Das „Beyond“-Festival in Karlsruhe ist wahrscheinlich das größte öffentliche Forum zum Thema 3D in Deutschland. Als es 2010 zum ersten Mal stattfand, lag die perfekte Stimmung in der Luft. Die Erinnerung an den Kassenerfolg von Avatar war noch frisch, Wim Wenders’ Pina war gerade erschienen und versprach einen Vorstoß der Ästhetik in den Arthouse-Bereich, die ganze Internationalen Funk-Ausstellung (IFA) sprach von 3D-Fernsehern. 3D-Enthusiasten wie „Beyond“-Gründer Ludger Pfanz vom Karlsruher Zentrum für Kultur und Medien strahlten es förmlich aus: Nach mehr als hundert Jahren als belächelte Jahrmarktattraktion wird sich Stereoskopie als Kunstform endlich emanzipieren.

Drei Jahre später hat das „Beyond“-Festival seinen Fokus deutlich erweitert. Gesprochen wird über 3D-Bilder in der Biomedizin und der Sprachpädagogik, über Simulationen und künstliche Intelligenz. Stereoskopische Bilder auf Kinoleinwänden und Fernsehern spielen nur noch am Rande eine Rolle. Bei der ersten Panel-Diskussion des festivalbegleitenden Symposiums sitzt Ludger Pfanz mit zwei einsamen Kämpen auf der Bühne. Und trotz des Themas „The Future of 3D“ wird wenig über 3D gesprochen, es geht eher um eine generelle Bestandsaufnahme der Produktionslandschaft.

Weiterlesen in epd medien 47/2013

Als das Auto im Film in einen Tunnel fährt, beginnen die gelben Punkte auf dem Monitor zu tanzen. In einem Gitterkasten am rechten unteren Bildschirmrand fliegen sie von vorne nach hinten, immer wieder. Auf der Leinwand sieht man passend dazu die Lichter des Tunnels über dem Dach des Autos vorbeiziehen. Und weil jeder gelbe Punkt ein Geräusch darstellt, rauschen auch im Raum die Lampen mit einem deutlichen „Wuusch“ über einen hinweg.

Der Ort für dieses eindrucksvolle Klangerlebnis ist das frisch eingeweihte und zertifizierte Dolby Atmos-Studio der Babelsberger Firma Rotor Film. Der erste Film, dessen Tonspur hier im neuen Mischungsformat entstanden ist, heißt Lost Place, ein 3D-Mystery-Thriller aus unabhängiger deutscher Produktion, dessen Start gerade vom April in den September verschoben wurde.

Die optische Tonspur des Kinofilms wechselte, nach ihrem Sprung von Mono auf Stereo in den 70ern, schon Anfang der 90er Jahre unter allgemeiner Zustimmung auf digitale Formate. So wuchsen die bis dahin üblichen Stereokanäle auf insgesamt fünf plus einen Subwoofer-Kanal und ließ bisherige Experimente wie „Sensurround“, ein System mit erhöhtem Bassumfang aus Earthquake von 1974, damit hinter sich. Dass im Tonbereich trotzdem noch Luft nach oben ist zeigt aktuell eine neue Welle von sogenannten 3D-Audioformaten, von denen Dolby Atmos eines ist.

weiterlesen in epd film 5/2013

Einige der heute größten Internetunternehmen – eBay etwa, Google, Facebook und sogar Amazon mit seinem Marketplace – verdanken einen erheblichen Teil ihres Erfolges nicht der Tatsache, dass sie selbst ein bemerkenswertes inhaltliches Angebot geschaffen haben. Sie haben Infrastrukturen gebaut, die es für Produzenten und Nutzer und für Nutzer untereinander einfacher machen, direkt miteinander in Kontakt zu treten, während die Unternehmen mit genau diesem Mittlerdienst ihr Geld verdienen. Das ist nicht überall gewollt – siehe Google und das Leistungsschutzrecht – aber so wird die Struktur des Netzes genutzt, in dem der Weg von A nach B immer gleich weit ist, nämlich exakt einen Klick.

