Friday, September 22, 2023

Tales from IAAPA 2012 in Orlando

by Judith Rubin, Martin Palicki & Joe Kleiman

SpongeBob struts his stuff in 3D/4D

Nickelodeon, SimEx-Iwerks and Super 78 collaborate on new production

InPark Magazine recently had the honor of meeting SpongeBob SquarePants in person at his Orlando headquarters, the Nickelodeon Suites Resort. The occasion: an official announcement of the new show, “SpongeBob SquarePants 4D: The Great Jelly Rescue,” set to premiere in early 2013 at the Nick Suites, and then be rolled out to 4D theaters at theme parks, zoos, aquariums and other family-friendly settings worldwide.

The wide-eyed star appeared wearing his trademark yellow at the hotel, accompanied by some of his peeps: Gerald Raines (VP Recreational Business Development, Nickelodeon), Mark Cornell (Sr. VP Attractions Development, SimEx-Iwerks), special venue media producers Brent Young and Dina Benadon (Super 78) and Louis Robbins (Managing Director, Nickelodeon Suites Resort).

The Great Jelly Rescue” adventure follows the 2005 production, “SpongeBob SquarePants 4D” and will join Nickelodeon’s brand power and popular characters to SimEx-Iwerks’ 4D theater circuit and distribution network. The 7-year run of the first show is a testament to SpongeBob’s huge, global popularity – and also a solid reminder that a good attraction movie can be evergreen, playing successfully year after year onscreen in special venue theaters, in stark contrast to the ephemeral theatrical runs of today’s mainstream productions.

SpongeBob dimensionalized

The Great Jelly Rescue” promises to deliver SpongeBob SquarePants just as audiences love him while making the most of advancements in rendering and immersive 4D theater technology – most notably, enhanced stereoscopic 3D backgrounds and alternate storylines, along with a host of in-theater effects such as wind, bubbles, snow, seat buzzers, leg ticklers, special lighting and audio. Some of the scenes will change from show to show, along with their corresponding effects – providing incentive for visitors to repeat the experience.

Doing the SpongeBob: Young, Cornell, SpongeBob, Raines and Robbins. Photo by Martin Palicki.

Asked about the challenge of making the new 3D SpongeBob as authentic and convincing as possible, Brent Young of Super 78 said, “We needed to go the extra 10 miles to show this property can be dimensionalized while honoring the brand. In 3D, it’s harder to pull some things off convincingly. But we were well prepared, having gone through a similar process when we produced the media for ‘Dora & Diego’s 4D Adventure’ [2010] in a similar collaboration with Nickelodeon and SimEx-Iwerks. Stephen Hillenburg, SpongeBob’s creator, has the ultimate authority, and we were thrilled by his approval.”

SpongeBob SquarePants’s journey through animation formats is set to continue, in the form of “It’s a SpongeBob Christmas,” airing on CBS and Nickelodeon television in December, using classic stop-motion animation created with models and miniatures. There’s also talk of perpetuating the 3D stereoscopy in the next SpongeBob feature film, planned for 2015. When asked about the possibility of a SpongeBob SquarePants 3D TV series, Nickelodeon’s Gerald Raines was mum. But he did assure us that more Nickelodeon brands will be seen making their way into the attractions world, following on the footsteps of Dora, Diego and SpongeBob, with hints of a renewed focus on slime. – J.R.

• • •

Russia Park plans announced

Officials from the planned Russia Park presented at IAAPA 2012 their plans for a 2,500-acre park scheduled for opening in 2018. Shaped like a miniature Russian Federation, the planned park, located 18 miles south of Moscow and near the airport, is expected to have over 10 million visitors per year. It is being designed as a public/private partnership with the hopes of encouraging cultural exchange within the regions of Russia and also throughout the world.

The park is designed to have several distinct components. Theme park “Russia” will represent all regions within Russia and function much like an expo.

An amusement park will house rides and attractions in four themed areas: Ancient Russia, Czarist Russia, Socialist Russia and New Russia. The park will be designed for year-round operation including both summer and winter amusements, with a stated goal of having 70% of attractions available all year.

