Bob Rogers, founder of BRC Imagination Arts is something of a themed entertainment industry legend and pioneer, with a career from Disney to multiple world expo pavilions to groundbreaking museum exhibitions and award winning corporate visitor centers, to say nothing of sitting on the Board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He’s a memorable speaker and – as one Legend knows another – for several years has moderated a “Legends” panel at the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando.
At top, left to right – Seated: Jack Lindquist, Marty Sklar. Standing: Tom Mehrmann, Matt Ouimet, Bob Rogers. All photos courtesy BRC Imagination Arts. Story: Judith Rubin.
The Nov 17, 2015 edition of “Legends” targeted Disneyland’s continuing influence on the theme park industry, on the 60th anniversary year of the park’s opening. On the panel were Disney Legend Marty Sklar; Matt Ouimet, president and CEO of Cedar Fair; and Disney Legend Jack Lindquist. Both Ouimet and Lindquist are former presidents of Disneyland Resort. Also on the panel: Tom Mehrmann, who recently announced he would soon step down as CEO of Ocean Park Hong Kong. He was never with Disney, but as former president of Knott’s Berry Farm, and with Ocean Park, has been in the position of heading parks that directly competed.
Rogers shared with InPark what he found to be some of the more interesting quotes and ideas that came forth in the discussion. “The Disney Revolution continues to influence and echo within the worldwide attractions industry,” he said.
“All four talked about ‘generational value,'” said Rogers. “That is the tendency for parents to want to share the experiences of their own childhood with their children. This is an asset that some of the older, more beloved parks enjoy.”
Mehrmann and Ouimet referred to this also as “genetic vacation behavior” – “You have to be simultaneously relevant to your history but contemporary for today’s visitors,” said Ouimet.
“’Having fun should be fun,’” was Tom Mehrmann talking about the service objective of all employees,” said Rogers – “Or, as Marty Sklar put it, ‘If you’re not having fun in the fun business, you need to think about a career change.’”
seemed all the more real because of the authenticity given it by names like Coca-Cola, Kodak, etc.”
“Take care of the kids first,” said Mehrmann, who went on to explain that if the kids are unhappy, no one is happy; but if the kids are happy, the adults will be too.
Risk and creative limitations
“If you fail to take it to scale, short term you may save some cash, thus giving you the illusion that it is safer, but you actually increase the risk,” — Matt Ouimet
“You have to speculate to accumulate.” — Tom Mehrmann
“Matt and Tom were speaking of the temptation to under-execute a great idea in a way that fails to impress the market,” said Rogers. “The result is that a great idea fails because it wasn’t done right. All four Legends rather quickly added that this doesn’t mean budgets or schedules should be unlimited, with Matt saying, ‘The best creativity only happens under limitations.’”
Heart and harmony
Rogers observed that at a presentation earlier in the day, Joel Manby, new CEO of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment (formerly with Herschend Family Entertainment), had said, “I have to first get their heart before I get their head,” a maxim that all four Legends on the panel endorsed.
Another point where all four were in harmony was career advice, summarized by Rogers as, “Don’t do it because you think you should. Do something you love instead.”