Auch im VOD-Bereich wäre eine solche Infrastruktur genau das, wonach sich wahrscheinlich viele Nutzer sehnen: Ein riesengroßer Online-Video-Supermarkt, in dem man alles gucken kann, was digital existiert und es notfalls direkt vom Erzeuger kauft – wie man das heute im Internet gewohnt ist. Stattdessen kann Serie X nicht auf Portal Y geschaut werden, weil nur Portal Z (das man als Konsument vielleicht gar nicht kennt) die Lizenz besitzt, während Serie A völlig unerreichbar ist, weil Sender B noch darauf wartet, die Lizenz in Deutschland zu verkaufen.

Wer etwas Bestimmtes sucht, muss also im schlimmsten Fall sozusagen erst jeden Laden im Netz abklappern, um am Ende womöglich trotzdem mit leeren Händen dazustehen. Das sind genau jene Zustände aus analogen Zeiten, die das Internet eigentlich abschaffen könnte.

Mehr lesen in epd medien 44/12

Bild: Katharina Matzkeit

Nachdem sie mit Toy Story 1995 ihr Langfilmdebüt gaben, galten die Burbanker Pixar-Studios als ein merkwüdiger Sonderfall in Hollywood. Sie produzierten Filme, die, unter dem Deckmäntelchen der Animation, nicht nur für klingelnde Kassen sorgten, sondern auch noch bei Kritikern regelmäßig Bestnoten absahnten. Die letzten beiden Outputs des mittlerweile gänzlich zum Disney-Konzern gehörenden Studios, Cars 2 und Merida, konnten die Kritiker zwar nicht mehr ganz so hinreißen wie etwa Oben, der 2009 die Filmfestspiele von Cannes eröffnete. Die ausgefeilten Welten, die Pixar immer noch regelmäßig erschafft, begeistern aber nach wie vor.

Um diese Welten, und vor allem: um ihre analoge Ursprünge, dreht sich alles in der seit Juli in der Bonner Bundeskunsthalle gastierenden Ausstellung „Pixar: 25 Years of Animation“. Das Grußwort von Pixar-Boss John Lasseter erklärt gleich zu Anfang: Hier sollen die handgemachten künstlerischen Arbeiten und Prozesse sichtbar gemacht werden, die den vom Computer gerenderten Schauspielen vorausgehen, für die Pixar so berühmt ist.

Weiterlesn in epd Film 9/2012

In einem Interview mit der „New York Times“ sprach David Bowie 2002 davon, dass Musik sich in der Zukunft zu einem Gebrauchsgut wie Elektrizität oder Wasser entwickeln werde: etwas, von dem man selbstverständlich davon ausgeht, dass es jederzeit und überall verfügbar ist. Bei Filmen bahnt sich ein ähnlicher Trend an. Legale Streaming-Angebote wie Netflix, die Filme gegen Geld direkt aus dem Netz auf den heimischen Bildschirm beamen, machen als „große Jukebox im Himmel“ in den USA bereits ein gutes Drittel des gesamten Internet-Traffics aus.

2012 könnte das Jahr sein, in dem das gleiche Modell langsam aber sicher auch in Deutschland Fuß fasst. Zumindest ist laut GfK der deutsche digitale Leih- und Kaufmarkt für Filme im vergangenen Jahr um rund 50 Prozent gestiegen und konnte damit sogar den gleichzeitigen Rückgang im Geschäft mit DVD und Blu-Ray ausgleichen.

Mittlerweile sind zwölf Prozent des gesamten Video-Leihmarktes digital, kommen also ganz ohne materielle Trägermedien aus. Immer größere Internetbandbreiten und die wachsenden Märkte für Tablet-Computer und sogenannte Smart-TVs, also Fernseher mit Internetanschluss, haben Video-on-Demand für immer mehr Konsumenten, mittlerweile rund 2,1 Millionen in Deutschland, zu einer echten, und vor allem: legalen, Alternative zur Videothek um die Ecke reifen lassen. Die Vorstellung ist ja auch bestechend: Wenn einen spontan die Lust auf einen Film überkommt, muss man nicht mehr auf Öffnungszeiten und begrenzte Sortimente Rücksicht nehmen, nicht mal mehr die Wohnung verlassen. Man wirft einfach Fernseher oder Computer an, bezahlt bargeldlos, und Minuten später flimmert der Wunschfilm über den Bildschirm.

Weiterlesen auf epd-film.de

A great cultural upheaval like the digitisation of cinema may tempt academics to bury it under a heap of ontological theory. This makes it all the more refreshing that it is an academic of all people, who has now published one of the most grounded accounts of the topic.

