ABOVE: Tropical Heat, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom
The Producers Group helps build Asia’s great new theme parks and visitor attractions
by Judith Rubin
[dropcap color=”#888″ type=”square”]A[/dropcap]n article in the February 3 Los Angeles Times spotlights Southern California theme park companies that have gained business due to rapid growth of the attractions industry in Asia, especially China.
One of the companies featured in the article is The Producers Group (TPG). Company co-CEOs Bob Chambers and Edward Marks have been active in Asia for the past 11 years, with an impressive portfolio of successful projects, many of which opened over the past five years, and several more set to open in the next two years, including high-profile properties in Shanghai and Beijing.
TPG expanded significantly in the first quarter of 2015, with a new office in Shanghai, and a new, bigger location in Los Angeles. This is in addition to TPG’s existing office in Beijing where regional director Patrick Zhou Li is headquartered. “If you’re going to work in China, you have to be in China,” says Marks. The new Shanghai office, in the prestigious Jing’An district on the Puxi side of town, is headed by Brian Paiva, a business development powerhouse newly on board with TPG after several years as a senior executive with FUNA International.
Why are Southern California theme park companies and Asian entertainment developers such a good match? Paiva explains that, “the theme park industry in the US has led the way since Disneyland opened in the 1950s. Western expertise and experience complement Eastern resources. The Chinese are already well equipped to manufacture. But we bring them skillsets in planning, production, scheduling, budgeting, creative, project management, IP development, operational services, and safety consulting.”
Marks stresses that TPG is not a design firm and points to the company’s middle name as key to their success. They’re producers. They get things done. What has served the company well in Asia are the ability to take on unique, one-off projects, often of massive scale, and to realistically address the broad scope of work – including budget, schedule, installation and construction as well as creative and design. “We don’t sell the idea of projects, we sell completed projects – real, finished, done projects – projects that open and operate successfully, projects whose owners are happy and satisfied.”
“Turning big visions into reality is exactly what we’re good at,” Chambers adds. “We’ve been doing it for almost a dozen years now in Asia, and our clients include major operators such as Disney, SeaWorld, Universal and 20th Century Fox.”
Asian projects – The Producers Group
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Hengqin, Zhuhai, China
Four attractions at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, under contract to creative director Renaissance Entertainment. This new theme park was recently honored by the Themed Entertainment Association with a 2015 Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement: Lagoon Spectacular – Features performers on flying hover boards, video mapping on 63 meter tall whale, Under the Polar Moon – Massive LED screen (120’ long), Sea Lions vs Pirates – Features a family of Sea Lions , Tropical Heat – Huge Volcano effect, 10M diving platform, integrated LED screen into scenic
Galaxy Hotel, Macau and Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore
Five projects under contract to creative director Entertainment Design Corporation: Fortune Diamond (Galaxy Macau) – 21’ diameter spinning glass and mirror structure, Wishing Crystals (Galaxy Macau) – Multimedia interactive attraction with hundreds of playback combinations, Crane Dance (Resorts World Sentosa) – World’s largest animatronics, featuring two 8Mx8M LED screens, Lake of Dreams (Resorts World Sentosa) – Multimedia fountain show, Hall of Treasures (Resorts World Sentosa) – Grand entrance to the RWS Casino
Universal Studios Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa
Three projects under contract to creative director KB Creative: Sci Fi City, Lights Camera Action, Jurassic Park
Local resources and talent
In addition to the producer’s perspective and a track record, TPG has made sure to have specific, local resources in Asia to serve their Asian clientele.
“TPG embraces local resources and local talent,” says Brian Paiva. “I haven’t seen anybody else do it to the extent that they do. They do their best to source everything locally, starting in that town or that city and if need be, extending out to that province or that region. They’ll go to a vendor and train them to help learn the needed processes – and everybody wins then, because local vendors now have skills and products and services they didn’t have before, jobs are created and it has a ripple effect on the local economy. Developers appreciate that.”
Paiva’s experience developing business in Asia for a variety of entertainment companies goes back to the 1980s and ‘90s rush of building, theme park development and world expos in Japan. He moved on to help develop entertainment and retail projects in South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Thailand.
Says Chambers: “Certain team members need to be on the ground for the sake of responsiveness to clients: timely turnaround, efficient communications. It’s the right, respectful way to do it.”
Marks adds: The project needs to be supported from where the project is – from vendors to staff to warranty and maintenance. We take this seriously.”
“Localizing members of the team and vendors is the best way to establish a long term working relationship with a Chinese client,” says Zhou Li, who has been with the company three years.
Success in China also calls for teamwork and understanding. “TPG works to bridge the gap between East and West,” says Zhou Li. “The foreign team provides consultancy and creative ideas and plays a lead role in quality control and management, while the Chinese team provides coherence and support in accordance with local requirements. Trust is the foundation. “One of the big reasons TPG is successful in Asia is their awareness of culture differences, and that goes a long way toward avoiding conflicts and promoting good understanding.”
“There are challenges in entering any new market: cultural, regulatory, logistical,” says Paiva. “You must do your homework, become well informed, and be committed to the long term.”
Judith Rubin is co-editor of InPark Magazine.