Friday, December 18, 2009

Sneak Peek: January 2010 FUNWORLD

It's a new year and (slightly) new look for FUNWORLD in 2010. The January issue probably isn't in your mailbox yet, but the digital edition is available right now here.

On the cover this month is 2010 IAAPA Chairman of the Board Chip Cleary, who spoke with News Editor Keith Miller about his career and his thoughts on leading the association in the coming year.

This issue also features a 22-page special section highlighting IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas. Included is coverage of educational seminars, keynote addresses, new products from the trade show floor, and much more.

We've redesigned the front of the magazine a little bit this year. Departments Editor Marion Hixon’s Quick Hits section is now one page bigger, to include even more news items and fun photos from throughout the industry. Out & Back, meanwhile, is a new section that takes our previous section, Industry Notes, to another level of depth.

As always, thanks for reading FUNWORLD. If you have any questions or comments regarding anything about the magazine, feel free to e-mail me.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Roy E. Disney (1930-2009)

From The Walt Disney Company:

Roy Edward Disney, son of Disney Studios co-founder Roy O. Disney, and nephew of Walt Disney, passed away today (12/16/09) at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California, following a year-long battle with stomach cancer. He was 79 years old. Disney was a successful businessman, philanthropist, filmmaker, and award-winning sailor, who played a key role in the revitalization of The Walt Disney Company and Disney's animation legacy. He was associated with the Company over a 56-year period, and from 1984 – 2003, served as vice chairman of the Company's board of directors, and chairman of the Studio's Animation Department. In recent years, he held the title of director emeritus and consultant for the Company.

You can read the rest of the Disney statement here.

There is also a lengthy piece by the Los Angeles Times here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Premier Rides Runner Wins GKTW 5K

Matt Sanders of Premier Rides (above) won this morning's Give Kids The World 5K Fun Run at Pecos Legacy Park in Henderson, Nevade, in a time of 16 minutes, 34 seconds.

About 50 participants came out for the third annual event to benefit the Kissimmee, Florida, charity that grants Wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. Organizers were pleased with the turnout, especially considering this is IAAPA Attractions Expo's first time in Las Vegas and early-bird start time is when some people in this town are just going to bed.

"Some of them maybe didn't even go to bed—in Vegas, you never know," joked GKTW President Pamela Landwirth as the runners took off down the course. "We didn't know what to expect in Las Vegas, but I think it shows what a wonderful community IAAPA is. They're caring and they love to support the Village."

"I wanted to do something good for IAAPA, Give Kids The World, and my company," Sanders said after the race. "It was a little tough and tiring, especially since I flew in yesterday from Maryland, but it was a good time."

As IAAPA Attractions Expo returns to Orlando in 2010, so, too, does the 5K—and next year may see a special twist to this event. Two weeks ago GKTW, taking a cue from the Expo race, held its first 5K through the Village itself and drew a tremendous crowd of 350 runners. Landwirth is hopeful next year's Expo race will follow that same course.

"It was a fabulous event," Landwirth said. "Most of our runners came from our theme park friends. We're going to do it again next year, ,and the thought is to do this one there, too. It's like running through heaven."

FUNWORLD Follow-Up: Engineering Group Visits Expo 2009

In the October 2009 issue of FUNWORLD, I wrote about some theme park engineering groups popping up on college campuses across the United States, most notably at The Ohio State University and the University of Toledo. Well, some of the guys I profiled in that piece came all the way to Vegas this week to attend IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009.

I sat down with four of them this morning and was glad to hear they're having a great experience at this year's show. They said the article has really done a lot for their groups. 

"People know about us now," said Dan Linden, a cofounder of Ohio State's Theme Park Engineering Group

"We've gone up to meet with companies and they say, 'Oh, you're the guys from the article!'" said Jeff Piggrem, president of the Toledo group.

"We actually got stopped on the way to a meeting and were asked about an engineering problem," added Brad Okeson, the Ohio State group's president. "It was insane."

Okeson said other groups from around the country have contacted them after seeing the piece in FUNWORLD, including the University of Maryland and the University of Central Florida.

He also said the article came at a good time, as Theme Park Engineering Group was just starting to take off on its own. At a freshman outreach fair in September, the group received 150 signatures from interested students—in the pouring rain, no less—a significant jump over last year. "We had lines of people," he said.

While at Expo, Linden said the goal is to make more contacts in the industry that will hopefully pay off when they all graduate (Linden finishes in three months). They also spoke with IAAPA reps to see how the student groups nationwide could become more involved in the association and the industry at large. 

This year is Linden and Okeson's second trip to IAAPA Attractions Expo, and they approached it much differently the second time around.

"We've learned more about how to best utilize the convention, making it out to all the [networking events]," Okeson said. "We have more of a mission and goal as a group."

"We gave out a lot more cards this year—and got a lot more cards, too," Linden said.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 Is Under Way!

Attendees were jam-packed in the lobby this morning waiting to get into IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009, which threw open the doors at 10 a.m. Vegas time.

For up-to-the-minute updates from all over the Expo, look to your right and follow the association's Twitter feed at You can also read some of the stories from The IAAPA Attractions Expo Show Daily here

Best to everyone this week. Here's to a great show!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

IAAPA Webinar: Are You Ready for Vegas?

IAAPA wants to help you gear up for attending IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, Nov. 16-20. It's the association's first time in that famous city, so attend Tuesday’s webinar at 2 p.m. Eastern, and get the scoop on transportation options and advice, new features of this year’s exhibit hall, locations and transportation for special events, and general tips for first-time attendees.

Take advantage of IAAPA expertise, and learn all you can before you head out to Vegas!

To register for the webinar, click here.

To follow along with FUNWORLD magazine, take a look at our special Vegas section in the October issue. View the digital edition by clicking here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

More From FUNWORLD: The latest and greatest from Warner Village Theme Parks in Australia

In November's FUNWORLD, I wrote about trends in the Australian waterpark industry, among them RFID technology; attractions like swimming lagoons, aimed at all ages; and possible plans for indoor waterparks.

Now, in an extended interview with Bob White, general manager of Wet’n’Wild Water World in Gold Coast, Australia, In the Queue readers can catch up on marketing stretegies (think Krispy Kreme doughnuts!) and important issues (don’t forget sunscreen!) that keep the park relevant and successful.

Over the past two years, how has Warner Village Theme Parks been innovative and grown as a waterpark?
Warner Village Theme Parks has seen steady growth in attendance at Wet’n’Wild Water World, its flagship waterpark, in recent years. Wet’n’Wild saw over 1 million visitors through its gates in a 12-month period for the first time in 2007. This achievement was repeated in the following financial year, with strong attendance figures also projected for FY 09-10.

