Emerging Trends in Immersive Design, or the Day a Girl Turned Into A Gorilla

November 18, 2015

JRA VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy, co-presents

JRA VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy, co-presents "Emerging Trends in Immersive Design" at the 2015 IAAPA Attractions Expo.

As we previewed in last week's blog post, this week our own Shawn McCoy, along with Thinkwell Design's Cynthia Sharpe, took a capacity crowd on a whirlwind tour of the world's blockbuster experiences in their 2015 IAAPA Expo presentation, "Emerging Trends in Immersive Design." According to Shawn, a successful attraction's key ingredients are:

  1. Boldness
  2. An Interesting Story
  3. Personalization
  4. Immersiveness
  5. ...and a Touch of Magic.

Throughout his presentation, Shawn traveled from the Guggenheim in New York to the battlefields of Bannockburn to the Mogao Caves of China's Gobi Desert, breaking down the technologies and techiniques of truly memorable experiences.

If you weren't able to travel to the IAAPA Expo to see the session in person, below is a Slideshare version with a complete transcript. Hopefully it will provide you with some tips, tricks and inspiration for your next attraction project. If you are at IAAPA this week, be sure to visit us at booth 1353, and stay tuned for some more exciting news from JRA tomorrow!


Tags: Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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IAAPA 2015 Preview: Emerging Trends in Immersive Design

November 11, 2015

Shawn McCoy

Shawn McCoy

  • What are the most incredible cultural and entertainment projects to open recently?
  • Why do these projects stand out, and what links them?
  • What techniques can museums and science centers take away from these projects and apply to their facilities?

For the fifth year in a row, Shawn McCoy, JRA Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, and Cynthia Sharpe, Thinkwell Group’s Director of Cultural Attractions and Research, will answer these questions and more during their 2015 IAAPA Expo Presentation, “Trends in Immersive Design: 2015 in Review”. Over a single hour, they’ll send attendees on a rapid fire, maximum fun, international tour of the latest standout attractions. From virtual reality and immersive media to personalization and storytelling, Shawn and Cynthia will explore a variety of recent projects and the techniques that make them uniquely memorable. They’ll also reveal that when it comes to creating personalized, compelling guest experiences, the ingredients for success are often the same for both attractions and museums.

"For this year’s presentation, I wanted to go beyond just detailing a series of cool projects to see if there were some underlying approaches and techniques that made each experience really resonate with visitors. What I found are some guiding principles that both attractions and museums can use to create truly breakthrough experiences.”  - Shawn McCoy

Emerging Trends in Immersive Design: 2015 in Review
A 2015 IAAPA Expo Presentation
Monday, November 16, 2015
3:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), Room S310EF

To find out more about Shawn's presentation, read this interview in the latest IAAPA Attractions Issue of InPark Magazine.

Can’t attend? Either visit us at the JRA booth (#1353) or email Clara Rice, Director of Media Relations, at crice@jackrouse.com for a digital copy of Shawn’s presentation, available immediately following the live session. And follow @JRAtweets next week for our coverage of the 2015 IAAPA Attractions Expo (#IAE15).


Tags: Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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Conference World Tour 2015: Chloe Hausfeld's Adventures at the IAAPA Euro Attractions Show

October 21, 2015

Chloe James Hausfeld

Chloe James Hausfeld

Welcome! Some our favorite blogs of the year are Executive and Marketing Assistant Chloe James Hausfeld's conference travelogues. This week on the 2015 JRA Conference World Tour, she takes us to Sweden for a recap of the recent IAAPA Euro Attractions Show.


Welp, IAAPA EAS has come and gone, but I’d like to share what a great time I had in Gothenburg, Sweden, with all of you.  Hope you enjoy some of the pictures, as much as I enjoyed that fabulous city…

Travel Time! - Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4

I began the trip on a high-note…as usual.  Natalie’s Candy Jar is my first stop after security on almost every trip.  My dentist curses them, but my colleagues praise them.  I figure, I only have to visit my dentist a couple times a year, while I have to see my colleagues every day.  I know where to choose my battles ;)

Natalie’s was an even bigger hit than usual for Keith James (JRA Owner/CEO), Patti James, Linda Round (JRA Marketing & Business Development), and myself.  We were supposed to fly through Detroit and Amsterdam, but got re-routed to Atlanta and London…MUCH LONGER layovers, and unhappy travelers.