A safari park will house 1,300 kinds of animals found within Russia’s borders and accommodate year-round visits.

A presidential Botanical Garden will feature over 10,000 species of plants in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Supporting architecture for the project will include hotels, restaurants featuring Russian cuisine, nightlife, shopping and a convention center.

The plan is to open an international architectural tender in the first three quarters of 2013. In quarters three and four, bidding will begin for rights to the project, with the expectation of signing contracts before the start of 2014. Construction is planned for 2015-2020, with phased openings starting in 2018, and complete operation in 2020.

Some attendees seemed skeptical of the plans, with progress on the previously announced Magic World Russia moving along slowly. AECOM is currently performing a feasibility study for Magic World Russia, designed by Gary Goddard Entertainment.

Since IAAPA, news stories have surfaced that Moscow authorities have approved development of another theme park “Galaktika Park” outside of Moscow, that will include an indoor Universal Studios Park. – M.P.

• • •

Thea Awards publicized

The 19th Annual Thea Award recipients were announced at the TEA booth at the IAAPA Attractions Expo 2012.    The Thea Awards, recognizing the best in themed entertainment design, will be awarded in Anaheim, CA, USA on April 6, 2013.


Radiator Springs Racers, Disney California Adventure Park – Anaheim, USA (Attraction)

A thrilling race through the world of the Disney∙Pixar film Cars. In bringing a well-known movie to life, the designers went the extra step in expanding it into a fully experiential world.

Transformers: The Ride 3D, Universal Studios Singapore & Hollywood (Attraction)

An immersive, next-generation thrill ride that blurs the line between fiction and reality. The seamless combination of show systems pushes the boundaries of 3D realism.

Cars Land, Disney California Adventure Park – Anaheim, USA (New Theme Park Land)

The sensitive layout, sophisticated use of scale, character details and high-quality execution combine to make this an outstanding example of experiential design and a destination in its own right.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame – Calgary, Canada


Virtually every storytelling device is used in this massive, multi-level exhibition that is never repetitive or derivative. Visitors are immersed in a complete Canadian sports experience.

Aquanura at Efteling Park – Netherlands

(Event Spectacular)

Aquanura adapts available technology and puts it to use in ways that are uniquely evocative. Artistry and beauty prevail over spectacle, bringing emotionally engaging stories to life.

Big-O Experience, Yeosu 2012 International Expo – South Korea (Event Spectacular)

This unique project has added a new dimension to the genre of the multimedia water spectacular and will remain as a permanent icon and legacy of the 2012 world’s fair.

Tait Pixel Tablets – London, England

(Outstanding Technology)

Combining readily available components with a unique LED tablet, this new technology transformed the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony into a huge video display mapped to the space inhabited by the audience.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter – London, England (Studio Tour)

Everything that is done with the Harry Potter brand faces high expectations from fans all over the world. The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has managed to more than fulfill those expectations.

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa -Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii USA (Themed Hotel Resort)

Aulani represents a major departure from traditional Disney resorts in that, rather than providing lodging in support of a theme park, the resort itself is the destination.

Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge, Disney California Adventure Park – Anaheim, USA

(Theme Park Restaurant)

The restaurant resides within a reproduction of the famous Carthay Circle Theatre, renowned in Disney history as the venue for the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937.


Recognizing a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements (formerly the Thea Lifetime Achievement Award)

Frank Stanek

Perhaps no one has had more impact on the two biggest players in our business – Disney and Universal – than Frank Stanek has had – especially in the growth and development of the industry in the international marketplace.” — Marty Sklar


Europa-Park, Rust, Germany

By alternating innovation and adaptation, applying the world’s best practices together with their own brand of creativity, the Mack family has grown Europa-Park into one of the most important theme parks in the world.

• • •


Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She reports on design and technical design, production and project management, industry trends and company culture. From 2005-2020 she ran communications and publications for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA and publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association, and has contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a BFA from Pratt Institute. She has lived in Detroit, New York, Oakland, and now Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts community.

Related Articles

Latest Articles