Theme Park Apprentice 7 Competitor's Handbook

July 10, 2015, 3:13 PM

Hello Everyone,

This thread will be used to post general information for the competition. If you have questions about the rules, aren't sure of an official procedure, or need help with the technical side of a proposal, ask about it here. Questions about specific challenges should be posted in the appropriate challenge thread. General discussion should be kept to the chatter thread. Please see the following few posts for official competition documents.

Replies (15)

Edited: July 10, 2015, 3:28 PM

Theme Park Apprentice 7 Rules

While nobody likes rules, we have to have them. Please read all of the following rules and abide by them for the duration of the competition. For previous competitors, any text modifications from previous seasons are denoted using underlined text.

1. Grammar counts. If we can’t read what you have written, it becomes next to impossible to get a good idea of what the attraction is about. We all understand that misspelling crop up (I’m sure there are several in this introduction article) but please do your best to make it as readable as possible. It is a shame for a really good idea to be hidden under an avalanche of fragmented sentences, bad grammar, bad spelling, and fragmented ideas. Use a spell checker and a grammar checker.

2. Deadlines count. If you can’t get something in on time, please let us know and we will attempt to work with you. While we want everyone to remain in the game, please note that extensions will only be granted if requested in advance and there is sufficient justification to do so. Proposals will still be accepted for up to 24 hours beyond the deadline, but late proposals will not be critiqued and unless granted an extension by the judges you will be assessed a 1 point penalty per hour.

3. Creativity counts. The challenges have been designed to give you a wide variety of directions to go with a challenge. If we get three attractions that use the same characters and one that doesn’t, the one odd duck will be much more memorable when it comes time to vote. If you come up with an idea so obvious it is likely others will do so as well, it might be a good idea to see if you can come up with a second theme. That said, there is no rule prohibiting multiple competitors from using the same theme, and if you feel you can deliver a truly outstanding attraction then go for it regardless of what others do.

4. The judges' rulings are final, and since they make the determination of who moves on and who is dropped from the competition, it might not be a good idea to argue with or upset them. However, we are not here to make your life miserable, so if you feel that a judge has made a significant error you are welcome to respond to the judges’ critiques in a civil manner. If you have issues with a particular judge, please contact the judges privately to discuss it.

5. The judges will be casting all of the votes this season. This should make the criteria of a good proposal a little more clear since the popularity of, say, Black Caldron instead of Frozen, will not have nearly as much of an effect on the judges as it will with a popular front page vote. There have also been too many instances of vote manipulation, either actual or perceived, when a public vote was held, so we have decided to have the judges make the decisions as to who moves on and who is dropped from the competition. We assure you that we are going to base our votes on the quality of the proposals, their originality, creativity, professional presentation, etc. and not on anything else.

6a. Add-Ons: Pictures. Pictures are a handy way of saving you a thousand words in your proposal. Pictures are not an official requirement, but many competitors utilize them. We will be posting some documentation talking about the best way to go about posting pictures, so don’t worry too much about the mechanics of it. Most people don’t create the images themselves and merely find images on the internet through various search engines. Any images used in your proposal should be worthy of display, so unless you are creating something highly customized (such as a park map) it is preferable to find a photograph or high quality drawing close to what you envision rather than create the image yourself. There is a limit of 5 pictures per post, unless otherwise noted. Pictures need to be limited down to a 500 width in order to keep it within the column structure of TPI. In addition to your five pictures, you may include one video in your proposal. If you choose to include a long video with irrelevant sections, please give times of the sections that should be viewed to avoid wasting the judges’ time and potentially lowering your score.

6b. Add-Ons: Title Logo and Footer. This is not an official requirement, much like putting any pictures into your post is not a requirement, but it is something that many contestants like to do to further fill out their idea. You are allowed a title picture before your posting and a footer picture after your posting in addition to the 5 pictures in the middle of the post. If you choose to use a title picture, it must contain an actual title and/or logo and not just be an additional picture. All pictures need to be limited down to a 500 width to keep in the column structure of TPI.

6c. Add-Ons: Audio. If you wish, you may provide a music or audio selection as your allotted video. Please use an appropriate length clip…”extended” tracks that are merely a loop of a shorter song are not permitted.

6d. Add-on pictures, videos, etc. are NOT a requirement, and a competitor should feel free to present their proposal with no added visual enhancement if they so choose. A poor picture can do as much harm to a proposal as a good one can benefit it.

7. If you need help, please ask for it. The judges should be able to respond very quickly to any inquiries, issues, problems, or calls for assistance. If you are unsure of the requirements for a particular challenge, please post questions in the official challenge thread. For anything else, please use this thread.

