Interview by Martin Palicki
ABOVE PHOTO: The DreamWorks zone lets guests choose between four highly themed areas based on DreamWorks IP. Photo courtesy Dubai Parks and Resorts.
The most immersive land in MOTIONGATE™ Dubai theme park (part of Dubai Parks and Resorts), DreamWorks occupies a 45,000 square meter building. Within the walls, four zones are themed to DreamWorks intellectual properties (IP): Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. A variety of rides, entertainment, and food complete each zone and invite guests into the world of their favorite animated characters.
The DreamWorks zone will be honored with a TEA Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in April 2018 at the annual Thea Awards Gala.
Wärtsilä Entertainment Systems helped integrate the AV equipment in various areas of the Dubai Parks and Resorts property, including MOTIONGATE park. We spoke to Wärtsilä team members Sean Reish (vice president of sales – theme park and land systems) Rusty Rustad (bid manager) and Kevin Cartier (project manager) for their insights on the project and its success.
What was your involvement with the DreamWorks land?
Sean Reish: Wärtsilä Entertainment Systems was the turnkey design/build audiovisual and control contractor for DreamWorks, which is part of MOTIONGATE park. We also worked on two other zones within the Dubai Parks and Resorts complex: Bollywood Parks™ Dubai and the Riverland™ Dubai entertainment district.
This project was key for us because we were able to leverage our existing facilities in the region. We built and tested 120 AV control racks in a local facility, which was helpful to the client. Our corporate locations all over the globe help facilitate this kind of local level of service.
What is your impression of the guest experience in the DreamWorks zone?
Sean: Up until recently, I had never visited the park as a guest, I always arrived via the employee entrance. When I took three clients last month, we went in as paying guests for the day and I really was impressed with how everything fit together. Particularly as you enter the park and see the DreamWorks Blue Box opposite the entrance, you realize it is the centerpiece of the park. Furthermore, my guests had just visited Universal Orlando a few weeks prior and they commented that the park felt like Universal and was well done – they were getting a value for their money.
To receive a TEA Thea Award is a prestigious honor. What is it about that project that you think may have helped earn this recognition?
Rusty Rustad: The IP owner was very dedicated to their mission to get their IP represented properly. This resulted in a level of detail and authenticity being realized in the attraction. The treatment of the IP and the scale of the land are most impressive. Certainly, these factors made it worthy of a Thea.
Sean: It’s an amazing, immersive box full of attractions, including last year’s Thea-recognized suspended powered coaster from Mack Rides. One of the things that makes it so immersive is the fact that it is 100% indoors so the lighting and ambient noise conditions are controlled day and night, so it’s a consistent experience – and the team really delivered on that.
What were some of the challenges in working on that project?
Kevin Cartier: As project manager, I know there will always be some bumps in the road on a unique attraction. Most of the mechanical and electrical infrastructure were planned before the creative design was complete. So, some of the challenges arose from the need to coordinate one thing with the other. Part of our job was to ensure the DreamWorks IP expectations and standards were upheld during the construction process – but of course, that’s the kind of thing we do and are good at doing. Meeting that standard successfully required a lot of flexibility on our part in terms of installing AV gear and making changes. It was handled with strong on-site coordination and engineering, driven in large part by David Cline, another Wärtsilä project manager instrumental in the project’s success.
Has the land changed or evolved at all since opening?
Kevin: It’s been doing well just as built so far. DreamWorks has been open for about a year now and it’s been fine-tuned operationally, but that’s about it. There is space to grow the land in the future, if and when they decide to expand.
What sort of interesting technology is involved in the project?
Kevin: We have quite a bit of projection in the DreamWorks area, but the biggest one is in the Dragon Gliders coaster in How To Train Your Dragon. In one scene we have a Christie 50,000 lumen laser projector which provides 180 x 120 degree projection onto a compound curved screen that is 16.5m wide by 8m high. It’s one of the first of this size and configuration. A special mounting structure had to be created to accommodate the projector and lens. This single projector solution was proposed as an alternative to several blended projectors. In a different scene, for example, we created a nine-projector blend. But for this scene, a single projector made the most sense. This is the climax scene in the attraction before the cars fly out over the themed land. The IP holder said it had to be right and convey the brand and that’s what led us to the technology solution. We also got quite a bit of help from Christie on getting it set up correctly.
What is your personal favorite within DreamWorks, now the project is built?
Rusty: The team all loved Dragon Gliders. It’s a rare moment from an integrator’s point of view when all the stars align and the best choice happens to be the most advanced one – and the result is stunning. The technology, the media, the storytelling – all of it came together. Of course, we were most excited to work with technology like the 50,000 lumen laser projector, but really, everything lined up for that attraction.
Sean: I think not only did the Wärtsilä team enjoy Dragon Gliders, but just about everyone involved with the project did. Obviously, we didn’t work on this project alone. The creation of the DreamWorks land particularly was a collaborative effort that involved a lot of industry vendors, and the vision and dedication of the owner and operator. We thank and congratulate all of them on helping earn this Thea Award honor for DreamWorks. •