by Dennis Speigel
We are often asked by clients at International Theme Park Services how much theming should be given to an attraction. I believe the answer is easy …keep it simple and do not over-theme. Theming is necessary but also expensive.
All too often, new projects try to compact too many themed elements into areas that would be much better off communicating only one story rather than confusing with too many. Selecting themes for attractions should relate to the nature of the entity. A theme can take many forms. They can be geographical, social, historical, whimsical, serious or futuristic. My reccomendation is to take one or a few themes and execute them properly and completely rather than, again, trying to take many themes and distort the guest experience, causing confusion.
Having design and operational capabilities, the ITPS team draws on experience of attractions large and small. It is, of course, always easier to start with a clean slate when developing theming rather than adapting or retrofitting it to an existing attraction. Nevertheless, common sense and wisdom in relation to theme design seem to always win out. Don’t get me wrong – we do not want to stifle the creative process or design, rather make sure it is sufficient to meet guest expectations.
There are many design considerations that need to be explored when building a themed attraction. It has always amazed me as to the construction and theming expense surrounding a leisure attraction. Remember, multiple themes can compound budgetary issues. So as the plans for an attraction develop, the developer needs to ask first how much theming is appropriate and then do more themes really enhance the experience? Keep in mind each theme needs to have an underlying storyline easily communicated and recognisable by the visitor. If the theme is too complicated, the guest becomes confused and the money spent on this expensive aspect of design is wasted. Keep it simple, keep it quality; keep it direct.
Extremely important during the design phase is for the client to engage operations planning support. It is necessary to consider all aspects of operations during the planning/design process. On many projects we have worked on, we have found that significant time and money could have been saved by the client if operations planning had been included at the beginning of the design process. It is of paramount importance that these two disciplines work harmoniously to achieve the end desired result – a great guest experience. By dovetailing planning, design and operations support, necessary end result issues are brought forth in a timely and orderly manner, preventing costly “re-dos.”
In summary, the correct amount of theming, including operations planning from the outset, will provide better a project flow process culminating in an on-time and on-budget result.
Dennis Speigel is president of International Theme Park Services (ITPS) in Cincinnati, Ohio. ITPS is the industry’s leading, independent management/consulting firm, offering services including feasibility analysis, design/masterplanning, pre-opening operational planning, on-site management, sponsorship & marketing, executive search and business audits.