8. Under no circumstances will we tolerate criticism, attacks, bad mouthing, or chaos in general. Anyone who attempts to provoke a fight with other competitors, judges, or spectators, or who behaves in a general unsportsmanlike way, will be dismissed from the competition and may, at the judges’ discretion, be prohibited from participating in future Theme Park Apprentice competitions. We hate to have to include a rule like this, but trust us, this protects you as much as it protects us and the integrity of the game.

9. This season, all competitors will be permitted to skip one round of the competition if circumstances prevent them from submitting a quality proposal in a timely manner. Please note that, in fairness to other competitors, use of this privilege will carry a significant point penalty, so it is not advisable to use it just because you don’t feel like completing a challenge. Failure to submit a proposal in more than one challenge will result in disqualification unless exceptional circumstances are present (major power failure, natural disaster, death of an immediate or close family member, etc.).

10. These rules are subject to change. If something is not working we are going to fix it so it does.

Official Competition Procedures

Challenges: All challenges will be posted by Monday evening and will be due by midnight site time (Pacific) on the following Saturday unless otherwise noted. Challenges may be posted as early as Sunday afternoon if all judging critiques and scores have been submitted. In the unlikely event of a delayed start, the challenge deadline will be extended by an equivalent amount of time.

Judging: Judges are to post critiques as soon as practical after all proposals are submitted, but unless given an exception all critiques will be posted by noon on Monday following the challenge. Judges will post their official scores with their critiques. All eliminations and score updates will be announced at the start of the following challenge.

Elimination Procedure: The scores given for a challenge will be summed and the competitors will be given an overall rank for that challenge. The competitor who received the lowest score for the challenge will be eliminated (unless they are immune). This is the primary elimination. Following the primary elimination, the scores of each competitor will be added to the cumulative scores. If there are additional eliminations following a challenge, the competitor(s) with the lowest cumulative score will be eliminated from the competition (secondary eliminations).

Ties: In the event of a tie, the order of resolution will be: cumulative score, average challenge score, highest score in a challenge, second highest score in a challenge, etc.

Drops: If a competitor does not submit a proposal for a challenge within the timeframes allowed by the rules, they will be considered to have dropped from the competition and will be disqualified from participating in the remainder of the season. In the event of a drop, the primary elimination will still occur but secondary eliminations may or may not take place.

Immunity: The top competitor(s) in the cumulative standings is safe from elimination by placing last in a challenge. However, they are not safe from elimination by cumulative score should their performance drop them to last place after scores are tallied.

Real Life Pass: If a competitor will be unable to submit a satisfactory proposal by the challenge deadline, they may opt to pass on the challenge. A competitor wishing to use this privilege must state their decision prior to the challenge deadline and must provide a reason for not submitting a proposal. Competitors may only use this privilege one time during the competition. Competitors using this privilege will receive a score of 0 for the challenge, but will not be eliminated. If a competitor does not request to use their pass, they will be considered a drop and will be disqualified from the competition.

July 10, 2015, 3:41 PM

Challenge Schedule

The judges reserve the right to alter the challenge schedule if necessary. Full descriptions will be posted at the start of each challenge, but the overview may be used to start thinking of ideas. For each challenge, you are permitted to pick any currently operating park in the specified chain regardless of location or size. The redemption round will occur following Challenge 4 and will run concurrent with the first week of Challenge 5, but the exact challenge will not be announced in advance.

1. Child’s Play: Legoland is looking for something new: An attraction that relies on the input of guests. Can you create the world’s most interactive attraction and make it appeal to the elementary age crowd? Challenge Start: July 13th. Challenge Deadline: July 18th.

2. Cedar Fair’s New Direction: With their recent additions, Cedar Fair has begun to show interest in dark ride attractions. Canada’s Wonderland and Knott’s Berry Farm have received their attractions, but Cedar Fair is planning for their next installation. Remember, due to budget constraints IP is out of the question, so you will have to get creative to impress. Challenge Start: July 20th. Challenge Deadline: July 25th.

3. Food and Wine: The ever-popular event at Epcot has begun to inspire regional parks to follow suit. Your local park has approached you for assistance on creating not an event, but a permanent restaurant in the same vein. Challenge Start: July 27th. Challenge Deadline: August 1st.

4. The Ultimate Thrill Ride: Six Flags, a company known for going big, is looking for the next record-breaking thrill. The catch? A strictly limited budget on which to create it, yet a demand for a quality attraction with an impressive and fresh experience. Challenge Start: August 3rd. Challenge Deadline: August 8th.

