Skip to content

First Review

It’s kind of funny but here I sit on a Fri morning, in Shenzhen trying to figure out how to finish this story. Its taking too long, but as I write I realize its actually very important for me to get this down. The last two years on this project have been some of the most intense experiences of my career. I have met amazing people, seen and been involved in things I never would have expected, and genuinely enjoyed myself ” most of the time anyway “.  Honestly, I have not worked harder on anything since my days at Art Center.

To date we have completely Conceptualized a “gianourmous” park 4 times with 3 unique themes . The team doing this at no time exceeded 8 people, most of the time being closer to 4. In case you don’t know this is completely ridiculous… The conditions were hard, the client somewhat crazy and always unpredictable.

In spite of our best efforts I can not say what the future holds for this project, we have a great design and a great core team but there is still a huge amount of work to be done…

To make it even more fun, I leave tomorrow for Beijing and a possible reboot of the project… again….  I think this makes the 5th reboot but I am getting ahead of myself…

 

OKIE…

Our last entry had us completing the first real day on the project, meeting the team and going on site to see the construction.

At this stage we have a pretty open concept based on our clients wishes, the site and what the DPI team has produced so far. My first impression was correct, there has been no real development for the theme park.  They have done some prelim work on the water park portion and  since that’s right around half the current scope I feel better about our partnership. It’s also interesting to note that Dr park has actually done quite a bit of engineering for us based on his previous experience with Lote world in Korea. This is good as it never hurts to have an engineers viewpoint on design, to make sure things will fit and actually work. The one drawback to Dr parks efforts are his idiosyncratic work style which does not include the use of a computer. The man doesn’t even have one, this should be interesting down the road…

Our first step was to identify potential story lines and build an overall theme for the park. Its obvious the Koreans are much more comfortable in the world of water parks where theme is secondary to the attractions… In a theme park you are creating a unique world that exist within its own reality. The idea is to make the guest feel that they have not only come to a place but to whole new world. To do this we will have to create back story which provides a framework for the park and everything in it. All the elements must work together to support and reinforce this story from the look of the architecture to the costumes and mannerisms of the park staff. The best examples I can think of right now would be all the Disney parks and the Harry Potter experience from Universal Studios. Everyone else is doing what they can to reach that level.

Our first real goal is to produce a presentation for the chairman of Lian Bang in 2 weeks time, Based on how our first pass is received we can refine that design to its completion. In this we are extremely lucky to have Doug May on board, Doug was an executive producer for Disney for over 20 years, he’s a ” story ” man and this will be a key element in our development here.  Chris it turns out will be a great help as well with his long career of water and amusement park operations experience. He was even chief of operations for the six flags in CA at some point.

Just some examples of things Doug has done over the years. Some of these might be familiar…

This park in France…

Disney Paris

Disney Paris

This other one in Japan

Disney Tokyo

Disney Tokyo

Some show about a fish girl…

Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid

And of course some crazy thing that happened in Orlando…

25th Anniversary  DisneyWorld

25th Anniversary Disney World

Point is Doug knows a few things about Theme Parks 🙂

Our initial thoughts are for 4 zones. An enchanted garden, a space themed area, a young adult oriented cyber land and the valley of dragons. All these zones will have themed rides and shows but for the time constraints of first review we must pick just a few to develop.

With Danilo and I producing artwork, Doug writing  and making overall plans it will be up to the Koreans to finalize a rough visual master plan and put together a powerpoint presentation which will be shown in 2 weeks time…

At Lian Bang we settle in and begin the process with a charrette style meeting to come up with a general concept and plan of action. This gives me and Danilo an idea of what we need to produce.

You have to start somewhere…

Humble Beginnings

Humble Beginnings

At the end of our first design day we head back to the Ambassador Hotel for dinner and some rest. It is Sat but we agree to meet in the morning at the hotels executive level for a final design meeting to solidify our concept and plan. Just the first of many 7 day work weeks. The hours on this project are pretty crazy, we are signed up for 6 days a week by contract and as all designers know you often end up working more to meet the deadline.

This 6 day work week is actually pretty common in China, they make up for it by not actually working as intensely, and having a whole slew of mandatory vacation days. Sorry, but that’s my first hand observation. The idea of quality over quantity has not taken a firm seat here. Its much more important to the mainland Chinese that an employee shows up on time and is present then whether or not they actually accomplish anything… This attitude is slightly alleviated within Lian Bang as it’s a privately owned company. I have no doubt as China becomes more competitive on the world stage this attitude will change…

Jet lag has been particularly hard on me this time around and once again I barely remember the dinner or even falling asleep. Doug claims he had to pound on the door a few mornings to wake me up that first week, but I am not sure I believe him :P…

Shijiazhuang is not the prettiest city in China, little did we know this was the nicest part of the year… This is the view from my room, we never did check out the Babi Club 😦

Ambassador Room

Ambassador Room

 

On Sunday we have a  surprisingly good breakfast and head to the executive lounge. Over the next few hours Doug Danilo Chris and I agree on the designs we will produce and present. We found that during our time at the Ambassador the staff were very attentive and would help us in just about anyway they could.