What new attractions or programs have you recently added—or plan to add—and what was the motivation behind each decision?
Over the past two years Wet’n’Wild has seen the introduction of a number of new attractions. In October 2008, Wet’n’Wild opened “Kamikaze”—a Sidewinder MK-1. “Kamikaze” was introduced to Wet’n’Wild as it appealed to both the teen and family markets and it was a first for the southern hemisphere. "Kamikaze" (right) also offered a high capacity through-put to assist with the park’s growing visitation. In addition to new attractions, Wet’n’Wild also has an intensive marketing strategy focused on driving attendance and keeping the brand relevant. Marketing activity, included giveaways of Krispy Kreme doughnuts before they were available for purchase on the Gold Coast, and cooperative promotional campaigns with corporate Partners like Coco-Cola. Wet’n’Wild will continue to seek innovative, high-capacity attractions to meet growing operational and consumer demands.

How do you cultivate new ideas—do you let staff brainstorm together, watch other parks throughout the world, or ask for guest feedback?

Warner Village Theme Parks uses a variety of techniques to generate ideas for new rides and attractions. These include market research such as focus groups and observation of other Water Parks. Wet’n’Wild is also fortunate to have a diverse range of staff members with a huge amount of experience on various levels. This makes brainstorming new ideas very effective. Whilst the park is somewhat isolated due to location, staffers have an excellent networking system with operators and industry bodies throughout the world. Additionally, a good communication plan for gathering guest feedback from frontline staff is essential for future planning. These staff are the eyes and ears of our business and their input is invaluable. The theme park team utilizes the strategic depth of the marketing team based at Village Roadshow’s head office to further develop new ideas.

Are there any longrunning priorities or initiatives Wet’n’Wild followed that continually contribute to its success?
Wet’n’Wild has a number of initiatives that help contribute to its continued success. Of note, Wet’n’Wild’s advertising campaigns steer clear of "formula." They are contemporary, vibrant, and cutting edge—assisting to keep the brand "cool" and appeal to the teen market. Advertising schedules also aim to dominate share of voice. In conjunction with advertising, the marketing team utilizes numerous national publicity opportunities to raise brand awareness and deliver key messages to the target market. These opportunities can range from a full outside broadcast with a national breakfast television show to segment-hostings with a national music video show—this all helps to keep the brand relevant to the target market.

Management also works closely with other major aquatic institutions to promote safety to guests. Management implemented a joint initiative with the Royal Lifesaving Society called the Keep Watch program, designed to educate parents and guardians about their responsibilities within the park and around the water. And Wet’n’Wild has an in-house radio station which plays a variety of appropriate songs throughout the day. This medium is used to advise guests of any in-park promotions, upcoming events, or offers available to them—the radio station has proven very successful.

Are there any trends you see throughout the world or specifically in Australia you feel are strongly affecting the waterpark industry?
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and consumers are increasingly seeking more shade. Subsequently, the Wet’n’Wild team continually reviews shade plans to increase the available shade in the park. We are also finding guests want greater challenges and thrills, increasing the demand for slides that meet this criteria. They want the oohs and ahhs of slides and the ability to share the experience with a group of family and friends.

Are there any potential challenges you must continually prepare for and consider?
Another potential challenge is the recruitment of aquatic staff given the seasonal nature of Wet’n’Wild. Every 12 months a large percentage of the work force is new employees, hence there is an enormous focus on recruitment processes as well as training requirements for new staff. All of these need to be completed prior to the influx of guests in the first holidays of spring. Queensland’s subtropical climate offers perfect waterpark weather, however it can be challenging for staff. Management works hard to ensure staffers are equipped to beat the challenges of sunburn, dehydration, and other heat related illnesses.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

FUNWORLD's Year-End Double Issue Now Online

Every year in honor of IAAPA Attractions Expo, FUNWORLD publishes a giant double edition for November/December. The 2009 "trade show issue" is a highlight of our year, featuring a wide range of articles from around the globe. The magazine should be hitting your mailboxes soon (if it hasn't already), but if you'd like to start reading immediately, you can check out FUNWORLD's digital edition here.

Leading off is my exclusive interview with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo, who talked with me at length about the past, present, and future of the Disneyland Resort, and what the massive overhaul under way at Disney's California Adventure will mean for the park and the tourist destination as a whole. Then, I went behind (and under) the scenes with several Imagineers to talk specifics about what's coming to DCA over the next three years, most notably the "World of Color" nighttime show, set to debut in spring 2010.

Nov/Dec also features two major three-article sections: The first is a regional profile of the attractions industry in Japan (including this awesome story about a Ferris wheel inside a building); the other is a global look at waterparks, including spotlights on Malaysia and Australia from Departments Editor Marion Hixon.

News Editor Keith Miller has three trend-oriented reports in this issue. He examines:
• The growth of sports resorts around the world.
• The booming popularity of mazes.
• How U.S. parks reach out to members of the military and their families.

All in all, there are nearly 30 articles in one of our favorite issues of the year. Read on, enjoy, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Webinar: Put Your Web Site Front and Center

In these technologically focused times, customers rely on informative, user-friendly, and eye-catching web sites to make critical purchasing decisions.

During the next IAAPA webinar, Thursday, Oct. 22, at 1 p.m. Eastern, Sharon Swendner, president of .Com Marketing, and Norris Clark, director of sales and marketing, at Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, will discuss why and how you should focus on your web site as your core marketing vehicle. Topics will include evaluating web traffic, using search engine optimization (SEO), employing social media tactics, and learning basics of web design, plus more.

In the Queue editors recently caught up with Swendner, who shared a few insights into what webinar participants can expect to learn from this session.

What will be the main focus of the webinar?
We’ll be providing an overview of what we’ll share in more detail during the whole-day seminar at IAAPA Attractions Expo (see details on the Institute for Marketing: Nuts and Bolts of Internet). We’ve got eight topics areas: online strategy, web design, e-mail marketing, SEO, pay-per-click, social media marketing, online banners, and future trends. In each area, we’re giving a taste of the content in the full-day seminar.

What is the best audience for this content?
It’s really geared toward people who are responsible for or executing online marketing—the business owners or marketing/PR people. It’s not for the technical person who’s writing code.

Why should today’s marketing departments be thinking seriously about online and social marketing strategies?
Especially in the travel industry, people care more about what other people say that what you say through user-generated content. Tripadvisor developed around sharing what people think. Nowadays you’re not in control of your brand; your brand is what people perceive it to be, not what you want it to be.

What can marketers expect to take away from this session and apply to their businesses right away?
They’re going to walk away with a better understanding of the core online tools and fundamentals and what’s important in developing an online program from a strategic level and an integration level.

What lessons from this webinar would be helpful for small, family-owned operators who might not have a full marketing or web department?
The basic things they can do themselves. Everybody needs a web site; we’ll give them a lot of backbone in how they think about their online presence and how they use it.