5. Save SeaWorld: It’s no secret that the SeaWorld chain has been floundering in recent years. Your task is to come up with a five year plan that will reverse this trend. Challenge Start: August 10th. Challenge Deadline: August 22nd.

6. What’s after Harry Potter?: As the draw of Harry Potter’s Wizarding World winds down, Universal is looking for a new attraction based on their library of franchises. With not a single ride but an entire themed land required, the stakes are high but the rewards even higher. Challenge Start: August 24th. Challenge Deadline: August 29th.

7. The Final Challenge: Disney’s Next Gate: It has come to this...the final standoff between the top competitors. You must now do what many have thought about: pitch an entire Disney park to add to any of their resorts around the world. Succeed here, and you will be crowned the next Theme Park Apprentice. Challenge Start: August 31st. Challenge Deadline: September 12th.

Edited: July 10, 2015, 3:46 PM

A Beginner’s Guide to Proposal Writing


In Theme Park Apprentice, competitors compete in challenges by submitting a written proposal that presents a component of a theme park to address the requirements of the challenge. While creativity is strongly encouraged when dreaming up attractions, proposals should conform to a general format in order to be easily read, understood, and judged. A proposal should be written like a piece of technical writing, not like a novel, and it should be presented as a pitch to a board of directors. While the judges don’t expect everyone to be a professional writer, proposals need to be of satisfactory quality to accurately portray the theme park elements that they are pitching.

Four Cs of Technical Writing

When writing a technical document, it is easiest to remember the four Cs of technical writing: Clear, Concise, Complete, and Correct.

Clear: Be certain that your proposal is saying what you intend it to say. Do not leave room for something to be misunderstood or misinterpreted. It may be helpful to have someone else read your proposal and provide feedback. Since you won’t be able to talk to the judges, your proposal must present exactly what you want us to see.

Concise: Do not lengthen your proposal with extraneous and unnecessary details. We will not be grading you on the length of your proposal, so a good three-page proposal is going to beat an average ten-page proposal every single time. If something does not add to the presentation, leave it out.

Complete: Make sure to include all important details in your proposal. It is not good if we have to make assumptions about elements of your attraction, as even if the assumption is wrong it will factor into your score.

Correct: Ensure that all of your spelling and grammar is correct. Occasional typos happen, but if your proposal is illegible it will be extremely difficult to evaluate accurately. Additionally, be certain that any claims you make about your attraction are truthful. If you’re not certain about something, either verify your statement or delete it.

Write to Your Audience

As mentioned previously, in this competition you are acting as an independent theme park design consultant and each proposal is a pitch to the respective board of directors. Your proposal should sound professional and should be understandable by someone who has some knowledge of the subject matter but who is not an expert. While everyone has their own style of writing, you should avoid informal language when writing proposals and keep a consistent tone throughout. Lastly, keep your proposal in third person, never addressing yourself or your reader.

Use Visuals Appropriately

While inserting images into your proposals is not a requirement, a well placed picture can aid tremendously with illustrating your concept. If you choose to insert images, be certain that they are valuable and are not simply a filler. There is no need to use more images than you need, and an irrelevant graphic can hurt your proposal.

How to Insert Images and Video

Images: Images should be uploaded to a photo hosting service (I recommend Flickr, but any will work). Once uploaded, by clicking on share you should be able to get a HTML embed code that will allow you to post the image. Simply copy this code and insert it in your proposal at the appropriate spot. Please note that images can be no wider than 500 pixels, so either shrink the image before uploading or use tools provided on the site to do so.

Video: A similar method is used for videos. On YouTube, clicking the share option under a video will give you a HTML embed code. This code just needs to be copied and pasted into your proposal to get the video to appear. However, please verify that the section in code labeled “width” is set to 500 (if it’s not, just change the number).

Formatting Proposals

Proposals should not be one giant paragraph and should be broken up into sections. Each section should be announced by a clear header and should focus on only that element of your proposal. You may decide what method of division is best based on each individual challenge. If in doubt, look at the bulleted list of requirements for the challenge and make each one a section. Some sections (such as a description of various attractions in a land) may benefit from being divided into sub-sections.

Helpful Formatting Tags

To use the following tags, simply delete the asterisks and replace the text with your writing.

<*b>text here<*/b> = Bold text

<*i>text here<*/i> = Italic text

<*u>text here<*/u> = Underlined text

<*font size=#>text here = Larger/Smaller text (depending on #)

<*a href=”website address”>text here<*/a> = Hyperlink

If you have never competed in a Theme Park Apprentice competition, I strongly suggest that you take a look at proposals submitted in previous competitions before you begin writing your own. Make sure to examine both those that resulted in high scores and those that didn’t fare so well. Try to think about the elements listed in this guide as you read the proposals and consider how they could be improved. Even though we will not grade you directly on the quality of your writing, a poorly-written proposal will not stand out when compared with the competition.