It’s actually a great brainstorm meeting I am firmly convinced of Doug’s imagination, Danilo is a pro of course and Chris surprises again with his unique view and insight. In some ways I still feel this original design concept, one of the three we will  develop over the project’s duration  is the strongest…

We break the work down as follows, Danilo will develop the main icon for the park  the “castle” as you will, and a birdseye illustration, I will take on the povs for the enchanted garden, space zone and dragon land… as mentioned before this work will be produced by hand and only rendered in photoshop something I have not done for many years but like riding a bike you never really forget…

Theme-Cave-Designer

Over the next 2 weeks we draw and begin to assemble the pieces for presentation. Scanning our hand sketches and painting them up much like we all did years ago. Overall the team was having a good time together. Doug and Chris entertaining us with impromptu musical numbers. Thankfully they both have good voices. Once; when Jake was back in town the guy travels a lot, He came to me and Danilo at our desks and asked to be told what about our current design for the enchanted castle was unique and special…

The two of us being somewhat old hands at this ” read jaded ” were taken somewhat by surprise.  In truth  a lot of these concepts are derivatives of other things and sometimes not really all that original. This is especially true for a Themed space as everything in it must meet the requirements of guest experience. You can’t go so wild with the design that it will cause issues for safety or be so extreme that some people will find it upsetting.

That being said our design for the icon was very unique, being a naturally grown structure created from the pure magic of the enchanted realm, grown out of the forest itself.

But I was in no condition mentally or physically to say that to Jake. Danilo was no better off and we both looked at him with the expression of dogs being shown a card trick. Out of left field Doug swoops in and begins to explain in vivid detail how this icon was not only unique in its design style but totally unique in the theme park world as it was not only a visual center of the park but a multi function attraction onto itself. even its theme was clearly different from any other park in the world!..” cue the music ” as he talked I became emotionally invested in the concept again and from the look on Jake’s face I know I wasn’t alone…

That’s the beauty of a truly creative pitch man, he can transfer his own enthusiasm through his words and actions making everyone feel that not only is this thing good but that it is real and tangible… This is one of the main reasons I love working on themed entertainment projects, you really start to feel an emotional bond to the concepts… that is true of almost any creative endeavor but I find its particularly strong with something  people will interact with in such a complete way, not only seeing it as on a screen but existing in it, engaging all the senses…

By the time we are ready for presentation I have developed a number of drawings and povs, they are somewhat looser then I am used too but overall I am happy with the results. Danilo has created a Great birdseye of the park incorporating much of my designs along with a high angle pov and elevation of the castle. The korean team has produced a few povs of their water park and a really nice master plan illustration and powerpoint presentation…

On the day of, we gather all together in Lian Bangs main presentation room. Kathreen will direct the powerpoint with Brian helping to time the transitions to Doug’s verbal presentation. Jake and Chris are both present the only missing team member being Danilo who has already headed back to Changsha and his own project… The room holds a huge long table with around 20 seats. We run through the presentation twice while preparing a good hour before showtime. As the time approaches Lian Bang executives begin to filter in but so far no chairman li. We have only met the man behind our client company a few times in meetings but from all we have heard  the man is quite a character… I have even been told he is a retired general from the Chinese army which might explain all the pseudo military trappings on Lian Bang’s security force. There are a lot of them wearing fatigues marching around the site every day.

Chairman Li makes his entrance around 10 minutes late, he is a decent looking older man tallish for a chinese  at right around my height. I am pretty  skeptical of his supposed military rank due to his youthful appearance and prima donna style, the guy can’t seem to pass a reflective surface without checking his hair…

Barely into the introductions there is a loud disturbance in the hallways outside. It starts with a few shouts but quickly grows in volume to the angry rumbling of a mob. We are told to stay put and the chairman exits with his security staff to deal with it. Over the next few minutes the noise becomes quite alarming even including the sound of a women screaming and I am told laying on the ground crying…

we later see the chairman walk by the glass walls amidst a large group of yelling people. He is surrounded but seems well in control. In the next room he stands in the center of the crowd and listens to whatever it is they are upset with. Eventually the crowd disperses and he returns to us unscathed.  We are later told by Sarah these are the local village folk whose homes were taken to build this project. I guess they were unhappy with the settlement received…