At least I had time to channel my “inner Diane Keaton”,

Catch up on some scores in the Sky Club,

Take a walk through my terminal (ha!),

AND, even make a donation for Breast Cancer Awareness! 

I have to say, after all of the unnecessary hours of traveling, I was not overly excited about the cuisine in Sweden.

But the sweet smile on the woman working at immigration made my worries go away.  I was ready to get the trip started!

We got checked into the hotel, and immediately bumped into friends.   What a great industry!

And, to think I was worried about the food.  24/7, the market at Gothia Towers Hotel, had chips that were made for the record books.  As you can see, our first dinner was FABULOUS.  YUM!

Monday, October 5

Time to check on the booth! 

Things were looking good, and all of the boxes got unpacked quickly…not a bad way to start a “show week”.

We had a fabulous dinner with great clients, and then headed up to Heaven…

…that’s really what this place is called.  It became the “stomping grounds” for the week rather quickly.

Expo Day 1 - Tuesday, October 6
The Expo begins!!!

IAAPA President & CEO, Paul Noland addressing the crowd at the Opening Ceremony

The IAAPA Officers cut the ribbon to officially open the show floor.

Liseberg really threw out all the stops….beautiful EAS ice sculpture!

Nobody tell my husband, but I have a serious crush on this bunny…killer dance moves!

I lost my voice for the remainder of the week due to the Haunted House.  Or, was it because of

Helix, Mack Rides' new coaster?!  As you can see, it was a great ride.

The night ended with a bang...


Expo Day 2 - Wednesday, October 7

Day 2 began with the IAAPA Leadership Breakfast

Keynote Speaker: ABBA-singer, Björn Ulvaeus

Owner/CEO, Keith James addressed Intellectual Property during the TEA Presentation

Keith with Ray Hole (RHA) and David Camp (D&J International Consulting)

After the floor closed for the day, it was time to support my fellow Young Professional sub-committee member Ash Smart (Harbour Park) as he hosted the Young Professionals Forum at Liseberg.

Ash with Paul Noland (IAAPA CEO/President), Gerardo Arteaga (IAAPA Chairman), John McReynolds (IAAPA First Vice Chair), Greg Hale (IAAPA Second Vice Chair), and Henk Salemi (IAAPA Treasurer)

I met the rest of the JRA crew at the TEA Party as it ended.  We decided to split in a few different directions…

I think Patti (Mom) may have been a little tired of fish.

Tyrolen was an unbelievable band that ended with an unforgettable encore for us!

Have I mentioned that this is not only a family oriented business, but a family oriented industry as well??

The James’ (and Hausfeld) of the JRA Team, with The Woods’ (and Weaver) of Sally Corp.

I have to admit, I think that this one suits our personalities better though…

Made sure to end the evening with the birthday boy…Shawn McCoy (JRA’s Vice President, Marketing & Business Development).

Day 3…Final Day of the Expo - Thursday, October 8

The JRA crew was ready…even though our stash of Natalie’s treats was finished.

Keith and his dear friend, and former IAAPA Chairman, Bob Rippy (Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park).

Apparently it wasn’t a day for flats…

My bodyguards from the UK; Edward Pawley (Simex-Iwerks) and Patrick Lamb (Severn Lamb).

I flew my sister-in-law, Courtney Hausfeld, over for a long weekend, and she got to Gothenburg that morning.  Just in time to see the crazy/fun world I get to work in.

