Here's How to Make a Great Theme Park Attraction

October 25, 2020, 1:17 PM · If you are looking for some insight into how designers created your favorite theme park attractions, take a few minutes today to watch a new video from Universal Creative's Steve Tatham.

We've heard from Steve here on Theme Park Insider before. He was the creative director at Universal Studios Japan for several years before returning to the United States to take on an "epic" project for Universal in Orlando. He recorded this video for the Blooloop V-Expo last week and has posted it now to his YouTube channel.

Steve won't give you technical secrets behind ride systems and show effects — magicians don't spoil their tricks, as they say. But he will detail a philosophy that drives effective creative development for theme park attractions. Listen to what he says, and you will learn important lessons not just about how to make a great theme park attraction, but how to become a more effective manager in any creative pursuit.

If you're still wondering how designers get their inspiration, allow me to try to help. There's an old story that says the trick to making a sculpture is to start with a block of marble or wood or whatever you are using, then to carve away everything that isn't your sculpture.

It seems a silly explanation, but that's often how storytelling actually works. You learn the conventions of your medium — the structure and function of all elements within it. Once you know those conventions, then you can begin to see a movie, a novel, a news story, or even a theme park attraction in the raw material of the sights, sounds, stories, or actions that you witness or learn about in your life.

If you want some insight as to what those conventions are, I would recommend reading some of the books that I have used to learn about storytelling in various media. For an overview, Joe Rohde at IAAPA a few years back recommended Brian Boyd's "On the Origin of Stories." But for novels specifically, try James Wood's "How Fiction Works." For motion pictures, read Robert McKee's "Story." And for journalism, I recommend Jon Franklin's "Writing for Story."

Steve's talk explains how a creative director operates one step above the individual storyteller — looking for and cultivating projects within the ideas that their team generates. You are a kind of sculptor who works to shape a project out of the raw material of your team's own storytelling work. If you're still in the mood for more books, grab a copy of Marty Sklar's "One Little Spark!" to dive into his "Mickey's Ten Commandments" for creative management of theme park attractions.

But start your creative journey with Steve's talk, so that you can understand better where this path leads.

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Replies (1)

October 26, 2020 at 11:17 AM

Thanks for sharing !

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