interview by Judith Rubin
Phil Bloom, known in the attractions industry as “the Ride Guru,” has played a key role on numerous, major theme park projects over the years, including properties in Paris, Orlando, Hollywood and Osaka. In 2001 Bloom founded American Scenic Design Inc. (ASDI) which provides design and consulting services for theme parks, museums and other guest experience venues.
In addition to the creation and design of themed rides, ASDI specializes in attraction design, show set design and exhibit design.
Greg MacLaurin, a concept designer, master planner, special effects designer (and world’s fair enthusiast, with encyclopedic knowledge) whose career has led him to work with some of the best companies and innovators in the business, recently joined Bloom’s already impressive team at ASDI. No doubt magic is in the making in the form of new, breakthrough guest experiences. InPark caught up with Greg for an exclusive interview.
You’ve had every kind of employment structure in your career, it seems: freelance, consulting, big firm (Disney), smaller firm (BRC), pioneer firm (Iwerks, Art & Technology). What’s the setup with American Scenic Design?
Phil Bloom’s American Scenic Design is a medium-sized design firm. He’s hired a really solid, experienced team of architectural/show/ride designers here. He encourages senior and junior designers to team up and work together and meld ideas into one. ASDI is unusual in that. There’s an exchange of ideas here that’s freer than at any other place I’ve worked. And, Phil frequently talks about using our creative and technical skills simultaneously. We have to use both, and I like that.
What is ASDI offering to clients and partners in terms of services?
ASDI designs themed rides. We’re the leader in show set design. Phil takes a client’s rough, blue-sky ideas and develops them into buildable designs.
How large is the company? Are you working internationally?
American Scenic is in Pasadena, and is around 20 people. ASDI has done design for international projects: Japan, France, Holland, Dubai, China. So, yeah, everywhere.
What makes you and ASDI a good fit? What do you bring to the table, and what do you find most appealing about working at ASDI?
I was specifically hired to provide interactive design for games within lands, and devices inside queues. We’ve also used my skills of special effects design and concept design. The great thing about ASDI is that it’s set up so that each of us can use all of our varied talents.
My role is flexible and it changes with the project. I like that Phil sees that i have a wide variety of skills. The past work I did for Joe Garlington at Imagineering on WDW’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh queue games was important. I remember how challenging that project was; the age demographic for Winnie the Pooh is three- to six-year-old children, and it was the first time I designed devices specifically for that age. Remember, you have to design games that don’t have any instructions. It was challenging and very fun.
Additionally, my skills of special effects design, concept design, and even model building (white board concept
models) have been useful here. It’s been fun to get back into building some quick models of show ideas and to show the placement of proposed special effects. Phil recognizes my varied skills and lets me use them frequently. Each day I go from sketching ride layouts to building little study models of Pepper’s Ghost illusions to writing story treatments for attractions. It’s great.
How long have you been acquainted with Phil Bloom? Did you work on any projects together in the past?
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is how we all met. Spider-Man was a team of about 15 people, and Scott Trowbridge was our producer. Phil Bloom, Thierry Coup and Eric Parr were architecture/show/ride design, and I was special effects design. It was a difficult but wonderful project. •