The JRA crew always likes to end a show with a good meal since we rarely have a “sit-down” dinner.  After an excellent Italian dinner (suggestion courtesy of the guys from S&S), Court and I accompanied our dinner guest, Nathan Jones (Vekoma Rides) to watch the Toronto Blue Jays in the Playoffs with some of his fellow Canucks.

Not a great picture, but we’re still holding out for your Jays!!!

Friday, October 9

We spent the day exploring the city on foot…what a great place!

One of our favorite pastimes…exploring a shopping district!  Haga, we like you…

The “Fish Church”

Time for dinner!

Great shot of Keith and Patti from dinner…

Some pictures are just too important not to get…

Back at Heaven…

…because, who can get enough of Liseberg Park??!

Saturday, October 10

I’d been dying to get in the hotel pool since the start of my trip, so Saturday morning was just the day to do it!!!

Had to take a selfie.

It was a little eerie when the jets turned off and you could see the street below you…pretty cool though!

Can’t go to Europe without seeing a Castle…

Tjolöholm Castle

Not a bad view to wake up to if you ask me!

The cottages where the workers lived can now be rented for a nice getaway…

We made sure to check out the Universeum after hearing such great things!

Beautiful view of the Gothia Towers Hotel

The pool from the ground up…glad I went in it before checking it out from this vantage point

On the walk before Court and my last dinner with Mom and Dad

Sunday, October 11

We started our last day at the Botanical Gardens.

Walked throughout the city...

...and made a new friend.

But, most importantly, made it to the pub in time to watch our Bengals…

...and had a panic attack the entire game.

One last “cheers” at 24/7 for our Bengals being 5-0 (NOW, 6-0!!!).

Monday, October 12

Final view of the beautiful Liseberg Park

Thanks for being great hosts!

Heading to Paris…one step closer to home

And…I’M HOME!!!

With this handsome boy by my side. 

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you in Orlando for the IAAPA Attractions Expo!

- Chloe

Thanks, Chloe! Next week, our Conference World Tour continues, as Colin Cronin reports back from the recent Alliance of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Conference in Montreal, Canada.

Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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Keith James Talks Intellectual Property at the 2015 IAAPA Euro Attractions Show

October 06, 2015

JRA CEO/Owner Keith James addresses the crowd for

JRA CEO/Owner Keith James addresses the crowd for "TEA Presents: The IP Landscape" at the 2015 IAAPA Euro Attractions Show.

Earlier today, JRA CEO/Owner Keith James spoke to the "IP Landscape" as part of the Theming, Storytelling and Design Track at the 2015 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' Euro Attractions Show (EAS). The track, presented by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), explored intellectual property (IP) from a variety of perspectives, and Keith offered a designer's view of why and how IP is currently used at attractions around the world.

In case you weren't able to fly to Gothenburg, Sweden for EAS, below is a transcript of Keith's presentation, which not only addresses the question of "Why IP" but also some of the benefits and challenges of incorporating branded (and often guest-cherished) material.


IP Opportunities

Over the past few years, it seems that more and more IP’s are making their way into the attractions industry, so I’d like to look at some of the opportunities and challenges in designing attractions based upon intellectual property. But before we look at designing with IP, I think it’s important to first look at why owners decide to invest in IP-based attractions in the first place.

Reason #1: Familiarity

First, using IP allows the licensee to capitalize upon years of the public’s familiarization and affinity for the selected IP’s stories, characters and environments. For example, would you rather..

Visit a theme park based upon this story….

or this story?

Reason #2: Credibility

The use of IP also provides instant credibility to the public, potential project investors and the industry. As another test, would you rather invest in a new attraction based upon these characters on the left, or this character on the right?

Reason #3: Filling in the Gaps

IP also can help an existing theme park fill in a gap with an existing target market.

Kings Island, a successful regional theme park back in my home town of Cincinnati, in the United States, has done a good job of this. Over the years, they've used a variety of IP’s to develop themed lands specifically targeted to younger children and their families, beginning with Hanna-Barbera characters, such as Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo, which they used from the early 1970’s until 2006.

This land then changed to a Nickelodeon theme...