July 17, 2015, 2:31 AM

Before I submit my proposal, I was wondering if there was a rubric for our scoring. I'd like to be able to ensure that I meet all the criteria that I'll be judged on. Thanks!

July 17, 2015, 2:45 AM

We don't judge you against a tick sheet if that's what your asking. Make sure everything we've said is needed in the challenge is in there.

July 17, 2015, 10:48 AM

To clarify how scoring works, each judge will rank the submitted proposals in order from what they feel best answers the challenge to what is the weakest solution. A judge's top selection will be given a score of 10 points, then the remaining proposals receive a score based on their rank and the number of competitors remaining. For example, with ten competitors, the first place proposal would get 10 points, second place 9 points, etc. all the way down to tenth place, which receives 1 point. However, with four competitors, first place would still be worth 10 points, but second would only get 7.5, third 5 points, and fourth 2.5. A competitor's total score is the sum of the points received from the three judges, so it is possible to receive up to 30 points per challenge. All scores will be reported to one decimal point.

As for a rubric, the closest thing would be the bulleted lists in the challenge description (mainly the ones under "The Challenge" and "The Proposal"). We will look for everything listed there, so just make sure you address each one of those points.

July 18, 2015, 2:08 PM

Question.. what will happen if like 5 competitors post? How will a competition with very few competitors work, since it's like 6 hours before the deadline and only 5 people have posted, myself included?

July 18, 2015, 3:24 PM

Tyler, if we have fewer competitors post than expected we may allow everyone to continue to the next round and/or delete one or more future challenges in order to allow the season to continue. We will not cancel the season as there are still enough competitors to have an actual competition. I wouldn't worry too much yet as this competition has a history of last minute submissions.

July 18, 2015, 4:16 PM

If we have to delete future challenges, can the remaining competitors vote on which ones they want and do not want? Some of the later challenges especially I'm sure most of us are looking forward to.

July 18, 2015, 4:42 PM

Douglas, we will definitely consider that. The hope is that no challenges have to be deleted. However, if we do have to delete one it would most likely be challenge 3, 4 or 5 that would get cut. It is highly unlikely more than one challenge would need to be cut.

July 18, 2015, 5:09 PM

Just for the record....not a fan of #3....taking an event down to a restaurant seems to be an exercise in futility...

July 18, 2015, 5:17 PM

Even though I already had a basic foundation for Challenge 3, I do agree with Jeff, and I think the challenge needs to be tweaked a bit.
In addition, it would be a bit unfair, considering that one person competing in the challenge could live in Kansas, and since there are barley any theme parks there, would have a harder time than someone living in, say, Orlando or Los Angles.
I think the challnges need to be fair to people living in all parts of the world, and Challenge 3 isn't one of them... you should cut the challenge or radically change it to make it more specific.
Sorry if I seem like I'm whining a little...

Edited: July 18, 2015, 5:37 PM

Admittedly the description for Challenge 3 is a little bit vague as I wrote all those descriptions before writing the entire challenge. Also note that we are constantly tweaking the challenges and the exact requirements often aren't finalized until a day or two before it gets posted. At its core, Challenge 3 is to design a station service restaurant. The restaurant needs to have an overall theme, and each station needs to fit into that theme in some form. Also, while you are encouraged to use your home park for the challenge (and may have an easier time by doing so), you are welcome to use almost any park you want. I will wait to say anything more until the closer to the challenge, but know that while the event inspired the challenge it is more than just converting the event into a restaurant. Also, there is still a bit of time before that challenge, so changes may happen between now and then.

Also, please use the Chatter Thread for this type of discussion in the future. The Competitor's Handbook is more for questions while the Chatter Thread is for discussion.

July 22, 2015, 1:39 PM

Since we began the competition with 9 contestants, will eliminations be individually for now? And will it be based on cumulative points, or the lowest of the particular challenge? I understand that if someone is brought back in the redemption round then 2 contestants would have to be eliminated, but what about week-to-week?

July 22, 2015, 2:15 PM

For now, the competition will be single elimination. If there are no drops, we may do a double elimination round (most likely after the redemption challenge), but this will be announced when the challenge is posted. Elimination will be based only on your performance in a given challenge, but if there is a double elimination in the future both the lowest score in the challenge and the lowest cumulative score will be eliminated.

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