Thursday, February 22, 2024

Judy & Marty take over LA where themed entertainment is alive and well

Feature photo: Steve Trowbridge, Lisa Nash and Lee Roe of 
Rhetroactive greet InPark at their new office in Los Angeles


IPM publisher Martin Palicki & editor Judith Rubin visited Los Angeles recently to visit with leaders and friends in the themed entertainment business, while catching up on the industry’s recent news.

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Partner Steve Trowbridge and Creative Director Lee Roe introduced Lisa Nash, the company’s new COO. Lisa is fresh off projects with Universal and will function as a senior project manager.

Rhetroactive is playing a part in what they call Global IP Planning. According to Trowbridge, IP should be in the driver’s seat on a project and they like to focus on projects where they are able to work for the IP holder and represent the IP to the developer.

The team also talked about their work on Agila’s Flight (recently profiled by InPark Magazine in our features on Flying Attractions, Issue #62). This flying attraction will open soon at Enchanted Kingdom, Philippines. JBA Artistic Engineering (featured in InPark Issue #61) is doing tech oversight on the project and Theme Builder is providing scenic work.

TechMD Inc.

Founder David Revel has built a systems integration firm by, in his own words, “surrounding himself with really talented people and allowing them to do their job.”

TechMD is constantly on the lookout for more engineers, and Revel says he often finds his best candidates coming out of theater technology education programs in the LA area and elsewhere. He explained that students drawn to theater tend to inherently possess the teamwork spirit and the stick-to-it, show-must-go-on work ethic essential to themed entertainment success, while technical expertise can be enhanced on the job.

Revel also shared how he got his own start in the industry. A friend also in the business referred him for a small project at Tokyo DisneySea, and Revel eventually ended up doing audio work for most of the park. More recently, two projects received Thea Awards that TechMD figured on: “Manufacturing Innovation” at the Rouge Factory Tour, The Henry Ford (Dearborn MI) and One World Observatory, NYC.


Scott Ault provided a tour of the Rethink offices, where playful and elegant design reign throughout, including with an astroturf-carpeted entry hall and library/guest office styled in homage of the now-defunct Adventurer’s Club.

Rethink is busy at work on several domestic and international projects, and is also designing toys for a major theme park chain. Rethink is featured in this recent story from InPark.

Ken Saba, Don MacBain, Brent Young: media kings

We were fortunate to catch up with three prominent members of the media production community. Ken Saba is fresh off a high-profile project for Disney and looking for his next challenge. Don MacBain is already in the midst of his next challenge – a project for Mousetrappe that will open soon at a notable theme park. MacBain recently completed work on the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum under contract to design firm JRA.

Brent Young of Super 78 Studios is juggling numerous projects, including Wings Over Washington, a flying theater attraction opening soon in Seattle and featured recently in InPark Issue #62.


We caught up briefly with Jennie Nevin, COO of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). She will be a co-moderator with Chris Yoshii of AECOM on a TEA panel addressing technology and creativity at the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo coming up in Shanghai. In collaboration with AECOM, TEA just published the 10th annual TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index. This definitive attendance study can be downloaded in its entirety at this link, and you can view a slideshow InPark created, of the Top 25 parks lists across the full decade at this link.


Quan Gan and his wife Charlie of Gantom Lighting & Controls graciously welcomed InPark into their ranch home outside Valencia, where we got to meet the newest Gan, young Gio! InPark also got a tour of Gantom’s newly expanded offices, where they are busy shipping orders for the Gantom Torch and Z-tag game that both apply interactive technology for which Gantom was recently honored with a Thea Award. (You’ll be able to read more about it in the pending InPark Issue #63.) The product is part of the company’s new division: Gantom Live – which is focused on providing ways for parks to integrate or overlay technology into existing spaces easily, and facilitate new revenue streams.

In the spirit of trying everything, InPark also took time to enjoy Gantom’s new full body massage chair, acquired at the 2015 IAAPA Attractions Expo. Quan also showed off his newest project: a remote control go-cart that when perfected will automatically take the trash out to the curb. Who knows – it might become Gantom’s best selling product ever and open up new markets for the company that got its start in the haunted attractions industry. IPM Editors think it wise to watch your SkyMall catalog for commercial models available soon!


Jonathan Katz toured InPark through the Cinnabar shop where artists were hard at work crafting pieces for an upcoming museum tour based on a hugely popular IP. Katz has been gradually changing his role in the company as son Basil has in the past few years ably stepped up. Katz has much to reflect on in his 30+ years in the industry building and evolving a company that has made its mark in cinema and broadcast, theme parks and museums, promoting a highly collaborative model. “You have to adapt,” said Katz, “and you have to remember that it’s really the audience that tells you if you’re successful or not.”

Katz hinted that the company *may* be hiring a Project Manager and Estimator sometime in the next year and will be seeking out professionals with several years of experience in the field. Cinnabar projects covered by InPark include the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Discovery Cube.

EDC’s Tertulia and beyond

On Monday, June 6 we dropped into the Themed Entertainment Tertulia, one of a series of informal gatherings for the industry organized independently by Entertainment Design Corporation at the Angel City Brewery. In this funky setting on the edge of the new Arts District, we chatted with Kaitlin Gefke, director of business development at EDC (check out this recent interview with EDC CEO Alex Calle). Architect Jim Kriss was there – he let us know he is available for new projects and talked about his recent work with Rethink and Forrec (including contributions to new Wanda parks in China), and earlier experience with Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Japan.

For her part, Kaitlin was excited about her upcoming travel to the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo in Shanghai, whither InPark’s Martin Palicki is also bound (after a trip to Orlando for the premieres of Mako and Cobra’s Curse). Meanwhile, InPark editor Judith Rubin is en route to Las Vegas to learn about AV trends at the InfoComm show in company with InPark news editor Joe Kleiman. Bon voyage!

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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