Expo Discount: All webinar participants will be eligible for a $50 discount off registration for Institute for Marketing: Nuts and Bolts of Internet Marketing, which will be held Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Be sure to attend the webinar to find out how to get your discount.

For more on IAAPA’s e-learning programs, click here.

Three Questions: AIMS Safety Seminar

The Amusement Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers International (AIMS) Safety Seminar will be held Nov. 15-19 at New York New York Las Vegas in conjunction with IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009.

The seminar features instruction from top safety experts from throughout the industry. To find out more about the event, I asked Premier Rides' Jim Seay, a member of the AIMS board of directors, these three questions:

Who in the industry is ideally suited to attend the seminar?
The typical attendees are individuals who are recognized by their facilities as either being leaders in the areas of maintenance and/or operations or are seen as a future leader whose value to the organization could grow more rapidly with the training being offered. Those who are good communicators are especially well suited, as such people not only learn from attending classes but can then share their newly acquired knowledge with their peers upon returning to their home bases.

What can attendees expect to learn at this year's conference?
With more than 250 classes, there is a wide array of subjects regarding safety in our industry. Classes include—but are not limited to—hands-on reviews of ride inspection, understanding the new ASTM F24 regulations, and gaining an appreciation for the new ADA laws. Areas of specialization include maintenance, operations, aquatics, leadership, and crisis communication.

What else is AIMS working on right now outside of the safety seminar?
AIMS recognizes every facility cannot send every employee to the seminar, even if cost was no object. So we've been working with the AIMS Education Advisory Board (which is made up solely of operators) to find opportunities to expand the organization's reach. So far there has been great success with "AIMS On The Road," where teams of instructors go directly to a facility and teach an entire staff at the same time. Additionally, AIMS Online was established to allow individuals who cannot attend the seminar to still participate in safety education in an online model. This approach is especially appreciated as it offers a resource to maintain certifications.

To find out more about AIMS, click here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Looking Ahead: FUNWORLD and Disney’s California Adventure

Photo courtesy The Walt Disney Company

The year-end November/December issue of FUNWORLD will be making its way to your mailbox over the next couple weeks. On the cover is Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, who discussed with me the massive overhaul at Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland’s sister park in Anaheim, California.

My exclusive interview with Rasulo is part of a 10-page section highlighting all of the changes coming to DCA through 2012 and the impact the re-Imagined park will have on the Disneyland Resort. But there was still a small topic I didn’t have room to address in the magazine: The Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar.

The Blue Sky Cellar is a small building right in the center of the park. Inside it offers guests an extensive preview of what’s to come at DCA. Themed to look like an Imagineer’s office, the cellar offers models, concept art, and preview videos of future attractions such as the “World of Color” nighttime show and the renovations already under way along Paradise Pier.

“We’re relatively quiet, behind-the-scenes people,” said Bob Weis, executive vice president, creative, for Walt Disney Imagineering, during my visit to the park this summer. “But there’s a side of us that gets so excited about the research, artwork, and designs we do. At the beginning of [the DCA project], we wanted to communicate more frequently with our guests because they bring so much to our process.”

The Blue Sky Cellar, he said, is a way to “communicate less formally, more frequently, and bring people into the process much earlier than we’ve ever done before.”

Photo courtesy The Walt Disney Company

And the experience isn’t limited to guests in the park. This summer, Disney took the Blue Sky Cellar to the Internet with the launch of, an online version of the physical location. The site is filled with concept art and videos of Imagineers—including Pixar’s John Lasseter—discussing the many projects happening at the park.

“We wanted to come up with a way for guests who aren’t physically here in the park to stay in touch with what’s happening, and also for us to stay in touch with them,” said Mary Lowery, director of Internet strategy and business management for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online.

Look for my full report on the DCA extreme makeover in the November/December issue of FUNWORLD.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How'd They Do It? Holiday World Sets Attendance Record

New ride "Pilgrims Plunge" was one of the keys to Holiday World's record-breaking season.

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana, closed the doors on a record season Sunday, finishing 2009 with a new attendance high of 1,039,359 guests. That marks a growth of 3 percent over 2008, and the fourth year in a row the family park topped the 1 million mark.

That would be outstanding news for any year, but it's especially significant given the economy and weather the industry faced in North America in 2009. After the news broke, I asked Holiday World's PR guru, Paula Werne, a few quick questions to find out what made the park stand out in a difficult year.

How big of a role did your new record-breaking water attraction, "Pilgrims Plunge," play in the success this year?
"Pilgrims Plunge" was definitely a “marquee attraction” for us. Starting with the amazing animation by Keith McVeen at Virtual Image Productions Inc. (read FUNWORLD's award-winning article on McVeen here), a successful announcement, a live construction cam, big “topping” ceremony, and all our social media tweets and posts, we kept the story “hot” during the winter months. Then our advertising kicked in and the park opened, so the world’s tallest water ride spoke for itself. Of course we also have to thank our amazing Hosts & Hostesses who keep our guests coming back for more of our award-winning friendliness and cleanliness. And with the economy so tight, our budget-friendly "Free Unlimited Soft Drinks" program helps families afford a fun vacation.

Other parts of the country reported lousy weather this season as a major hurdle. What was the weather like in your area and how did it impact your season?
We had our share of rain! And all except a scorcher week in June, we never really hit those toasty waterpark temps. We’ve noticed that families are increasingly sensitive to the weather and often put off trips when mornings are overcast. We’ve nicknamed this the Year of the Procrastinator!

With four consecutive years topping 1 million guests, obviously it's more than just one ride that's made the difference. What is the common thread linking this period of outstanding success?
With all due respect to what I do and what our marketing and sales teams do, if you don’t have strong positive word of mouth, you’re missing a big piece of the pie. Families have been coming to Santa Claus, Indiana, for more than six decades, and they know what to expect when they get here. We really feel it’s our owners (the Koch family), and our staff of 85 full-timers and 2,000 seasonals, who make all the difference in creating lasting memories—we hear it all summer long from our guests. New rides are important, but there’s something to be said for a satisfied mom recommending us to the other moms on the block.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Busch, Disney Launch Theme Park Blogs

In the past two weeks, two of the industry's biggest chains launched their own blogs to reach out to fans and potential guests with exclusive content.

Busch Entertainment Corporation launched its Worlds of Discovery blog Wednesday with a message from President Jim Atchison discussing the huge news that The Blackstone Group will purchase the parks from Anheuser-Busch InBev (read his post here). He's also featured in a video welcome to the site, which introduces the 10 WOD parks across the United States. According to the site, the goal is to provide "an insider's look into our adventures and experiences and the conservation work we do throughout the world."

The idea is much the same at the new Disney Parks Blog, which launched last week. According to its "About" page, the new site will provide "the latest, official information about Disney destinations as well as behind-the-scenes looks at what makes Disney Parks the most magical places on earth."

