Acts of Creation and the Role of The Creative Team

Introduction: The Unique Qualities of a Themed Entertainment Project

Wherever people go to enjoy themselves, they want to know the story behind the place they are visiting. They ask questions like, “who started this place?; what’s this place about?; where am I and what’s the style of this place?” All of these questions revolve around the story the owners/developers are trying to tell and sell to their guests.

In the creative medium of TV production, the creators of Seinfeld would like us to believe their TV series is a world “about nothing at all.” This illusion is not to be believed for a second, but it sure makes for a good story and marketing angle. What Seinfeld did successfully was create a world(his apartment, the corner cafe, the Soup kitchen) inhabited with characters and situations we all felt we knew or could relate to(Good writing didn’t hurt either!).

And the Disney Company? Guess what, this world was created so solidly and completely over the years that who would deny the claim of the “Happiest Place on Earth” when you pass through their park’s portal? Disney has become a mainstream global culture in and of itself. As Realtors proclaim “Location, location, location!”, we creators of themed entertainment locations should clamor “the world, the world, the world!!” A world with density, layers, dimensions, texture, relationships, and a fabric. Even if the guest never digs to its depths, the depth is perceived and felt, much like a deep sense of tradition or heritage. We know its there, even if we can’t name all our great uncles or aunts.

The Creative Factor

In the creation of a themed entertainment location, creative elements are added to the development process which go beyond the construction of buildings or other hardscapes. Because entertainment significantly enters into the overall mix of components to be considered in a themed location, the sometimes mysterious and soft process of developing entertainment needs to be added to the considerations of design and construction. The entertainment component is as important as the tactile elements of real estate development because it resonates into the marketing plan and provides the project a competitive edge in the marketplace. The entertainment world with the story it tells is the hook, and a good hook is what sells the project.

The creative team assembled to conceptually design and refine a themed entertainment project is the group who follows the project from the initial concept, through the development design phase, and into the construction, installation and finally the project’s grand opening. In many instances, the creative team will remain with the project following an opening as consultants assisting with the marketing, training, and customer service aspects of the project’s daily operations.

The Creative Team: Entertainment-Based

An entertainment-based creative team includes writers, art directors, illustrators, researchers, composers, directors/producers, and specialty artists in lighting, show systems integration, sound, graphics, choreography, design, technical direction, landscape, ride consulting and production management. Each of these team players contribute a very specific knowledge to the overall concept and design process. Their collective efforts result in what ultimately WOWS and delights the public resulting in the greatest of compliments - repeat visits.

Acts of Creation(AC): Creating Worlds and Cultures

Acts of Creation(AC) specializes in creating the world of a themed entertainment location, show, ride or attraction. In other words, with the input and inspiration of the client, AC defines the world and environment which the audience will enter into. Each engaging world asks every guest to “willingly suspend their disbelief” upon entering this new world and join in the fun and exploration it presents. And...each world is unique to its particular location and story its compelled to tell. There are no cookie-cutter themed locations or attractions when a creative team starts from scratch, directed with the challenge to transform the cupboard’s foodstuffs into a delicious meal.

Working with the entire creative team, AC writes a narrative which describes the audience experience as it is conceived. This allows the team to visualize or image the destination, find overlaps or gaps in its design, finely focusing the theming needs.

Once this integrated world of the themed location is defined, AC creates the culture which operates within and outside that world. This culture includes considerations of a nomenclature or language used, signature characters(mascots) to represent the spirit and location’s identity, building materials used, the project’s philosophy, music, and individual or sub-themes which directly serve and support the central theme. Simply stated, it is the culture which embodies the spirit of the world. This culture accurately informs the myriad amount of choices that will be made when considering the mix of games, rides, attractions and shows included within the project.

Added Value

All of the components included within a particular themed culture are products which are licensable and marketable in their own right. Consequently, they will require copyrighting, trademarks, service marks and patents where applicable. All of these elements are used as the foundations for customized shows, rides and attractions.

The culture of a themed destination is the most distinguishing element from an audience’s point of view. It’s what makes a particular location special and supports guests who can’t wait to repeat their visit. A truly unique culture creates an evergreen product whose marketability extends into a broad signature product line through the power of branding.

The Entertainment Process

Like all creative work, the development of a themed entertainment location or related project is a process, a process that often includes a number of, if not all, the following elements:

1. The creation of corporate identities and collateral materials;
2. The making of presentation books, power point presentations, and investor packages;
3. Creative concept and design of themed environments, attractions, shows, and original rides;
4. Illustrations of the visual world conceived and architectural design of the visual world, structure, props, and attractions;
5. Story, narrative, and storyboards for the master plan and specific shows, rides and attractions;
6. Character development and visualization(both 2 & 3-D);
7. Styles books for licensing, character attitudes and relationships, and product design;
8. Developed websites and a virtual extension of the world to be used in marketing, promotions and sales;
9. The creation(writing, directing, choreography, art direction and composition) of live shows, rides, and attractions and themed environments from concept to installation;
10. Script, Music, and supplemental video to pre-shows for specific environments such as themed line areas;
11. Customized games;
12. Design of Staff Uniforms;
13. Printed books based on the world and story told by the location or a particular attraction(the signature characters to be used);
14. Television and film product developed for marketing and revenue from sell-through video sales.

AC’s Involvement in the Project Development Phases

In the conceptual phase, AC works to develop and specify the world of the themed destination through theming, design and the mix of shows, rides and attractions. It provides overall story conceptualization for the project, beginning with a detailed narrative and storyboard visualization of the project.

In the development design process, AC works to specify the theming, shows, rides, and attractions through storyboards and illustrations, as well as technical drawings that impact the theming. Additional considerations are addressed including scripts, music, color, texture, and environmental ambiance. A careful itemization and technical drawings of all elements are completed which impact the architectural, show systems, and electrical plans.

In the construction phase, AC works to realize the conceptual planning and design development phase by providing overall art direction, materials consulting and interface with the General Contractor.

Through the installation phase, AC provides a watchful eye to the art direction and execution of all entertainment elements including show casting, rehearsal, musical recording, illustrating, styles manuals, storyboards, special effects development, making sure the world and story of the development stay to its already approved structure and spirit.

Finally, AC works with the client as a work for hire independent contractor, assigning the rights of all intellectual property to the owner of the project, in full for perpetuity. From time to time, AC has structured a different type of relationship with the client regarding the ownership of the intellectual property rights, depending on the needs of the project.

A Winning Team

The process of creating a themed destination is a complex interaction of the client, the creative team, architects, engineers, fabricators, vendors, artists, accountants, marketing team, and many others serving the project, all working together to create a unique, customized themed entertainment location. By design, this location will draw and exceed the audience’s expectations because of its attractiveness, entertainment value, and accessibility. A collaborative and synergistic effort from all these essential team players creates an evergreen attraction with a broad appeal.

The success of a themed destination lies in the blending and integration of entertainment, architecture, engineering, and construction. To the extent that these elements are harmonious and well guided dictates the degree of the project’s success.

It is AC’s belief that a themed destination location is not built by an individual, but rather a team - a team which shares a vision, passion and a desire to create a unique and supremely fun place to be. Its finally why we believe there’s successful business to be made in turning illusions into reality. Everyone loves FUN!