Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Scott And Carol Present - Wednesday At IAAPA

Wednesday started off bright and early with the Owners and General Managers breakfast. The keynote was to be delivered by none other than Nick Varney, the Managing Director of Merlin Entertainments. But first, there were some more awards to be passed out, because this group works hard all year and only gathers annually. Three service awards from IAAPA were announced.
Bob Logan received the Meritorious Service Award John Collins the Outstanding Service Award
and Dick Kinzel the Lifetime Service Award. Then it was time for the main event.
Nick Varney gave a brief synopsis about his career, which seems almost circular, with him now operating the company that once bought out his old employer. With financial backing from the Blackstone Group, Merlin now operates fifty-seven properties in twelve countries on three continents. With both indoor and outdoor operations in various locations, his goal is for Merlin to have hedges against both weather and local economic downturns.

He brought up his psychotic obsession about guest satisfaction and shared the fact that the different properties are averaging 15% growth for each of the last four years. He states his mission as “combining innovation and creativity with responsible corporate management.” According to Varney, consolidation in any industry is inevitable. The important thing is to strive to ensure that the best people are retained and encourage creativity and risk taking. As far as current economic conditions, he was more concerned about the banking problems and he expects the current downturn not to last as long as predicted because everything toady moves at a much faster pace than in the past. After this encouraging news, it was time to hit the trade floor again.
Passing by the B & M booth, we noticed a new trophy. Many companies submit new products or services to IAAPA for consideration due to a revolutionary idea that benefits the entire amusement industry. Even though they have introduced many creative new products, they prefer to maintain a low profile and let their finished products speak for themselves. This year IAAPA surprised them with the Impact Award recognizing the effects they have had on the industry over the years. Appropriately sitting on a car from Behemoth, this is a well deserved pat on the back from their peers in the business.
Something else that caught our eye was the Aquatram from Hopkins Rides. Basically an underwater carousel, with proper theming this can be a truly immersive dark ride experience.
Passengers board by descending a spiral staircase into a passenger capsule with portholes. As the ride rotates, the capsules can bob up and down in the water independently of each other.
Of course, as with any dark ride, audio and video inputs for each capsule can be synchronized to the outside decorations. An interesting evolution of the Aquatram already installed in Les Grand Aquarium in France, hopefully we will get one of these in North America soon.
Seeing these cute critters, we had to stop while they were still receiving visitors. Monkey Business Productions is celebrating their tenth year in the “monkey business” with several impressive credits on their resume. These two baboons will definite take offense if you call anyone else a baboon in their presence. Dagne, the elder enjoys showing off and is very affectionate with Opy, the baby.
Opy’s specialty is just looking cute, at which he excels. So the next time you want to really want to prove you work with a bunch of monkeys, you know who to call.
If you prefer your animals to be of the cartoon variety, you can also find them at the IAAPA Expo. The Chase Group works with Audrey Geisel to bring her deceased husband’s fantasies to everyone as three dimensional bronze castings.
Whether you prefer the Cat in The Hat or that holiday favorite, The Grinch, your dreams can come true. Available in either life-sized or larger, these would be the perfect addition to the young children’s section of your local library. While Carol thought this would be a perfect addition to her garden, luckily for Scott the seats were in the van so there wasn’t any room. Maybe next year.
While we have broached the subject of Christmas, how about a company that works it all year long. Every day has something to do with Christmas at North Pole Productions. Their company mission is to create memorable holiday experiences, and they have the decorations to prove it.
They offer design, build, installation, removal, and storage for all you outdoor holiday needs. For this booth, Carol wouldn’t even let Scott take a catalog after President Tammy Peters mentioned a discount on shipping!
We will finish off today’s report with another award winning booth. The Best Small Exhibit was earned by Bleeding Art Industries. This beautiful scene projects an air of tranquility amid the hustle and bustle of the show floor. Using flat screens artfully merged into the sculpture, the bubbles floating towards the ceiling, and the soothing music, they don’t have chairs because attendees might sit down and never leave.
They use advanced techniques to combine different media into a peaceful place. The calming colors required that they wear contrasting shirts so they stand out against their backdrop. Here is a picture of the booth empty, and with most of the team. Outstanding work which was all done in house, hopefully some parks looking for impressive place setting will place an order north of the border.
So that wraps up another busy day. There were many other things to see and do, but we only have time for the highlights. Next report will be sometime on Thursday, just when we have no idea.
Scott and Carol