The Disney blog covers Disneyland in California, Walt Disney World in Orlando, and The Disney Cruise Line. In just a few days, it's already featured posts about a next-generation Audio-Animatronic that can "hear, see and sense whether or not you’re in the room," and this pretty awesome video of a day at Orlando's Magic Kingdom via "tilt-shift" photography.

For those of you who still haven't broken into the blogosphere, check out this story from the October issue of FUNWORLD for some advice.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Scaring Up New Tricks, Treats, and Thrills for Fall

Labor Day no longer signals an end to the traditional operating season for many of America’s theme parks and attractions. A recent informal IAAPA poll illustrates the growing popularity of fall and Halloween events.

The IAAPA Communications team issued a press release highlighting events taking place at more than 65 U.S. parks and attractions this fall. And the story is finding traction; after one week of distribution, more than 3.5 million impressions have been generated in publications nationwide. Read the AP story by Beth Harpaz based on our release at

The release is the fourth in a year-long proactive media campaign to help generate positive publicity for IAAPA members. The other three campaigns: “What’s New in Amusement Parks and Attractions,” “What’s New in Waterparks,” and “30 Tips to Save Time and Money” have generated more than 47 million impressions. Thanks to all those who participated to make these efforts possible, and we hope even more will join in next year!

Friday, September 25, 2009

October FUNWORLD—Expo 2009 Edition—Online Now

The October issue of FUNWORLD is our official IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 preview edition, highlighted this year by the trade show's first trip to Las Vegas. The cover shot above was taken by veteran FW photographer Isaac Brekken, and he has more awesome shots inside (like here).

As if you couldn't tell from the headline, we're excited to take our show to the entertainment capital of the world. Inside the pages of this month's magazine you'll find all sorts of good info about the Expo, like:

• Tips for getting around Vegas
• Tips for navigating the new trade show floor (two levels this year!)
• A Q&A with Blue Man Group Co-founder Matt Goldman about his General Managers and Owners' Breakfast keynote address
• A peek at what promises to be an awesome Disney-themed educational session (which will feature the man who wrote the theme for "it's a small world" playing the song live in person)

Even beyond the trade show coverage, this is a particularly meaty issue of FUNWORLD, including interviews with retiring BALPPA Chief Executive Colin Dawson, and industry sales veteran Bob Dean, who discusses ride purchasing trends past, present, and future.

Also, I spent a couple days at The Ohio State University earlier this year interviewing students in the burgeoning Theme Park Engineering Group there, and my story is in this issue detailing how a few core members have sparked a veritable renaissance in coaster designers.

Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for our November/December double issue, which this year will feature an exclusive interview with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo, talking about the massive overhaul going on at Disney's California Adventure.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Grow Your F&B Operations … Without Increasing Price

Need some new food and beverage ideas?

During Wednesday's free IAAPA webinar, 1 p.m. EDT, Ken Whiting, president of Whiting's Foods, will share creative advice on adding new life to F&B menu items, tips on location of food stands, advice on value-add and promotion programs, and more—all without raising the prices. Some of these suggestions will come from the case study the IAAPA F&B Committee is presenting at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 on Mulligan Family Fun Center in Torrance, California.In the Queue recently caught up with Whiting to get an idea of what participants can expect from the webinar.

What can attendees expect to get out of this session?
Ideas that may challenge their current thinking regarding how to grow sales and profit in their food and beverage operations, as well as many low-cost, high-impact solutions that can be put to immediate use.

Who is this session suited for (what level of employee and what size/type of facility)?
Anyone with food and beverage responsibilities, primarily geared for smaller amusement park properties and FECs.

What is an example of a lesson or idea that a participant will get from this session?
New menu items that are being sold at amusement properties around the country.

How will the provided handout be used in this session?
The handout follows the presentation and will serve as a place for participants to capture the ideas that resonate with them for their operation. It will serve as a great resource and reference tool.

To register for this webinar and to find out more about future sessions, click here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hear a Blue Man Actually … Talk

Variety reported yesterday Blue Man Group will star in its first big-screen movie, "Blue Man Group: Mind Blast," a 3-D film shot for the massive screens of Imax theaters.

How does this apply to IAAPA, you ask? Well, one of the three original Blue Men and soon-to-be star of "Mind Blast" is speaking at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas.

Matt Goldman will be the keynote speaker for the General Managers and Owners' Breakfast Wednesday, Nov. 18, from 8:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m. I originally interviewed Goldman in 2007 as he launched the BMG show at Universal Orlando; I caught up with him again recently to get a sense of what his talk will cover at the Expo, and here's what he said:

First and foremost, I want to talk about how incredible it can be for a theme park to have a high-quality live theatrical experience on site. I think it’s added a dimension to Universal that’s a win-win-win: It’s a win for Universal, it’s a win for Blue Man, and it’s a win for the customers.

We’re also going to talk about the importance of having an authentic, quality experience for the customer from beginning to end: Searching the web site, buying the ticket, sitting in the seats, and the word of mouth when they’re leaving. There’s no marketing that returns more than that high-quality experience.

I also will talk about how two very different organizations with two very different business models can come together. When you make art, that’s one kind of satisfaction; when you make successful partnerships, that’s another kind of satisfaction. To bring it all together … it doesn’t always turn out this way, but when it does it reminds us all why we work so hard.

To read my entire interview with Goldman, keep an eye out for FUNWORLD's October issue, which should be hitting your mailboxes soon.

Blue Man Group will also make a special guest appearance as part of the GM and Owners' Breakfast. Advance registration is required, so click here to either register for your entire IAAPA Attractions Expo experience, or upgrade it with a ticket to the breakfast.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

FUNWORLD Follow-Up: Darwin Centre

As you might have noticed, the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum of London is on the cover of FUNWORLD's September issue (read the article here).

Well, today marks Darwin Centre's official opening. Check out this story from the BBC that ran in this morning's IAAPA News Flash for more info, including some video of Prince William's opening remarks and his encounter with a tarantula.

There's also this BBC video that goes inside the facility's massive cocoon for a look at some of its creepy-crawly inhabitants.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Three Key Concepts for Entering Social Media

Sharon Swender, president of .Com Marketing, is a speaker at the Institute for Marketing, which is part of the education program at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 this November in Las Vegas. Visit the Expo web site for detailed information on the full education program, to register, and to access other important show information.

Not so long ago, a “tweet” was something heard from a bird and the “little black book” was more important than Facebook. But now, thousands of people enter the social media space each day trying to decipher the new applications and determine what’s right for them. While there’s a lot of buzz about social media, there is even more confusion. For those seeking to market themselves and their companies, social media can be a powerful strategy—if used correctly.