The show must go on and so with little time lost Doug heads right into the presentation. It seems to be going over quite well with the chairman only interrupting  once (Something of a miracle we later find out). At the end there is a lively question and answer period followed by a “loooooooonnnnnng” speech from Chairman Li hurriedly translated by Sarah. In essence  Li loves what we have done and with some changes looks forward to our finalized development presentation…

This first presentation over we now begin the development process where we can take these rough ideas to a more complete stage. The goal being a completed concept package ready to head into design development, schematic phase…

The work

I wish I had kept the order of things clear in my head at this firsts stage but I am pretty sure these are the designs presented to the Chairman…

At this stage we have no real understanding of the space so these sketches are just rough ideas of things that can be further developed down the road…

A rough POV of the Enchanted Castle by Danilo, the idea is that the structure is grown from natural materials by pure magic…

Castle POV - DM

Castle POV – DM

Dragon Zone – Various designs for themed rides within the zone

Dragons Flight - Flume Ride - DG

Dragons Flight – Flume Ride – DG

Dragon Mountain - DG

Dragon Mountain – DG

Baby Dragon Bumper cars - DG

Baby Dragon Bumper cars – DG

Dragon Zone Kiosk - DG

Dragon Zone Kiosk – DG

Space Zone – There were more of these but I cannot locate them now…

Space Zone POV - DG

Space Zone POV – DG

The Chairman really loved this ride Sky Venture, it’s basically an indoor wind tunnel that you sky dive inside of…

Sky Venture - DG

Sky Venture – DG

Cyber Land –  young adult and teen themed area, much of this zone will actually be user the 5m height ceiling which brings its own unique challenges.

Cyber Land - DG

Cyber Land – DG

Water Park – At tho stage of the project fully half of the available space is occupied by a water park. We are not asked to contribute anything towards it as the DPI team have a lot of experience here. I don’t know who produced this work but I have a strong feeling it was not necessarily for this project…

Water Park - DPI

Water Park – DPI

Water Park 2 - DPI

Water Park 2 – DPI

Birdseye Illustration by Danilo

Birdseye View - DM

Birdseye View – DM

Enchanted Garden Family Roller Coaster

Enchanted Garden, oller Coaster - DG

Enchanted Garden, Roller Coaster – DG

17 m Pillar Design – Later on we will joke that the real title of this park should be the “Happy Pillar Park” ™ as they are quite literally everywhere… I must have produced well over a hundred designs for these things.

17m Pillar design - DG

17m Pillar design – DG

 

The team felt very strongly that we must deal with them in a creative and effective way or else they will dominate every aspect of the park. We did so many designs because we could never get our concepts past the Chairman, my guess is he knew deep down inside he could not afford to do much with them. I would also think that might have been something to address while designing the actual building, but we can only deal with what we have, not what we would like to have.

Another area of particular challenge would be the surrounding walls of the 17 m spaces. Our concept called for them to be fully themed to the zones the encircled. This is an early sketch done by an unknown DPI artist back in Korea, not bad actually…

17m Facades - DPI

17m Facades – DPI

I hope you enjoyed this account of our experience. Next up the final presentation of this first concept and our first taste of Crazy Chairman…

Cast of characters so far

*Doug mays  – Executive Producer / Creative Director / Ring Leader, Harry Ziegler from Moulin Rouge…
*Chris Stuart – VP of DPI, Operations specialist, Singer of songs, patriarch of gigantic family and all around good guy !
*Jake Park    –  Owner of DPI, consummate salesman, means well, reason we are all here…
*Danilo Montejo  – El Primo, Senior Designer / Master Illustrator / reason I am here…
*Brian Ong    –  Good Designer / English Translator AKA ” The Great Communicator ” Korean team manager
*Dr park        – Not really a DR. Old School Engineer / Slide Rule Operator / Favor expression ” Big Problems ” / Independent contractor
*Kathreen      – DPI Chinese Korean English Translator / Scan Master / apparently writes DPI contracts…
*Sarah Shang        – Lian Bang’s English translator / Chairman Li’s assistant / AKA ” Mary Poppins ”
*James “Eskelletons™” man  –  Lian Bang’s Themepark? Manager / Jake’s ex employee / used car salesman…
*Smiling korean man  –  Jet lag stole his name from me / only guy at Lian Bang with Theme Park experience…
*Mr Yang  –  Lian Bang manager of construction / Monk on vacation / you couldn’t pay me enough to take his job…
*Mr Liu   –  Chairman Li’s second in command / aka “Charles not in charge” / nice guy in impossible position

*Chairman Li –  Owner of Lian Bang / Typical old school Chinese business tycoon / definitely connected  both above and below / Charismatic ” Alpha Dog ” possible Sociopath…

*Me – Senior Designer / Davido / Writer of this blog

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: