The Saga of Leo’s Kingdom ” or continuation of what I did last Summer “
This is going to be really difficult as so much happened. Way back in 2014; in fact its the only post of 2014, I spoke of the project I was currently on. Since that time the project has gone through 2 more complete concept designs, the beginnings of Design Development, much internal shuffling including but not limited to a change of ownership after the disappearance of our Chairman and now an indeterminent waiting period to see if it will even continue.
Needless to say I am pretty disappointed at the current status. With much; blood, sweat and tears our tiny little team has designed a really kick ass park. At 245,000 square meters it is one of the largest indoor Themeparks in the world. With 64 Rides and attractions and 4 distinct Lands “Leo’s Kingdom” would / could be a truly world class experience. Maybe not up to Disney or Universal Studio’s level but hey, there were only a hand full of us…
For now I will simply try to put down here the experiences I had, I will not do it justice as this was one of the most intense projects I have ever worked on and there is no way to fully relate it through my words alone. Maybe Doug will write that book he keeps threatening…
It all starts back in 2013, around april if I remember correctly, I was back in the states working from my home studio in Baton Rouge. One of my best friends Danilo Montejo calls me up very excited as he would soon be leaving for China to design a theme park. Danilo and I have been great friends since we met working for BRC in Burbank CA, he is an amazing illustrator and designer and a true friend. You can check out his work here.
3 or 4 years ago Fanny and I built him this site for his portfolio. I should say fanny built it I just designed it… This used to be a way for us to make extra money. We even considered a service providing custom websites for artist but with the availability of cheap templates no one seems to want it anymore. Was fun however and its nice to see it still working for him.
Danilo is also a graduate of the Art Center for Illustration. His career began in advertising back in the days before digital art was even possible. Thankfully his transition to digital hasn’t removed any of his artistic brilliance.
He wants to touch base and get some info from me as I have been living in China off and on since 2008. I was working on a commercial for Toyota at the time but as my career actually started in Themed Entertainment I am really curious to hear whats up. Doing set design for film and TV is very lucrative but it doesnt often feed the artist inside.
I got him the best info I had and set him up with direct contact for Fanny as she was already back in China and nothing beats a friendly voice while traveling especially for a westerner in China. I of course put it out there that I am interested if they need more people.
A few weeks later Danilo calls again while I am working on another commercial. Why is it that people always call about work while you are working?
He is now in country and really having a blast on his project in Changsha, turns out his client has multiple projects and needs someone else for another one. The client is a south Korean water park company called DPI, Danilo is very positive about it and so I tell him of course I am interested. I won’t be working directly with ” Primo ” but in another city he calls “CheechaChong”. Over the next few days I talk more with him and another american Peter Blouestein who is also working in Changsha.
Eventually I speak to Jake Park the owner of DPI that I now know is Dream Park International. Jake seems a nice enough guy with pretty good english and we begin to rough out the details of what is needed.
Over a few days Jake and I agree to terms, Pay is quite nice with half a months up front before I even leave the States. I strongly suggest anyone thinking to work on a chinese project to insist on getting money up front, its not say you cannot trust the Chinese but things just are a bit crazy over here… This is doubly true when working with new people again just words to the wise.
The timing is a bit last min for me. I like to plan my asian trips well in advance but I agree and await the contract. A few days go by, then a week I begin to wonder if this will be a no go and decide to take some more commercial work. half way through the second week I receive emails from Jake with a contract to be signed and request for info to purchase flights, I had by this time written it off as no joy but I go ahead after another lengthy talk with Danilo and sign the contract.
I will be leaving in 5 days for “Shishchatchewan”. My task is to be senior designer on an indoor theme park / waterpark. There will be a Korean team already in place which I am told has all the information I have been requesting like a project brief etc… I had hoped to have copies of this before I leave in order to wrap my head around the project but this isn’t possible for now.
GOING TO SHIJIAZHUANG…
WTF is a Shijiazhuang. OK the Chinese language is extremely challenging for the western mind especially one like me not inclined to language. But this name is special even for China. I turn to Fanny my source for all knowledge of China, first off she knows exactly where I am going and by the way has relatives living there… more on that later…
Shijiazhuang is the capital of Hebei Province, of which Beijing is a part, Yes it gets complicated. Beijing is the capital of the country and the seat of power for the central government but it somehow is not the capital of the province.
I had this explained to me many times over the last 2 years and I am still unsure what this really means, in my experience of it Beijing pretty much rules the place but whatever makes ya happy…
Here is what Wiki has to say
Shijiazhuang is a modernizing and ever growing city. It experienced dramatic growth after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The population of the metropolitan area has more than quadrupled in only 30 years as a result of fast industrialization and major infrastructural developments.
Here are some pics I found online before going.
Those pics I am sorry to say are a bit misleading. Shijiazhuang suffers from extreme pollution, pretty much the worst in China so it actually looks a lot more like this.
Shijiazhuang or the ” Shizz ” as we came to know her is a 2nd tier city rapidly being developed into a 1st tier. This has more to do with population then anything else as I understand it but it means its going to be an interesting mix of the old and the new. Its also a center for industry which means its environment is under stress. Being second tier doesnt make it small either, the Shizz boast a population of right around 5 million people and growing, so its freakin huge by western standards.
It is also has the honor of being where Mao led the communist during their ” Long march ” of the Chinese Civil War and served as the headquarters of the PLA. It also; from its name, was at some point the ” Stone Family Village ” as thats what the name means in Chinese…
Next post The Journey Begins…