How to Build a Theme Park in 10 Steps – for Marketers

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Roller Coaster

This article was recently published in BA’s Business Life magazine. It seemed a fun and interesting way of looking at how to create something from scratch which is meant to give people a mind-blowing experience, similarly to creating an integrated marketing campaign from scratch. Too many times we see brands doing campaigns just the way they have always done it, without questioning if it is still the right thing to do, or how it could be improved to give people the integrated 360 degree experience they will want to engage with.

At Flock we use similar methods to the ones listed below (See Flock Together here) to bring teams together at the start of a project. We help clients set strategic objectives, ensure alignment across internal departments and external agencies, assign responsibilities and make sure everyone leaves the room knowing what the next steps are.

1. Blue sky
“Each of the design phases is like a 3D building block in a 3D storybook,” says Peter McGrath. The first stage involves the designers brainstorming ideas about what the attraction could involve. They try to be as free-thinking as possible and the direction of their discussion is mainly driven by the type of technology they want to use, the story they want to tell or the geographical location of the attraction. The ideas are often written on Post-it notes, which are grouped into themes on a wall to narrow down the strongest directions. The discussion is still highly conceptual at this point.

2. Storyboarding
The designers choose the strongest ideas and then take them to the concept design phase. This centres on the creation of storyboards, which are a series of hand-drawn illustrations showing what will be the key moments in the attraction. “Like the movie industry, you start doing big broad idea vignettes but then also refine it into smaller story ideas,” says David Minichiello.

3. Model making
The strongest concepts are turned into models to show what the finished attraction would look like. The construction of the initial models is relatively basic as they are usually made of foam and cardboard cut-outs. They are supplemented with Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) of the attraction from the guests’ perspective.

4. Set drawing
Once the attraction has been visualised through models or CGI, the process moves into a cost estimation phase. The designers then require the park operator’s agreement on the proposed format for the attraction and the estimated budget. Next they produce detailed set drawings, which are essentially blueprints for the attraction.

5. Feasibility analysis
This phase answers perhaps the most important question: how will the attraction be built? It focuses on the technical detail and engineering which will underpin it. The special effects and audio designers use the models and set designs for reference and the acoustics team studies the proposed space so that it can provide input.

6. Contract document design
The designers pool their feedback from the different areas involved with the planning of the attraction. This is condensed into a contract document that outlines the work required to build the attraction. Contractors bid for it and the key areas covered are show control, lighting, audio, ride manufacture and installation.

7. Construction
Some of the work is carried out directly by the designers and a team of them supervise the construction in the field. Ride systems are typically manufactured by specialist companies and it is the design surrounding them which makes the overall experience unique.

8. The finale
Once installation is complete the attraction goes through a test and adjust period that focuses on areas such as audio levels, programme animation and effects. Then comes the grand opening. It usually takes between two to five years from the first blue sky meetings to the doors of the attraction swinging open. However, the designers’ work doesn’t end there.

9. Maintaining standards
Once the attraction has opened it is overseen by a group of designers from the Show Quality Standards (SQS) division. It makes minor tweaks and improvements to the attraction when necessary.

10. Measuring guest response
The success of the designers’ work is judged by guest surveys. The park operator monitors guests’ intent to revisit, intent to recommend and general levels of satisfaction. The attraction is also measured using objective business-driven criteria, the main one being Theoretical Hourly Ride Capacity (THRC). This shows the number of guests per hour that can experience an attraction under optimal conditions. The more the better.

So if you need help with getting people to queue up for your “roller coaster”, give us a call here, we will be delighted to assist you.


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