There are three important considerations each person should make before launching a social media campaign:

1. Tactical – Social media is nothing more than a marketing tactic. It is one more communications vehicle in an arsenal of ways to communicate with target audiences. Just because thousands of people will be exposed to your messages doesn’t mean the right ones are tuned in.
2. Integration – Like any other tactic, social media must integrate with and support the overall online and offline marketing plan. The key here is online engagement. Does social media help engage customers and/or thought leaders in a way that moves them into action?
3. Cost – While online applications may seem free, the hidden, recurring costs must be considered. Who will set up the application? Who is responsible for ensuring messages are continually refreshed? How will success be measured? What activities or other job responsibilities are being sacrificed?

The bottom line is simple: Don’t focus on the technology—focus on the relationship. If social media can help you engage with your prospects and customers in a meaningful way, then it can be a valuable addition to your communications strategy.

Monday, August 31, 2009

'Coasting for Kids' UPDATE: Nearly $10K Raised

GKTW President Pam Landwirth (front) with the "Coasting for Kids" riders at Cedar Point's "Gemini."

Reports are flowing in from the "Coasting for Kids" Give Kids The World event at Cedar Point I posted about last week.

According to GKTW Communications Director Susan Storey, nearly $10,000 has come in since Wednesday when 30 coaster enthusiasts (who hang out at CoasterBuzz) spent their day marathoning on Cedar Point's "Gemini" wooden coaster. The top rider lapped "Gemini" 130 times. GKTW President Pam Landwirth took 30 trips herself, bringing in $1,000. Riders ranged in age from 14 to 60 years old

"We were amazed in just two short weeks Cedar Point and CoasterBuzz planned this fun event for us—we had a ball!" Storey said. "The 'Gemini' crew really promoted the marathon and kept the spirits of the participants up. They also intrigued the park guests so much that many came down to the GKTW table afterwards with donations to 'help support the guys.' I collected $210 from park guests! And then at day’s end, the ride crew—who had been with us since 7 a.m., working so hard to keep our riders going—gave us $60!"

Pam Landwirth with Andrew Walsh, the youngest participant at age 14.

Friday, August 28, 2009

September's FUNWORLD Now Online

The cover of FUNWORLD's September issue features Audrey O'Connell of London's Natural History Museum. The cavernous structure she's standing in is the entryway to the museum's new Darwin Centre, and it leads into one of the main focuses of this edition: How museums are changing their mindsets to engage and entice visitors.

O'Connell speaks to this as part of our cover story on her, the Natural History Museum, and Darwin Centre, and you can read that article here. News Editor Keith Miller talked to several other facilities and designers, though, to get even more perspective on the issue; you can read that companion piece here.

Some other articles of interest this month:
• Departments Editor Marion Hixon has an in-depth look at zero-depth waterplay attractions, and how they're booming in popularity—and in some places you might not expect.
• Our Las Vegas resident writer extraordinaire, Steve Friess, offers all you could ever want to know about dining in Vegas during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009.
• Contributing Editor Mike Bederka examines how mascots can help FECs extend their brand images.

And much more!

Monday, August 24, 2009

'Coasting for Kids': GKTW Fund-Raiser at Cedar Point

This Wednesday, charitable souls will spend the day on Cedar Point's "Gemini" coaster to raise money for Give Kids The World.

The "Coasting for Kids" marathon runs from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park. Up to 60 participants will ride the wooden coaster as many times as they can during that stretch; each rider is gathering pledges for how many laps they can make. All of the money donated will go to GKTW.

There are two ways you can contribute:

• Registration to ride "Gemini" is still open; if you'd like to participate in the marathon, click here.

• To make a pledge, click here.

And for more information about the event, click here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More from FUNWORLD: Live on a Wire with Nik Wallenda

Think riding a speeding roller coaster at more than 50 miles per hour is thrilling? Try walking a tightrope more than 150 feet in the air, above a gasping audience and overlooking a theme park skyline. That’s exactly what Nik Wallenda, holder of two Guinness World Records, has done this summer at 11 Cedar Fair parks across the United States. In the August Quick Hits department, I briefly delved into Wallenda’s love for his craft and for theme parks. Read the full interview about this famous daredevil and his plans for next year here.

What inspired you to attempt this feat and how does it compare to some of your other stunts or high-wire attempts?
I’ve always had a heart for amusement parks. I’ve gotten so many lifelong friends at parks—the industry’s full of great down-to-earth people; it’s a family environment more than a working environment. It’s so alluring once you get started in it, that how can you get away from it? We get paid to make people smile in this industry—what more could you ask for?
I was contacted by Cedar Fair as they were looking for something to draw people into the park on weekends. So now we’re doing a 10-city tour: “Nik Wallenda Walks Across America.”

Does every walk feel the same if you’re up high enough?
No, it’s never the same thing twice. The stabilizers are actually held by park employees—they come off the cable sideways, which stops it from swinging back and forth. The size of the employee and how focused they are affects the walk. A lot of time they’re watching what I’m doing and not what they’re doing. You never know what you’re gonna get, so it’s different each time I walk a wire.
We have different volunteers each time; often they’re from the audience—it’s been done like that for several generations. As I’m crossing over a specific cable, my wife and father are at opposite ends helping those volunteers stabilize. If it’s a really long walk, I’ll bring four people with me instead of two.
At Worlds of Fun, the challenge was in the rigging. I had to walk from the “Detonator” [a 200-foot drop tower] to a crane and there was no way to get down from the crane. So I had to wave, turn around, and walk all the way back again.

Do you have a favorite type of ride at the park?
My kids take me on all of them, but my favorite at Worlds of Fun is the “Patriot.” I like how smooth the steel coasters are engineered—they’re a blast. We’re incorporating rides into my walks all summer. At Kings Island, I’m going to walk from their “Eiffel Tower” to the new “Diamondback” roller coaster!

What role does the audience play in your performance—can you hear them when you’re on the wire?
I can hear it all, and I see the actions of people moving around underneath me. They play a big role in the walk and that’s why I do it. If I win the lottery tomorrow, I would not stop performing—I just can’t imagine not doing it. It’s a lifestyle more than a career or a job for me—it’s my hobby. When we’re home and not performing, I’m on the wire five times a week and my whole family’s there with me.

Your family—some of them having belonged to The Flying Wallendas—has a strong connection to the performing arts. Tell us what you’re all involved in.
Sarasota, Florida—where we live—is the circus capital of the world. My son is 11 and recently performed a high-wire act in his school play. Generally at that age, you’re a little timid in front of an audience, but he kept doing more tricks in front of the audience. He’s a born performer—there are eight generations of performers on my father’s side and nine on my wife’s. I think my son sees the gratification his parents got and wants to be a part of that.
My wife Erendira’s family was the first to do quadruple somersaults on the flying trapeze. She also performs with wave poles. And during my show in Detroit, she walked an 80-foot wire with no safety net.

(above photos: Wallenda walks the wire at Worlds of Fun, photos courtesy Worlds of Fun)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Does Health Care Reform Have to do with IAAPA Attractions Expo?

As you're probably aware, the U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation that would drastically reform the health care system in the United States and has the potential to dramatically impact the attractions industry in the U.S.

Currently there are four different health care bills and each addresses the situation differently, but in none of them does there appear to be any recognition of the unique challenges in providing health insurance to seasonal workers. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) successfully amended one of the proposals (the bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee) to exempt a small number of seasonal businesses. IAAPA is leading a small coalition of like-minded groups that seek to expand this amendment to cover seasonal businesses in the attractions and other seasonal industries.

We have met, and will continue to meet, with key senators who are shaping the health care bill to educate them about seasonal workers. During these meetings, a few questions have been raised about the size and composition of the work force in the attractions industry.

To provide the U.S. Congress with the most accurate information available, we are asking IAAPA members to voluntarily share their employment information.

If you complete our brief survey about the size and makeup of your work force, you will be entered into a drawing to win one free admission to IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, one free night of hotel accommodations at New York, New York, two tickets to see Blue Man Group perform live, and two tickets to the exciting Opening Reception at IAAPA Attractions Expo.

The drawing will be held Monday, Aug. 24, so make sure you complete the survey before then!

We realize the sensitivity of this information and will only share it with a select group of individuals as it pertains to this health care issue. You may even take the survey anonymously if you do not want to enter the drawing. Even if you enter the drawing, we will never identify your company by name, unless you give us permission otherwise. This information will help us greatly in our lobbying efforts to craft an exemption for part-time and seasonal workers.

In the coming weeks you will see more from IAAPA concerning the health care debate. If you have any questions about this information, health care legislation or government relations activities in general, please don't hesitate to contact us at or +1 703/836.4800.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Exhibiting—From A to Z

As you gear up for your exhibiting experience at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009, there are endless details to consider. For tomorrow’s exhibitor webinar, taking place at 2 p.m. EDT, IAAPA staff and veteran exhibitors will count down 26 of these items from A to Z, covering general trade show advice and Las Vegas-specific tips. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of tomorrow’s topic areas:

Exhibitor Services Guide
Sponsorship Opportunities
Convention Center Rules
Union Jurisdiction in Nevada
Training Your Staff
Lead Retrieval
Booth Etiquette
On-site Vendor Tours
Freight/Material Handling
Having fun!
...and much more!

To register for this webinar and to find out more about future sessions, click here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More from FUNWORLD: An Interview with Cirque du Soleil's Calum Pearson

As an admirer of Cirque du Soleil and a lover of all things Beatles, I had a blast interviewing Calum Pearson, senior director of technical and show support–Resident Shows Division for Cirque du Soleil, for August’s FUNWORLD. He’s been with Cirque since 2004 and currently oversees all technical elements of the company’s stage shows, ranging from Macau to Ontario to Nevada. Before settling in Las Vegas, Pearson built a hefty resume both onstage—as a guitarist in the 1980s rock ‘n’ roll scene—and off—managing technology for legendary acts like Van Halen and Bon Jovi and later engineering and producing “Disney on Ice” productions.

Here’s my extended interview with the man who knows what goes on behind-the-scenes. If this sparks your interest, consider signing up for the behind-the-scenes tour of “The Beatles LOVE” at IAAPA Attractions Expo this November.

FUNWORLD: How do you describe “The Beatles LOVE” to people who've never seen a Cirque show?
Calum Pearson (left): It evokes emotions related to music guests grew up with; however, people will enjoy it even if they didn’t live through the Beatles era, but do appreciate good music. It’s an encompassing environment where you get immersed into the show and rekindle memories.
“LOVE” isn’t as acrobatic as some of our other shows, so there’s a lot more expressive dance mixed in. If a song doesn’t call for high energy tumblers, using a dancer makes more sense. You’re going to appreciate the subtleties of the visuals to support the lyrics but you’ll feel flattered that you didn’t have something pushed on you.
We never do the same thing twice—you’re going to have a certain level of quality, a level of creativity—and we provoke the senses.
Everything you watch, when you walk into one of our shows, as soon as you set foot past handing your ticket in, you’re in our environment. For instance, at the theaters in Vegas, we use tinted glass to reflect sound and keep out noise from the casinos, and we double AirLock doors so slivers of light can’t creep in.

How do you manage time and maintain efficiency in such intricate productions?
Cirque has a lot of people working across boundaries. With every bit of choreography happening onstage, there are three backstage movements that are just as choreographed.
What’s unique about our shows is that we give the directors carte blanche to create. Once we have the creative element, we start looking for efficiencies—but without changing the artistic vision. Time management must maintain artistic integrity, and a lot of that is achieved by the internal training we do.
Since all of our shows are contracted for 10 years, we don’t second-guess spending a lot of time and money on training. It’s worth it because it pays off in the end. From the point of creation, we’re looking at how we can maximize the time of the individuals.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned from working with Cirque du Soleil that translates to both small and large productions?
You really have to do your research on what’s been tried before so you don’t reinvent the wheel. A big part of our process is to document every single stage production, no matter how innocuous it may seem at the time. If you do a similar show four years from now, you need to know what you spent time and money on doing wrong.

What can IAAPA Attractions Expo attendees expect at the behind-the-scenes “LOVE” experience?
It’s more of a workshop where we show what we’ve changed through the years and bring everything from behind-the-scenes to the front. Our technicians will demonstrate some of the elements built specifically into the theater for “LOVE”—we’re going to air our dirty laundry a little. People will get a chance to see the nuts-and-bolts visuals of the show. Some of the artists will be there to talk about their roles and of course we’ll conduct a Q&A at the end.

With such a varied career, how have your different careers built on one another?
I wouldn’t replace a single second of the rock ‘n’ roll days—I was in my 20s and loving every minute of it. When I moved over to produce the “Disney on Ice” shows, I actually experienced the culture of each city because we stayed for a week or two. That period culminated in 16 years of touring around the world. When my first child was born, there was no better reason to stop touring and settle in Las Vegas. I got to open “Ka” at MGM Grand and two years later Cirque asked me to overlook all their shows. With Cirque, I get to do what I’ve been doing all my life for a company that is—without a doubt —the most existential in the world. There’s no limit to anything they do. Everything I’ve done in the past was leading me to what I do now.

