Every year since 2010, Theme Park Insider has hosted a competition called Theme Park Apprentice. While the competition has changed much from its original form, it continues to maintain popularity and has successfully completed 7 seasons to date (along with a couple spin-off contests). Now, it is time to begin the eighth season of this competition. Welcome to…
Theme Park Apprentice 8
What is Theme Park Apprentice?
Put simply, Theme Park Apprentice is an imaginary design exercise for theme park fans. Each week, competitors are presented with a challenge relating to some aspect of a theme park and must submit a proposal that best satisfies the requirements of the challenge. Each week, the entries will be judged by a panel of judges, and the competitor who least satisfies the requirements will be eliminated from the competition. Eventually, one competitor will be crowned the champion. The competition was originally conceived by Tim W and patterned off the popular reality TV program The Apprentice, and while changes have occurred over time the basic premise has remained the same.
Who is AJ Hummel and what is he doing here?
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been a user of Theme Park Insider for several years and became more active on the site a couple years ago, including becoming an official writer in the fall of last year. While I live in Southern California and am often one of the first to answer questions about the region, I’ve been traveling North America to visit theme parks since 2008, and in that time I have visited over 70 theme parks and ridden over 350 roller coasters. There are still a few destinations that elude me (Florida being the most notable), but my hope is to visit all the decent sized parks in the United States by 2020. In real life, I have a Mechanical Engineering degree and have the eventual career goal of working in the themed entertainment industry in some form.
As far as Theme Park Apprentice is concerned, I first competed in Theme Park Apprentice 4 and was crowned champion at the end of a very intense competition. I also competed in Theme Park Apprentice 5, then joined the judging panel for future seasons. I was given the host position for Theme Park Apprentice 7 and will continue to serve as host this season.
What format is in use for this season?
This season, we will be using a cumulative park format. That means that you will draft a park of your own creation and everything presented during this competition will be for your specific park. If you competed in Theme Park Apprentice 6.1, this is the format that was used during that competition. This is different from the individual challenge format used during Theme Park Apprentice 7, but for fans of that format it will return at some point in the future.
What is the duration of this competition?
This season is scheduled for 7 challenges, plus a redemption challenge. In addition, there will be an entry round at the beginning. The entry challenge will begin on Sunday, May 15th, with the final challenge currently scheduled to end in late July. This schedule is subject to change if necessary.
How many competitors may participate?
In order to run Theme Park Apprentice 8, a minimum of 8 competitors are required. Ideally, I would like to have 10-12 competitors in case of drops. There is no maximum number of competitors, but if a large number sign up there may be more than one elimination per round.
Who is eligible to participate?
Any registered member of Theme Park Insider who has ever fantasized about designing a theme park or working in the industry AND who is willing to commit the time to writing quality proposals each week (this can vary, but expect to spend 5-10 hours per week on the competition) is welcome to participate. If you’ve never competed before, don’t be intimidated as first-timers tend to have just as much success as veterans in this competition. In fact, we’ve had more first-time champions than veteran champions.
What are the changes this season?
Those of you who competed in Theme Park Apprentice 7 may remember that it was an experimental season. Some of the concepts worked really well in that competition, and others were nearly disastrous. This season, we have used the results of that competition to implement some modifications and improvements to the competition as outlined below.
Challenge Constraints: Unlike last season, this season will be featuring very open-ended challenges. For the most part, the challenges will simply provide a definition of what the judges are looking for as well as some minimum requirements for the design. The goal here is going to be making something that fits within your park rather than trying to stick within strict design requirements. While realism is strongly recommended, we will not be looking for perfection as long as the design is within reason.
Point System: Due to problems with the point system, we will not be using it. Even though you are designing a cumulative park, there will be no cumulative effects on ranking this season, so regardless of past performance everyone will be on even footing at the start of every challenge.
Elimination Procedure: Each judge will critique and rank the proposals independently. After all judges have submitted critiques, the ranks will be summed and the lowest placing competitor will be eliminated. In the event of a double elimination challenge, the two lowest ranked competitors will be eliminated. In the event of a tie, there will be a tiebreaker challenge between the two competitors.
Tiebreaker Challenge: New this season, in the event of a tie the elimination will be determined by a tiebreaker challenge. This will be a short (48 hour) challenge between the tied competitors involving the creation of a minor element for their park. After the challenge, the judges will vote for a winner and the competitor with the fewest votes will be eliminated.
Late Penalty: In an effort to retain competitors, late proposals will be accepted up until the rankings are posted. However, late proposals will not receive a critique and any late proposal finishing in the bottom three (bottom four in a double elimination) on a challenge will be eliminated.
Real Life Pass: As another feature to prevent drops, competitors are permitted to skip one round of the competition if real life gets in the way. In order to use this pass, competitors must state a valid reason for using the pass and declare their usage a minimum of 24 hours before the challenge deadline. Valid reasons for using the pass include, but are not limited to, significant illness, major family events, pre-planned vacation, unexpected work events (such as last minute travel), and natural disasters. Invalid reasons for using the pass include, but are not limited to, disliking the challenge, difficulty in coming up with an idea, and procrastination. Usage of this pass does carry a penalty: If you finish in the bottom three in the following challenge (bottom four if a double elimination), you will be eliminated from the competition.
Redemption Challenge: For those who are eliminated early and feel they can do better, there will be one redemption challenge during the competition. This challenge will be open to anyone who was eliminated prior to the challenge (those who dropped will be ineligible for redemption). The winner in this challenge will return to the competition.
What’s happening in this season?