The American film studies guru David Bordwell, wo renewed the popularity of formalist film analysis in the 80s, first approached the digital changeover in a series of blog entries, which he has now assembled and reworked in a compact eBook for Sale on his site. With a real reporter’s spirit, Bordwell set out to learn about the changes on the very scenes they happened – in arthouses and multiplexes, with organizers of film festivals and overseers of film archives.

Especially these last two chapters allow for surprising insights into the work of institutions that even cinephiles rarely get to see the other side of. Bordwell describes the almost insurmountable chaos of formats in the booth of a festival projectionist, as well as the enormous effort, the costs and problems with data compatibility that figure in the digital storage of movies. All this, the Wisconscin professor enriches with journalistic background knowledge; he describes the institutional and economic history of the changeover without any frills and sketches the moves and motivations in the big business of film, or in this case – as the subtitle of the book makes clear – files.

Bordwell avoids choosing a clear side in the ongoing debate – even if his affection clearly rests with celluloid, or rather: acetate. As he points out in the introduction, he feels mostly excited about the fact that as a film historian, he finally gets a chance to witness a historic paradigm shift first hand. Istead of just reconstructing the details and the feel of such a change after the fact through a series of educated academic guesses, he enjoys being right in the middle of it – as a sort of embedded student of cinema. And he succeeds outstandingly.

„Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files and the Future oF Movies“ is available for $3.99 from davidbordwell.net.

A different, German version of this review appeared in epd film 7/2012.

„Und sie lebten glücklich und zufrieden bis an ihr Lebensende.“ Schon so mancher Filmproduzent mag beim Lesen dieses Satzes am Ende eines Märchens über sein Schicksal in einem Business nachgedacht haben, in dem es vom traumhaften Erfolg zum Megaflop nur ein kleiner Schritt ust, das von Orakelsprüchen und Einflüsterungen – Du bist der Schönste! – lebt und in dem nichts so richtig kalkulierbar ist. Außer dem hier: Wenn am Ende des Monats Snow White and the Huntsman durch den Zauberspiegel sprechen, ist das der Kamm einer ganzen Welle von Neuinterpretationen klassischer Märchen und märchenhafter Geschichten made in Hollywood.

Erst im April hat Regisseur Tarsem Singh eine alternative Version des Grimm’schen Märchens inms Rennen geschickt: Spieglein Spieglein – Die wirklich wahre Geschichte von Schneewittchen mit Julia Roberts in der Rolle der bösen Stiefmutter. Bereits 2011 durfte Amanda Seyfried als Red Riding Hood ihre Großmutter fragen, warum sie so große Zähne hat. Und im im amerikanischen Fernsehen laufen derzeit zusätzlich erfolgreich die märchenhaften Serien „Grimm“ und „Once Upon a Time“, die im Herbst auch in Deutschland bei Vox und RTL ausgestrahlt werden sollen. Weitere Filme warten am Horizont. Um die Ursachen des Booms zu ergründen, benötigt man keinen Zauberspiegel – sie sind so eindeutig wie messbar. Die großen Studios setzen in Zeiten der noch immer nicht überwundenen ökonomischen Krise eben gerne auf bewährte und vermeintlich zeitlose Stoffe, zu denen die klassischen Märchensammlungen von Charles Perrault, den Brüdern Grimm und von Joseph Jacobs zweifelsohne gehören, Auch hat die Umsiedelung der klassischen Moralgeschichten in düstere oder humorvolle Kontexte durchaus Tradition – nicht nur im US-Mainstreamkino. Neil Jordans psychoanalytische „Rotkäppchen“-Fabel Zeit der Wölfe von 1984 könnte man zum Beweis ebenso anführen wie die jüngsten „Auf einen Streich“-Neuauflagen im Weihnachtsprogramm der ARD.

Weiterlesen auf chrismon.de
oder epd Film 6/2012 (unter dem Titel „Grimmtomatisch“)

Wie wenig das Marktschreiertum der Elektronikhersteller, das sich auch deutlich im Programm der bevorstehenden IFA widerspiegelt, insbesondere mit der deutschen Realität zu tun hat, merkt man schnell, wenn man mit hiesigen Fernsehmachern telefoniert. 3-D-Fernsehen „ist für uns auf absehbare Zeit kein Thema“, heißt es beim ZDF. Man beobachte die Entwicklung „mit Interesse“, aber ohne „konkrete Planungen“, lautet die Auskunft der Mediengruppe RTL.