The difference between the shows in Vegas and those in the rest of the world?: “Everything’s bigger here,” says Pearson. “Here in Vegas, we have soon to be seven shows. We keep challenging ourselves to come up with different products.”
“Mystére” – The show at Treasure Island is Cirque’s traditional big top show
“O” – The production at the Bellagio, incorporates a 1.5 million gallon tank of water
“Zumanity” – Smaller and more intimate, "Zumanity," playing at New York New York Hotel & Casino, shows a more sensual side of Cirque in adult cabaret fashion. “It utilizes the circus arts in a very provocative manner,” Pearson says.
“Ka” – The $200 million production, showing at the MGM Grand, is one of the largest on the planet. One of the seven stages weighs 300 tons and is mobile—a prop that almost steals the show. Pearson calls the experience like “walking into a vast arena; just a large spectacle.”
“LOVE” – Marking the 15th anniversary of Cirque in Vegas, “LOVE” debuted in 2006 and was born from a friendship and mutual admiration between late Beatles member George Harrison and Gilles Ste-Croix, vice president of creative for Cirque du Soleil. Harrison’s widow, Olivia, continued developing the show after the guitarist's death, and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were involved in production details. Featuring Beatles music remastered by the band’s original producer, George Martin, and his son Miles, Pearson calls the show “unbelievable with a feel-good factor. If you’re a fan of the Beatles’ music, it brings the characters you know to life. And if you know nothing about the Beatles, it’s a great high-energy show everyone can love.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Our Thoughts Are With Kennywood Today

The attractions industry lost one of its own this week, as 46-year-old Heidi Overmeir, director of school sales at Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, was one of three people murdered at a fitness club in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.

This morning, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an excellent, albeit heartbreaking, story about Heidi's life and death. Kennywood representatives are quoted throughout and mention what an upbeat, hardworking, beloved employee she was. You can read the full article here.

All of us at IAAPA are saddened for Heidi's family, and Kennywood.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Read FUNWORLD's August Issue Online: New Rides and Attractions 2009

One of my favorite FUNWORLD issues of the year is now ready for you to peruse via our online digital edition.

This month's installment features our annual New Rides and Attractions special section, which for four years running now has rounded up some of the biggest, brightest new entries in the industry from around the world. Leading the way in 2009 is "Manta," the new B&M flying coaster/aquarium at SeaWorld Orlando. We also have pieces on four big new coasters in Germany this year, and a look at the benefits of refurbishing a ride.

And oh, there's more:
• A look at the massive amount of entertainment Las Vegas has to offer as everyone gears up for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009
• A look back at IAAPA's record-breaking Asian Attractions Expo 2009 in Seoul
• A Q&A with the technical director for Cirque du Soleil

Check out these stories and more by clicking here. And THANK YOU for reading!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Register for Charity Events at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009

Online registration is now open for two charity events at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas that benefit Give Kids The World.

• The 2009 IAAPA International Charity Golf Tournament will be Monday, Nov. 16, at Angel Park Golf Club, with tee time at 8:30 a.m. Register now by clicking here. The earlier, the better, as this event tends to fill up quick.

• The IAAPA Charity 5K Fun Run & 1K Walk is set for 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at Pecos Legacy Park in Henderson, Nevada, about 9 miles from the heart of the Las Vegas Strip (transportation will be provided from Wynn Las Vegas). Click here for registration (if you're not an IAAPA member, choose "Create New Account," which will allow you to sign up for this specific event).

We're proud to support GKTW with these events—the money raised will certainly go to a great cause, helping fulfill dreams for children with life-threatening illnesses. If you have any questions about these two events, please contact my colleague, Angela Albertini, at

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Different Kind of Webinar

What better time to brainstorm new ideas when you need them: right in the heart of the season?
On Wednesday, July 29, at 11 a.m. EDT, Ted Molter, director of marketing at the San Diego Zoo and O. Lee Mincey, director of administration at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, will moderate a free-form webinar that will allow participants to … participate!
This session is designed to bring professionals together to discuss ideas and solutions that can be put to use right now while the season’s still going strong. Molter and Mincey will guide the conversation using the following questions and topic areas—consider these as you develop your questions and anecdotes:

- What is your overall impression of the season (attendance, sales)?
- How has the current economic situation caused your business model to change?
- What has surprised you the most this summer?
- What attendance drivers have worked best for you this season?
- What food, merchandise, or services are selling well so far?
- What is your planning, purchasing, and marketing strategy for the fall (seasonal or holiday events)?

To register for this webinar and to find out more about future sessions, click here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Honoring a Legend: Thanks for the Memories, Marty

Marty Sklar stands below his new window at Disneyland's City Hall

What better way to celebrate Disneyland's 54th anniversary today than honoring one of The Walt Disney Company's original and most revered visionaries?

This morning in a ceremony outside Disneyland's City Hall, Disney Legend Marty Sklar was given his own window at the legendary theme park—fulfilling a tradition begun by Walt Disney himself.

“This is probably the greatest honor we can bestow on any of our Cast Members that have gone above and beyond to make sure we create magic for every guest,” said Disneyland President Ed Grier. “Certainly no one has gone above and beyond more than Marty Sklar in Walt’s spirit of hope and optimism.”

“Marty was one of the original cast of Walt’s dreamers and doers,” said Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering. “He was one of the dedicated pioneers of Imagineering who forged a commitment to creativity and innovation in our storytelling. His generation of Imagineers crafted the idea that it’s kind of fun to do the impossible. If it hadn’t been thought of, they thought of it; if it didn’t exist, they built it; and if it couldn’t be done, they did it anyway. To this day, this philosophy guides us, differentiates us, and makes us … Disney. He helped establish a foundation that Imagineers today continue to live by.”

Sklar's window now resides just above City Hall's entrance, at office he used to use while creating dreams and shaping them into reality.

“Being here at this location, where you can look over where Walt dedicated Disneyland, this is where the heart is,” Sklar said. “This is very emotional for me. Fifty-some years, so many memories here. There hasn’t been a boring day.”

Sklar began his Disney career in the PR department a month before Disneyland opened July 17, 1955. He moved to Imagineering (then known as WED Enterprises) in 1974, beginning a 30-year run of creating Disney parks and attractions around the world. Entering today, he was the only active Cast Member to participate in the opening of all 11 Disney parks worldwide.

After the ceremony, I asked Sklar if even Walt could have imagined the scope of The Walt Disney Company's success from what began here in Anaheim with Disneyland.

“Oh sure,” Sklar told me. “The only thing Walt would have said is, ‘What took you so long?’”

Marty with a replica of his window (courtesy The Walt Disney Company)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

'World of Color': Sneak Peek at the New Night Show for Disney's California Adventure

I'm in Anaheim this week reporting on the makeover of Disney's California Adventure. This morning I attended a behind-the-scenes media preview of the park's new nighttime spectacular, "World of Color," set to debut in spring 2010.

"World of Color" will be a 25-minute water-based show staged on DCA's lagoon. If the Disney Imagineers are truly able to turn the plans they shared today into reality, "World of Color" is going to make the fountains at Bellagio look like splashes in a baby pool.