Now that we’ve got all the details out of the way, here’s what you’ll be doing this season…
Theme parks have been around for the better part of a century, evolving from the more basic amusement parks popular pre-WWII. These parks sometimes had individual themed attractions, but there was never a unifying theme. After the Great Depression, parks such as Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, and Six Flags Over Texas emerged, sparking the idea of creating themed areas where each attraction within tied into a common theme. Now, parks are pushing for immersive themed environments and park-wide unifying themes. Your goal in this competition is to create one of these parks...a park where upon entering the gates, you are immersed within a themed world and nothing inside breaks that theme.
While there are multiple ways of doing this, it may be helpful to start with a question: What is a theme? In the context of this competition, a theme is an overall concept or idea which will act as your park’s “guiding light.” Every ride, attraction, or other element you pitch in a proposal during this competition should fit into the overall theme of your park. In general, themes can be classified into three tiers: broad themes, narrow themes, and single themes.
-A broad theme is one that is very general and often encompasses many smaller themes. These can often be thought of as genres, and while works within them may share some traits there are only a handful of absolutes that define these themes. Examples of broad themes would be Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, etc.
-A narrow theme can be thought of as a small section of a broad theme. Narrow themes typically cover a smaller collection of works that all fit within a sub-genre of the main genre. For example, Traditional Fairy Tales would be a narrow theme within Fantasy, Dystopia/Utopia stories are a subset of Sci-Fi, and American History is one section of History.
-A single theme is a specific work or collection of related works that fit within a narrow theme. An individual book, movie, video game, etc., or a franchise of such fit this category, as would a bunch of stories all discussing the same event. The Legend of King Arthur and his knights, Panem (aka the Hunger Games franchise), and the American Civil War would all be examples of single themes fitting into the narrow themes above.
In order to avoid writing yourself into a corner, it is often best to start with a more broad theme and get narrower. For example, in a horror themed park, you might include a section based specifically on Gothic horror, and within would be an attraction based on one of Edgar Allen Poe’s poems.
What type of park am I creating?
For this competition, you are welcome to create either a park within an existing theme park chain or a fully independent park. However, your park must fit within the following criteria:
-Your park must be an original idea. It’s okay if some themes are used that exist at currently operating parks, but you must use them in a different way.
-Your park must be a stand-alone property. That means you cannot add on to an existing resort, so something like adding a fifth park to WDW or a third park to Universal Orlando would not be acceptable.
-Your park must be appealing to theme park guests in your region, including those who have visited the competition. For example, if you decide to build Universal Studios Texas, anyone who lives in Texas and cares about theme parks should be interested in your park even if they’ve visited the other Texas parks and/or other Universal parks.
-While you may borrow individual attractions from other parks within a chain, you may not borrow entire themed lands. Additionally, any cloned attractions do not count toward the minimum requirements for any challenge.
-While you are welcome to use IP in your park, you may not create an entire park based solely on a single IP. The judges feel this is too unrealistic and too limiting, likely resulting in a noncompetitive park.
What are the IP rules for this season?
For this season, IP rules will be based on what chain your park is in and where you build it. If you create a park within a chain, you have access to all of that chain’s current IP but cannot create or add additional IP. If you create an independent park, you have access to any IP not currently claimed by a park or chain operating in your region. If you are unsure of whether or not you have access to an IP, include a mention of it in your initial park outline and the judges will verify whether or not it is acceptable. You may also ask the judges about a specific IP at a later time, but using an IP in your final park (or for an attraction proposal) that you don’t have the rights to will carry a penalty.
How do I sign up?
If you are interested in competing in Theme Park Apprentice 8, you are welcome to state your interest in this thread. However, to enter the competition you must submit a park outline during the entry round. Anyone who completes an outline will be an official competitor of this season.
What about judging?
In addition to host, I will be acting as the head judge for this competition. Joining me is Blake Meredith, the champion of Theme Park Apprentice 6.1 and an assistant judge during Theme Park Apprentice 7 (I’ll let him do his own introduction). In addition, we are looking for 1 or 2 additional judges for the competition. Judges are primarily responsible for critiquing the proposals submitted by competitors and determining eliminations. In addition, judges act as moderators during the competition, assisting competitors when they have questions and dealing with issues if they arise.
If interested in being a judge, know that this position will require you to submit a ¼ to ½ page critique of each proposal each week (longer critiques will be expected for the final park round). Since challenges end on a Saturday, these critiques will need to be posted at some point on Sundays. You will also need to submit a ranking of competitors to determine elimination in each round. Lastly, you will be expected to respond promptly to emails from other judges and check the competition threads at least once every 2-3 days to monitor progress of competitors and assist with any questions.
If you are interested in applying to be a judge, please send me an email at email@example.com that includes the following information:
-Your preferred email address
-Your Theme Park Apprentice history
-If you have not judged a Theme Park Apprentice competition before, please complete three sample critiques from three proposals submitted in three different past challenges (these challenges can be from the same season or different seasons). You should be able to find previous competitions by searching the site for "Theme Park Apprentice #" (replace # with 1-7). Include a link to the original proposal. Alternatively, you may do one full park critique from a past competition instead.
Lastly, note that you must have competed in a previous season of Theme Park Apprentice in order to qualify as a judge. All judging applications are due by midnight on May 14th, and additional judges will be selected by Wednesday of the following week. Note that this position is not first-come first-served, so while preference will be given to former judges anyone who submits an application by the due date will be considered for the position.
Okay, I think that’s about it. Sorry for the long post, but there’s a lot of information to cover. The full rules will be posted below and the challenge schedule will be announced with the entry round next week. Feel free to post below if you’ve got any questions or comments about Theme Park Apprentice 8, and I look forward to seeing what everyone brings to the table this year.Tweet
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