Weiterlesen in epd medien 67/2010

For my article about movie tie-in theme park attractions, I interviewed Craig Hanna in June 2009. Craig Hanna is Chief Creative Officer of Thinkwell Design, one of the leading design companies in the amusement park world, who have designed and built attractions all over the globe – also in Germany. The interview was done via e-mail and has been slightly edited.

Real Virtuality: How does Thinkwell go about designing a new movie tie-in attraction?

Craig Hanna: We start by meeting with the owner of the intellectual property to understand what the essence of their IP is. What’s the heart and soul of that movie or animation or product. Often, the owner of the intellectual property isn’t the developer of the project. The developer often licenses the intellectual property from a studio. We then serve as an intermediary between the owner/operator and the IP holder. We have to create an experience that meets the business, financial, schedule and operational goals while ensuring the creative and production on the project remains true to the original IP.

How do you decide what kind of ride to design or is there often a wish from the client?

Sometimes the client knows what kind of attraction they want, but typically we start with the IP and decide what will be most appropriate to go with the IP and if the project is going into an existing park, we’ll look at the overall mix of attractions to ensure what we’re creating is complimentary to the other offerings. Obviously, making sure the attraction type fits perfectly with the IP is key. To understand our process, the best way to learn it is to to go to our website.

What makes a good (movie) attraction (whether it is a coaster, ride, show, etc.)?

When considering an IP for an attraction there must always be an inherent attraction or ride already residing within the IP. „Serious“ films without action or dramatic stories with lots of dialogue don’t work very well for attractions. Animated films, action films, big sci-fi films and films with great chase, stunt or fight sequences obviously work great. Of course, the IP needs to be popular and known with the general public, otherwise, why bother?

Is Disney’s Imagineering still the big role model?

Disney is always going to be the role model, but Universal is as well. Universal have done more movie-based attractions in the last two decades than Disney has, bringing blockbuster films to life. When the Harry Potter land and attractions open at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, it will be the culmination of all the work in creating IP attractions that has come before it.

How important is good Theming to a working theme park, especially when you get to build a whole park from scratch as in Korea? How do you achieve it?

Theming is expensive. So, you start with looking at the overall financial considerations for the park. How much can the client spend to build the park? That gives you a general rule of thumb in terms of overall quality. Most parks add theming for theming’s sake. There’s little correlation between this land and that, other than to provide some character and give visitors a chance to escape from the normal world. When we develop theme parks we look at theming as part of the storytelling of the park, what we call Environmental Storytelling. It is all part of a unique process we developed called Content Masterplanning. Just as an architect will develop a land-use plan and an overall park masterplan, we masterplan the content of the park. Every aspect of the park – every land, building, attraction, store and restaurant-must support and work synergistically with that story. Every element, visual and audio cue the guest experiences, sees, hears, touches or even tastes, must reinforce thet story. Anything else is extraneous and often contradictory to the message and must be discarded in design phases.

How important is it that an attraction ties in seamlessly with the existing intellectual property (i.e. shooting footage of the original actors, music etc.)?

Ideally, an IP-based attraction would incorporate all elements from the original film, but that’s often not the case. Typically, an IP is licensed long after the film is produced, because most clients don’t want to take a chance licensing something before it’s popularity is proven. Given that, being able to work with the original actors is a lot harder. A new deal must be made, oftentimes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more!). Most studios don’t include attraction rights and waivers in their contracts with producers and actors, so each IP must be vetted by legal and the appropriate deals made.

How does a ride keep up its appeal? When does it get obsolete?

A good attraction is timeless, often outliving the appeal of the original intellectual property. Take „Waterworld“ at Universal Studios Hollywood and Japan, for example. That film was considered a „bomb“ by Hollywood standards, yet the stunt show is considered one of the top-rated attractions at both parks. The Men in Black movies have been out of theatres for nearly a decade, yet the ride at Universal Studios Florida is still one of the most popular.

Could you explain, how the proceedings were when you were contracted to do the „Ice Age Adventure“ in Germany? How did you develop the property, the ride, how did you expand the movie into the ride?