The show will launch from a 400-foot-long platform sunk into the lagoon—the entire structure covers nearly a full acre. The water's drained right now so the Disney crews can work on it, so if you look at the photo above (courtesy of The Walt Disney Company) you can see what the setup looks like. That massive structure will actually reside completely submerged beneath the water during the day, then float to the surface for showtime (it'll only take about 10 minutes to do so).

Disney's building an entirely new terrace on the edge of the lagoon (facing newly refurbished Paradise Pier) to create capacity for 9,000 guests to see the spectacular. What will they be looking at?

"World of Color" will take the video-on-mist-screen technology used in "Fantasmic!" to a phenomenal next level through new digital projection technology. Twenty-nine high-definition projectors will splash images up on a mist screen 380 feet long and 50 feet high—or 19,000 square feet. The screen will interact with approximately 1,200 fountains—some with capacity to shoot water 200 feet into the air—throughout the lagoon to provide a show Disney creatives are saying is of a scale never seen before in their parks.

"This is the biggest entertainment undertaking we've ever done," Imagineer Steve Davison, creative director for "World of Color," told me. "It's bigger than Epcot, bigger than Tokyo, bigger than any fireworks show we've ever done."

That. Is. Saying. Something. Characters, scenes, and music from several Disney films will be included in the production; the renderings below (also courtesy of Disney) provide an idea of what the "Alice in Wonderland" and "Pocahontas" sections will look like.

"World of Color" hearkens back to Walt Disney's television program of the same name, and is demonstrative of the thematic shift DCA will make over the next three years as it transitions away from the kitschy modern-day vibe it expresses now into a vision of Los Angeles as Disney experienced it nearly a century ago.

"The tone [of the show] is perfect because it combines everything we're trying to do [at DCA]," Bob Weiss, executive vice president for Walt Disney Imagineering, told me today. "We're bringing more Walt, more inspiration, more storytelling, we're trying do everything in state-of-the-art technologies people have not seen before. It epitomizes and symbolizes for us what's going to be transformative about everything we're adding."

The size, scope, and sheer amount of information I learned today is overwhelming, as I'm sure this show will be when it leaps into the sky next year. I could blog about this for a week and still not get through it all. But look for my full, in-depth coverage of the DCA expansion/makeover in the Nov./Dec. 2009 issue of FUNWORLD. In the meantime, check out the new site Disney launched today,, for more info and a look at more of the artistic renderings for additions to the park.

Friday, July 10, 2009

July FUNWORLD Is Online

The July issue of FUNWORLD is ready for you to read via our digital edition. Click here to find:

• A cover story on Camp Iliff, which has added day care to the traditional FEC model.
• An eight-page section on safety and maintenance techniques and technology.
• A report on Twitter: Is it a trick or a treat for marketers?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tips to Save Time and Money

Late last month, the IAAPA Communications team issued a press release on "30 Tips to Save Time and Money at Theme Parks and Attractions." The goal was to spur interest in the industry and our member facilities by giving potential guests yet another reason to get in the car and visit.

You can read the original release here, but what's more exciting is the information was picked up by Reader's Digest's online division. Check out the post by Janice Lieberman highlighting IAAPA's tips here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More Member Benefits for You, or: What is Partnership Plus, Anyway?

During the past six months, you may have noticed a new logo hanging out on the IAAPA home page. It links to a page that details IAAPA's "Partnership Plus" program—an intiative dedicated to providing members with even more products and services above and beyond what you've traditionally received with your membership.

Here are a few highlights from the program:
  • Webinars: My colleague, Linda Gerson, spearheads our monthly webinar program. These expert-led sessions provide members with much-needed information on topical issues. Members can participate in these sessions for FREE and can review the slides and audio for most sessions by logging in to the members-only section of the IAAPA web site.
  • Hot Off the Press: Colleen Mangone, IAAPA's new media relations manager, worked with our communications team to pitch two stories that have received postive national press for the attractions industry. You can read resulting coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and others!
  • FUNWORLD Collections: Members can now easily reference previous FUNWORLD articles with this series focused on a specific attractions market or discipline. The Waterpark Collection and Museum Collection are available now, with more to come!

And that's not all. You can review all the programs and discounts included with Partnership Plus and check in for weekly highlights our home page.

What do you think about this program? As always, I welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing from you:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Webinar Tuesday: Waterpark Fundamentals

During the next IAAPA webinar on Tuesday, June 30, at 2 p.m. EST, waterpark managers will be treated to a fast-paced session from three industry leaders on key operational topics.

Jason Arthur, director of aquatics for Great Wolf Resorts Inc., Bryan Nadeau, director of park operations at Aquatica by SeaWorld, and Scott Carothers, general manager of Wild Island Family Adventure Park will share insights and tips on training, operations, and revenue generation, because right now all facilities are faced with the challenge of operating leaner while still providing excellent guest service and family fun. In the Queue caught up with Carothers, who shared a sneak peek into Tuesday’s session.

What key issues will you and the panelists focus on during the webinar?
We’re going to do revenue generation, operational issues, and staff motivation. In working with IAAPA on this program, we wanted to offer something that operators could implement right away.

How can refining operations help parks during a tough economic year?
We’re all trying to run more efficiently while trying to generate more revenue and looking for new ideas to refocus our facilities. You can change your operation right now and overcome some of the things that are challenging us right now.

Who should log in to this webinar and why?
We’re covering three different tiers of content, so any level of operator or manager will walk away with something to take back to their waterparks. For example, any manager can use the training session to implement changes immediately without any costs.
Anytime you have an opportunity to have your staff gain knowledge, especially with a webinar, which doesn’t take a huge amount of time, it’s so important. You need to continue to learn and expand, and it’ll help the operation as a whole.

What tools and ideas can attendees expect to take away?
When we put this content together we concentrated on topics for managers. We’re assuming people are already in the game. Capital decisions have been made, and now we’re trying to focus on how you operate—how you relate to staff. We’re going to concentrate on what people can do right now to generate revenue, get through staff burnout, and deal with an operational or maintenance change.

To register for this webinar and to find out more about future sessions, click here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Teen Workers in the Attractions Industry: Know the Rules

School's out for summer, which means you're undoubtedly starting to see more kids visiting your facilities and probably more teens applying to work at them. Do you know the current labor laws in your state? What about federal labor laws?

To help you be sure, IAAPA once again has partnered with the United States Department of Labor to promote YouthRules!, an online clearinghouse of information concerning youth labor.

Since laws have the potential to change every time a legislature meets, and sometimes effective dates occur in the middle of the season, I encourage you to visit too brush up on state and federal laws concerning the hours teens can work and the kinds of jobs they can perform. There are also tips for avoiding workplace injuries and help for teens on how many hours they can work.

New this year is an online assessment so employers can verify they are in compliance with federal and state laws.

The attractions industry relies heavily on teens, both as employees and guests. Visit YouthRules and make sure you're up to speed with regulations regarding this important demographic.