...and most recently to Planet Snoopy.

So by using a variety of known well-known, family-oriented IP’s, the park has been able to continuously attract and entertain a valuable segment of their audience since its opening in 1972.

Reason #4: Increasing Attendance

You can also add new IP to existing theme park to increase attendance, both in the short-term and long-term. Paulton’s Park is a 140-acre park located 2 hours southwest of London. Founded in 1983, the park featured no IP-based attractions and averaged about 500,000 guests per year. That was until 2011, when the park added the world’s first Peppa Pig-themed attraction - Peppa Pig World. That year, visitor numbers to the park increased from 500,000 per year to over 1 million, which has been mainly attributed to adding the new IP land.

The IP has been so successful that the park has now embraced the land as a significant part of its marketing efforts, even resulting in a change in its logo and branding.

Probably a more well known example of an attendance boost through IP is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which, as Lesley Morrisetti pointed out in a recent article, boosted the park’s attendance by 70% in its first two years.

It also recently led to the development of the new Diagon Alley area, which created an additional 17% spike in attendance after its first year of operation.

(…meaning that it really doesn’t look like this too often, but ….more like this.)

Reason #5: PR and Marketing Opportunities

And finally, IP provides valuable marketing and PR opportunities and assets for the license holder. For example, the new Hunger Games traveling exhibit is able to tap into iconic characters and imagery from the movie franchise to market its current run in New York. The license holder also benefits from the IP’s own marketing, so the exhibit will certainly benefit from the media blitz accompanying the series’ final movie premiering next month.


So, those are some of the benefits in using IP.  From a designer’s standpoint, what are some of the challenges in working on IP-based projects?

Challenge #1: Balancing IP and Client Desires

One of the biggest challenges as a designer or architect is that you are typically hired (and paid) by the licensee, but also have to answer to the IP owner. And sometimes what a brand wants - and what it will take to fund or operate these wants - creates conflict.

For example, Ferrari licensed their brand to Aldar to create Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. The park’s spectacular building was created by Benoy, with a roof painted in vibrant "Ferrari Red".

…which becomes not so vibrant when the desert sand coats it.

As this specific red color is an integral part of the Ferrari brand, it was important for Ferrari to ensure that the roof’s color remained consistent. The idea for an automatic washing mechanism on the roof was suggested, but this option wasn’t operationally or financially viable for the Owner.  So, a compromise between the IP and Owner was reached in order to keep the roof clean and authentic to the brand…

...which consisted of a team of workers climbing on to the roof to clean it on a regular basis.

This creates some pretty interesting photographs, but it also symbolizes the lengths that often go into protecting an IP’s assets, and how early design decisions can have operational ramifications down the road.

Challenge #2: Sensitivity Toward Translating 3D Characters, Environments

A designer also has to be aware of the IP’s holder sensitivity toward creating three-dimensional versions of their characters and environments, especially when they have only been seen in a 2D format, such as print or traditional animation. But there are techniques that can be used to make this translation authentic to the brand.

For example, when JRA created a themed land based upon Curious George, we took the beloved children’s books as our design inspiration...

...and created designs that matched the illustration styles found within the books.

As seen in these facade drawings, our team worked hard to keep the lines loose. The drawings were then translated into three dimensional environments.

We even used giant reproductions of the books themselves to provide context for the guest through their exploration of the space.

Sometimes, the best way to translate 2D characters into the three dimensional world is to keep them as 2D.  This technique is used quite well within Springfield at Universal Studios, where you’ll find all of the series’ characters throughout the three-dimensional recreation of the Simpsons’ hometown,

from Bart and Milhaus...

...to Homer and Maggie.

Designers and fabricators of IP-based environments must also share the same magical attention to the details, as do the IP’s creators. For example, representatives for JK Rowling review every detail of any attraction or environment based upon the popular books and movies.

Even if those details can’t be seen by the naked eye (such as this turret top) they have to meet the IP’s guidelines, because a guest might be able to see the detail through a telephoto lens, and it has to remain authentic to the IP.