We were contacted by Star Parks because of our expertise in creating IP-based attractions. They had to remove the Warner Bros. intellectual properties because their purchase of the park didn’t include the WB IP. Star Parks had to remove the Looney Tunes attraction. We brokered the relationship between 20th Century Fox and Star Parks to bring Ice Age to the park. Star Parks was worried about the cost of licensing a blockbuster IP, but we convinced them it wouldn’t cost as much as they feared. The project was less than nine months from start to finish, which is about a third of the amount of time it would typically take to complete such an attraction. Fortunately, we kept the existing ride system and reworked much of the existing scenery from the old ride to work with the new IP.

We never want to simply recreate the original IP. That becomes too much of what you’ve already seen and offers no new surprises. We create what we like to call a „1.5 sequel“. Not really a sequel (we leave that to the Hollywood movie writers!), but something based on what you know and love from the original blockbuster movie, but then goes beyond it. That’s what we did with „Ice Age Adventure“. Fortunately, unbeknownst to us, our storyline was very similar to what Blue Sky Studios was developing for the sequel, Ice Age 2. We worked closely with Fox and Blue Sky to develop the story, got their approvals quickly and went to work completing the design and fabrication to make opening day for the new season as Movie Park Germany.

Blue Sky was very helpful. They provided their 3D computer models of the characters to us to allow us to do CNC carvings for the figures rather than traditional hand sculpting, which saved weeks, if not months, in production. I flew to New York and met with the producers and director of the films, got to meet the animators and understand the essence of the IP. Later, our designers worked with their animators to pose the characters from the film for our ride. It was a great process. In the beginning, to save time, we sent a team to Movie Park, where we worked on-site in temporary offices they provided for us. We quickly developed the initial concept and full presentation to executive management, complete with layout, storyboards, scene descriptions and script in one week. We nearly killed ourselves on that project! The night before opening, the last shipment of animatronics arrived from the United States and we all were in waders walking through the filled trough carrying animated figures through the ride to get them loaded in, installed and wired in time for the park’s opening the next day!

Was working in Germany different from working anywhere else?

Working in Germany was excellent. The people at the park in operations and maintenance were very helpful. The weather was extremely cold, which isn’t very familiar to a group of people from Los Angeles, but we work all over the world and are used to all kinds of cultures and climates.

Any other challenges you ran into during that period?

The cost to license the soundtrack from Ice Age was prohibitive, so we hired a composer from Cirque du Soleil and created our own that was reminiscent of the movie’s theme, but was actually a wholly-new piece.

We also had to hire German voice actors to do the voices of the characters for the ride. The ones that did the voiceovers for the movie in German were too expensive, so we hired other sound-alike voices. It ended up those actors were famous German comedians that were more popular than the people who did the voices from the movie originally (NB: The comedian who voices Sid the Sloth in the German version, Otto Waalkes, is something of a national institution in Germany, probably in the way the Pythons are in Britain, the other voices aren’t, A.G.)!

When the ride first opened we had a preshow scene where the cave paintings from the movie came to life and told the backstory of each character of the ride, just in case you weren’t familiar with the Ice Age movies. Not long after opening, Movie Park executives decided to change that scene to something with a live narrative. I miss those original „magical petroglyphs“ because it was a special moment that wordlessly explained the entire backstory of the film. We spent a lot of time on original animation to do it and the folks at Blue Sky Studios really liked what we had done to expand the story.

This is one part of a four-part package on film tie-in attractions in theme parks. The other three are a feature article, a post on how the article came about, and an interview with Barry Upson (formerly Universal Studios).

For my article about movie tie-in theme park attractions, I interviewed Barry Upson in June 2009. Barry was the executive in charge of the concept, facility design, construction and operation of the original Univeral Studios Tour in Hollywood. For twenty years, from 1979 to 1999, he was executive vice president of Universal Creative. Among other things, he managed the Master Planning of Universal City Florida. He now works as a consultant in his own company. The interview was done via e-mail. It has been slightly edited.

Real Virtuality: Please describe your motivations and the steps you took back when you were creating Universal’s Studio Park. What did you consider back then?

Barry Upson: A little history. In 1914 Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Studios, invited paid guests to view shooting of silent films from bleachers on the lot. The first movie studio “tour” was attended by 500 people per day. During the 1920’s through the 1960’s and beyond, several studios operated small, exclusive walking tours of their lots (Warner Brothers, Paramount, MGM, etc.). As you know, Disney used their cartoon and animated film, characters widely in the creation of Disneyland. Universal permitted Grayline Tour Buses to drive through the studio (for a fee) in the late 1950’s. Passengers saw film clips, a make-up show and ate lunch in the Commissary.

