Themed Entertainment Design

Themed Entertainment Design

Themed Entertainment Design

Week #2 - 14/8/23 to 18/8/23
Week #2 - 14/8/23 to 18/8/23
Posted on 22 Aug 2023

Like many people, I’m a huge fan of theme parks. As a child they played host as a place my imagination could run free, accepting the magic and four-dimensional story worlds I found myself in. At home, I spent hours on Rollercoaster Tycoon replicating the parks I had visited using custom scenery and audio tracks from firework displays to entertain and inspire my two-dimensional guests.

When I was 14, I went on an educational trip to Disneyland Paris. I attended lectures on the subject of what it takes to bring a theme park to life over 3 days. I remember it vividly. During one talk we learnt how parades can be designed to engage all 5 senses:

See - colourful floats with moving parts and multiple levels.

Hear - bespoke music that travels with or comes from a float.

Taste - snacks or treats handed out by characters or performers.

Smell - scents emitted from floats.

Touch - water effects that splash guests or tactile surfaces they might come into contact with.

Looking back, I believe this played a part in my passion for drama as a subject and the concept of creating environments and situations to tell a story and evoke emotion using narrative. I also think you could equate this with the human need for play. While attending university at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, the classes I enjoyed most over the course of my studies were Stagecraft and Storytelling.

In 2015, I took a break from working at Apple to work a Summer Season at Walt Disney World in Florida. I operated two attractions in New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom Park and loved every minute. I was fascinated by the backstage insight I gained into the operational aspects and daily running of one of the world’s most well-known theme parks. There is a lot of insider knowledge I will keep to myself, as integrity is a key value in this space, but to say the thought and execution behind bringing magic experiences alive for guests is impressive is an understatement.

My welcome pack from Disney University and a big book I dip into regularly, described by Tony Baxter, former senior vice president of creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering, as an encyclopaedia (Theme Park Design & The Art of Themed Entertainment by David Younger.) Also pictured is a celebration badge provided to me by a Cast Member on my first trip to Magic Kingdom with my roomates.

Over the last few months, I’ve thought often about opportunities to be creative and how this fits into my values and passions (see my first blog for more on this) then came across the term “Themed Entertainment Design”.

Those working in the industry will know this isn’t specific to theme parks but can be applied to museums, exhibitions, shows, restaurants and other attractions where there is a story to be experienced. I can only imagine how much fun it must be to conceptualise and deliver projects that bring stories to life by evoking emotion, bringing a sense of joy or wonder and creating vivid memories for those who experience them.

As much as I love creating digital content, graphics and experiences, the prospect of creating something that will exist in the physical realm that others will experience by looking up from a screen in their hand and experience together is exciting.

In relation to this, I spent some time earlier this week producing a concept for a trackless attraction based in a library, as part of a prompt to design a website. After defining a loose story, I used Blender to model a ride vehicle (a book trolley!) and a scene to show how the attraction would use projection screens.

I then used Midjourney to create other image content to support the creation of the site. I also took a stab at designing some street signage to advertise the attraction before finally producing and deploying the website. Visit the site here to see what I did and let me know of any thoughts you have!

Last I continued working in Blender and following Polygon Runway’s course and made this render of a playfully coloured Sunny Park.

As a work-in-progress, above here is my first character model of a Tiki Shaman that will be developed during the next module.

Thanks for reading!