Challenge #3: Lack of Usable Design Assets

One of the biggest challenges in working with IP is the lack of usable design assets. Sometimes this is because the assets haven’t been created yet. In the early 1990’s, JRA worked with Universal Studios to create a children’s play zone based upon the animated film Fievel Goes West.  The problem was, we had to finish our design work before the actual movie was even finished.

So, we had to work with the studio to review their work in progress and develop the renderings based upon key sections of the film that were completed. Luckily...

...the project turned out well, and has been open for over 23 years.

Sometimes the IP’s assets are already created, but they aren’t usable from a technical standpoint. For example, our team has worked a lot with Rovio, the creators of the Angry Birds games. And while Rovio has a large inventory of digital characters and environments, they were formatted for mobile phones and iPads. Needless to say, the resolution of their graphics wasn’t high enough for themed environments. 

So our team had to recreate all of their graphics for a large-format output - beginning with their characters and building blocks…

...to their lush background environments...

..so that we could create large printed murals. 

So, again, another challenge in working with with IP is that their assets might be available, but unusable.

Challenge #4: Changing IP Assets

Another challenge in working with IP is that some IP is constantly changing.

For example, keeping with our work with Angry Birds.  When we began designing an indoor attraction based upon the IP, the characters looked like this, as they are seen in the game (no wings, no feet, and they don’t talk). Then, midway through our design process, the characters had evolved (for use in Rovio’s animated shorts or Toons), and now looked like…

...this. So, we had to change many of the attraction’s graphics to reflect the updated characters.

Then, Rovio created a new game based upon their relatively new Stella character, so a new themed zone had to be created to reflect these new assets.

And, most recently, images for how the birds would appear in next year’s animated feature were released - showing dramatically different looking birds - who now have wings, and feet, and speak. So, future attractions will have to accommodate the changing look of these characters and need to make decisions on which assets to use - the game version, the Toons version or the Movie version.

Challenge #5: The Lifespan of IP

Another challenge in creating attractions using IP is that they all typically have a lifespan and will need to be changed at some point - either due to an expired licensing agreement, or a change in park ownership or strategy.

Using the Kings Island theme park again as an example, when I first worked at the park in the 1970s, this restaurant was designed around a generic Octoberfest beer hall theme. However, when Paramount purchased the park, they asked us to turn it into a themed restaurant based upon one of their more popular movies.

So, the Fest Haus became a Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack, based upon the movie Forrest Gump.  Our designers were careful to limit the theming to decorations and paint treatment only, however, so that the facility could easily be changed to future themes once the IP agreement expired, which it did when Paramount sold the park to Cedar Fair and their designers took over. 

So now if you visit the restaurant, instead of Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack, you’ll find Big Hank’s Burrito Shack.  So again, it’s important to keep that flexibility built into your designs when working with IP.

Putting It All Together: The Benefits and Challenges of Working with IP

So, to recap, the are a variety of benefits in working with IP, including…
    •    Capitalize on proven popularity, stories, characters and environments
    •    Instant recognition and credibility
    •    Can instantly fill in a gap with desired target market
    •    Can provide short-term and long-term boost in attendance
    •    Valuable marketing and PR

But, there are also a variety of challenges that accompany these benefits from a design standpoint, such as…
    •    Sensitivity toward translating 3D characters, environments
    •    Lack of usable design assets
    •    Changing IP Assets
    •    Lifespan of IP

As the use of IP seemingly becomes more and more popular, I think that it’s great to have these discussions, so that we can all learn from one another and ultimately create attractions that benefit the owner, the IP owner and, most importantly, the guest. 

Keith answers audience questions alongside Ray Hole of Ray Hole Architects and David Camp of D&J International Consulting.

Tags: Blog N Learn , featured , JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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Exploding the (Blogging) Experience - A SATE Conference Storify

September 22, 2015

Welcome to our first Storify - a recap of the 2015 SATE Conference. Enjoy!

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