The Grayline experience convinced Universal management that there was a business in a working studio tour for several reasons: There obviously was a huge pent-up demand to go “behind the scenes”, see how movies are made, maybe see “stars”. The tour allowed for the promotion of prime time TV shows, of which a majority were being filmed at Universal at the time and offered the possibility of creating new revenue from an existing plant. A tram tour could be routed hourly to either expose or avoid shooting companies as circumstances demanded.

At the outset, and for several ensuing years (1964 to 1980), the studio tram tour and the tour guides were the “stars” and the tram special effects and shows were the “bit players” at Universal. Early tram impacting attractions (Collapsing Bridge; Red Sea Parting; Ice Tunnel; Flash Flood; Runaway Train, etc.) were themed and presented as 4-D film-like special effects – not necessarily tied to specific movies or TV shows. Early very simple effects demonstrations in the tour center were more directly tied to a title: “Creatures From the Black Lagoon”; “Frankenstein”. Original stunt and animal shows (and screen test theater) were generic “behind the scenes” presentations.

By 1980, Universal Tour attendance levels made Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm direct competitors. Larger, bolder and more recognizable attractions were needed to compete and build attendance. This is when “rights” (IPR’s) started to become a major issue. During the 1980’s, major attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood were based on the storyline or adopted the theme and/or name of major Universal IP’s. Examples are the “Conan Show” (live actor-animation), the “A-Team” live action stunt show, the “King Kong” Tram attraction with major figure animation, the “Earthquake” drive-through with major special effects and the “Castle Dracula” live theater attraction.

Even gaining these exclusive rights internally was often difficult and costly because of cast deals, partnerships, etc.

How did you walk the line between creating things that were both „real“, i.e. credible, and entertaining at the same time?

The most boring aspect of movies and TV is the actual filming process and even that can be overcome with the on-set presence of “stars”. Since most, if not all of Universal’s attractions are based on a final film product or selected compelling components of the process (stunts, animals, screen tests, etc.) there was never really a line between “real” and “entertaining” – the attractions had to be both. The studio environment is also always “real” in its own way.

Have any of these motivations or proceedings changed, esp. later when the park in its current form developed?

The motivation is generally the same. Theme parks want to create a compelling guest experience, they want to adhere effectively to a theme or storyline. They have to build attendance, beat the competition, keep to a budget and schedule and make a profit.

Possible proceedings to achieve this are: work on a grander scale, improve the design dteails, use more complex content or infrastructure, achieve a higher capacity and use more sophisticated operations and maintenance.

Securing exclusive rights to strong film properties from any source is more critical now to creating an attraction that cannot be duplicated competitively. Universal Studios Florida would not exist except for Spielberg Film rights. The same is true for Universal’s Islands of Adventure with Spider-Man, Dr. Seuss, Dudly Doright, etc.

Is it different making movie attractions then and now? What has changed, what has stayed the same?

A realistic evaluation of potential market size and composition and effective response to it is more critical today. The days of of “Build it and they shall come” are over.

Other than dealing with the design/development and business practice differences of producing attractions or parks overseas as opposed to the United States, I think the fundamental creative process is the same. At both Universal and Disney, the basic concept is created in-house with design extension done by highly experienced outside firms and fabrication/construction done by the most qualified companies worldwide.

What are the important aspects one has to consider first and foremost when creating a new attraction based on movies?

The most important factors in building a good movie attraction are exclusive I.P.R. Rights, a “pre-sold” successful movie or TV theme, a simple, powerful storyline or concept and a compelling, cohesive guest experience. Moreover you need an adequate schedule and budget, high quality consultants and purveyors, an adequate capacity for minimal wait times, effective experience set-up in the queue line or pre-show. You will want to minimize cannibalization of attendance at other primary park attractions and finally you will need xcellent marketing.

Many Theme Parks simply adopt a movie/t.v. title as a name for a standard iron ride or Show. Universal, Disney and Warners built their attractions around the basic premise of the film. There is a world of difference in these two strategies.

How do you decide which movie to turn into a ride or other attraction?

