[quote]These parks will create physical touchpoints for the consumers to make a different kind of connection with these worlds. They will be physical worlds – not just media worlds. Immersing you in a real world is the ultimate virtual reality.”[/quote]
[dropcap color=”#888″ type=”square”]2[/dropcap]0th Century Fox World Dubai is slated to open in 2018. Plans for the integrated theme park and resort were announced Nov 3 by Al Ahli Holding Group (AAHG) in an international licensing partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products. Design and production services are being provided by Rethink Leisure & Entertainment. Intellectual properties (IPs) that will come to life in the park include The Simpsons, Planet of the Apes, Alien, Sons of Anarchy and Ice Age. Greg Lombardo (Senior Vice President of Global Live and Location Based Entertainment for Twentieth Century Fox) and Scott Ault (President and CEO, Rethink) talked about the project to InPark’s Judith Rubin and Martin Palicki.
Where is the project now in terms of the design process, bidding and staffing?
Scott Ault: Rethink signed a new lease to substantially expand office space as we staff up. We have four principals on each area of the park: show producer, creative director, art director and technical director. We’re almost at the point where all those have been hired. Rick Polizzi, who was producer of The Simpsons TV show for many years, is creative director of The Simpsons area. Joining him as art director is Karen Bauer, who was longtime color stylist on the show. We’re making similar hires for other areas of the parks – strategic hirings of people who have worked extensively with the IP. There is a lot of crossover from the film world to the theme park world, and the culture is similar.
How will the theme park build upon the IP to create compelling guest experiences?
GL: We know you have to tell a story and give a fantastic experience beyond the movie. These attractions will take a deeper dive into story with familiar environments and characters – not re-tellings, but new stories that live within the world of the IP. It’s such a rich opportunity – and we are talking about active franchises where new movies will be rolling out in the near future.
Is this kind of cross platforming a significant evolution for media companies?
GL: We’re in the contemporary content creation business. The way that people digest media is changing, and IP holders recognize that. One of the things to be aware of is how it differs from one geographic area to another. China, for instance, will have more cinemas than the US does within the next 5 years.
We are building these destinations from the ground up. We have the right team, and we take it seriously. It’s an amazing way to get 365-day-a-year engagement with an IP. With a franchised property that releases a new movie every 2 years, it creates a new body of consumers who fall in love with the brand. Here we are creating environments where people can feel themselves to be active participants.
Birds-eye rendering of Fox World theme park and resort set to open in Dubai in 2018. Image courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.
Will there be a lot of emphasis on the built environment?
SA: These parks will create physical touchpoints for the consumers to make a different kind of connection with these worlds. They will be physical worlds – not just media worlds. Immersing you in a real world is the ultimate virtual reality.
GL: Our industry can be over-reliant on media to do the heavy lifting in theme parks. But it’s so powerful to walk into that world literally and physically re-created, extending all the way to retail. To be able to sit down in the world of The Simpsons and actually eat a Krusty Burger, for instance. And as a parent, I know just how important it is to spend that time in a physical place, not watching your child watch a screen. There’s a diversity of experience – a fabric, with texture and pattern variation.
SA: It’s a powerful and unforgettable life experience to walk in with your kid and see them look around, wide-eyed.
Will there be a Titanic boat ride?
GL: There will not be a Titanic boat ride.
What about the ride technology?
SA: Some of the rides will have completely unique ride systems. We’ll be using proven technology but in new, unprecedented ways. You’ll just have to wait and see exactly how!
There is also a Fox World theme park underway in Malaysia. Tell us something about how it compares to the one in Dubai.
GL: Not every IP will be present in each park. We’ve been mostly focusing on Dubai in this conversation, but 20th Century Fox World in Malaysia is also an active construction site [not a Rethink project]. The mix of content as well as sponsorship and details of hospitality offerings and park layout will differ according to the needs and culture of the visitor base.
SA: We did a lot of benchmarking across parks around the world. Dubai is a major transport hub with a lot of international air traffic and long-term growth potential. The visitor base includes expatriates: Europeans, Filipinos and a large population from the subcontinent. It’s already a major shopping destination. Hotel rooms are increasing exponentially in anticipation of Dubai Expo 2020, and there will be a need to sustain the demand for those rooms after the world’s fair closes. The new theme parks in development, including Fox World, will help. Our partner Al-Ahli Holding Group is very thoughtful about that.
GL: Malaysia is a gateway to China, with many visitors from Singapore, Southeast Asia and India who are huge consumers of our movies.
What else would you like to tell us?
SA: The entire team at Rethink is honored to be working on this fantastic project, in one of the most exciting regions in the world. We are looking to create a world-class theme park destination unlike anything previously seen in the region.
Some key new Rethink Leisure & Entertainment team members
Don Roberts, Sr. Art Director
As a former Walt Disney Imagineer, Don led and collaborated with Imagineers for over 16 years on a wide range of projects ranging from movie sets, retail stores, restaurants, roller coasters, immersive environments, cruise ships, resorts and hotels. Past projects include: Mission Space (Walt Disney World Epcot), Indiana Jones Temple of the Forbidden Eye (Disneyland Resort), Finding Nemo (Disneyland Resort), Tower of Terror (Tokyo Disney Seas) and Raging Spirits (Tokyo Disney Seas).
Michael R. Sinks, Executive Producer
Michael Sinks has produced and directed both domestic and international projects for some of the industry’s major design and production companies including: Landmark Entertainment Group, Iwerks Entertainment (now SimEx-Iwerks), Paramount Parks, BRC Imagination Arts, Spectra Entertainment and Universal Studios. Michael held the position of Executive Director for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Location Based Entertainment division. Projects include: motiongate & Bollywood Theme parks (Dubai Parks & Resorts), Universal Plaza, Iconic Tower and restaurant (Universal Studios Hollywood), Sanrio Puro Land theme park – New Tama City, Japan, Caesars Magical Empire (Caesars Palace Las Vegas) and SsangYong EarthScape Pavilion and Residential Environmental Pavilion (Taejon Expo 93, Korea).
Rick Polizzi, Creative Director
Rick worked at Churchill Entertainment as a Dimensional Animator and Production Supervisor, on programs such as The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Ralph S. Mouse (ABC Weekend Specials), and Stanley and the Dinosaurs (Disney Channel). In 1996, Rick joined the production team of The Simpsons, serving as an Animation Producer for 16 seasons and over 350 episodes, for which he was recognized with three Primetime Emmy Awards. As an entertainer, Rick has performed with the L.A.-based improv group, The Groundlings and has voiced numerous characters for animated programs. He co-authored the coffee table book Spin Again (Chronicle Books) that was named “Cool Retro Book of the Year” by Entertainment Weekly.
David Aion, Show Producer
David Aion started in the leisure attractions field in 1983 interfacing with architects, designers, theme park operators; museum, zoo and aquarium professionals, and general contractors on projects in the United States and in Singapore. Some of these projects have been for Resorts World – Singapore, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, California Science Center, and Universal Studios. David is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Themed Entertainment Association. He has served on committees for IAAPA, AAM and AZA and is a lifetime member of the Digital Cinema Society.