How to “decide” is based on any number of different factors depending on circumstanc: It’s having an appropriate theme within the park’s attraction mix and a key scene/storyline that will drive a compelling attraction concept. Rights availability and a need for a distinct competitive edge in the park’s market almost always influence the decision. Often the basic idea is market tested with consumer groups and the outcome of those tests can be the final decision maker.

Does the technology inspire the art or vice versa?

Whether “art” or “technology” inspires attraction concepts can best be described by some examples. The “Back To The Future” ride was inspired by the DeLorean scenes in film. Its replacement, the “Simpsons” ride is character driven. The “E.T.” Ride follows E.T.’s film journey home. All the “Dr. Seuss” Attractions at Universal Islands of Adventure are based on original stories and the “T2-3D” Attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood is basically single character-driven. So you could say they were inspired by the “art”. However, “Earthquake”, as part of the Studio Tour, was made possible by very large-scale environmental animation. “Spider-Man” is a unique, complex marriage of 3-D film, animation and ride and has the vehicle at the heart of the attraction. With “Backdraft”, large scale, real fire effects are the show and the “Jurrasic Park Ride” was shaped by the only available hillside site at Universal Studios Hollywood..

How important is good Theming to a working theme park?

You will find many in our industry that think the term “theming” is really overused in almost every facet of our life and has become a cliché. However, true theming is still critical to successful park development and operations. Good park theming is seeing to it that everything in the park contributes positively to its central story line and to a compelling, cohesive guest experience: no jarring, non-thematic events, services or facilities are allowed. This is easier said than done, but it is vital to success. Disney understands and executes theming as well or better than anyone, yet I believe they would be the first to admit that the theme environment of California Adventure was mediocre at best and impacted attendance.

Effectively linking a film’s elements to its name-sake attraction through images, dialogue, sound effects, musical score, and special effects is always desirable because it grounds the guest more strongly in that specific entertainment experience. There are many good examples of these film/attractions linkages at Universal and Disney parks: “Spider-Man”, “Simpsons”, “T2-3D” among them. Universal has just installed a state-of-the-art A/V system in their Universal Hollywood trams that permits guests to view scenes from films while traveling through the sets where they were shot, as well as other visual materials.

Is the theme park business a struggle sometimes? Did you ever terminate a project because you had the feeling it didn’t connect well enough with the movie it emulated?

I actually have quite a few war stories about both winning and losing battles in the Park/Attraction development wars. They range from rocks bouncing into trams during the rockslide effect and a real earthquake at the “Earthquake” attraction that is part of the Studio Tour. At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the perfect animation of a Triceratops was not good enough for the guests and in one case, an entire park concept had to be scrapped due to competitive gamesmanship: about 1979, Universal planned to move the Hollywood park concept of backlot tram tour and entertainment center to Orlando, Florida, which is Disney territory. In seeking a partner for the project, Universal made presentations to Paramount and a few other studios at the time. Shortly thereafter, Disney announced plans to build an MGM-Disney Theme Park at Walt Disney World…fundamentally the same park concept that Universal was planning. Universal elected to proceed anyway, dropped the tram tour component and created the first, true Movie Theme Park concept: Universal Studios Florida.

How does a ride keep up its appeal? When does it get obsolete?

An attraction keeps its appeal by remaining relevant to its market and to the primary entertainment mission of the park. It becomes “obsolete” when the original Film or TV. base drops from sight (e.g. “E.T.”), when the technology becomes passé or when we find that the site or facility is better used for a new attraction.

What is in stock for the future of theme parks?

Ah, the future. Ten years ago, I gave a speech at IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) entitled: “The Future Just Passed By…Did We Miss It?” The premise was that the basic ideas that will drive the future of the themed entertainment industry are already out there in some form. We just have to recognize them. I still believe that.

Can you think of a current example that embodies your philosophy about movie theme park attractions best?

I think the recent conversion of the “Back to the Future” attraction to the “Simpsons” attraction was a brilliant concept and has proved highly successful. The original concept for “Back to the Future” offered the opportunity to create new software for the existing facility and ride system and it worked.

The new Harry Potter Land at Universal’s Islands of Adventure should be a smash hit because of deep involvement by the original film makers, particularly its art director, and a commitment of land, budget and creative team by Universal to fully exploit the strength and appeal of the theme subject.

This is one part of a four-part package on film tie-in attractions in theme parks. The other three are a feature article, a post on how the article came about, and an interview with Craig Hanna (Thinkwell Design).