We are delighted to reveal the Blooloop 50 theme park Influencer list for 2019. Run in association with themed attractions design agency Katapult, the Blooloop 50 celebrates innovation and creativity in the theme park industry.
Nominations opened in July and closed in September. During this time readers of Blooloop told us who they thought had most impacted the theme park industry in 2019.
The nominations were then considered by our panel of 9 judges to choose the final 50. These were Denise Hatcher, Phil Taylor, Dawn Foote, Brady MacDonald, Lesley Morisetti, Owen Ralph, Christian Aaen, Wonwhee Kim and Rachel Read. Each judge has decades of experience analysing and monitoring the theme park business.
Although no such list can claim to be definitive, we think that the 2019 Blooloop 50 proves an interesting barometer for the business. Blooloop is read by over 100,000 attractions professionals a month and as such our readers are well placed to highlight key influencers in the theme park business. Add to this the input from our experienced judges and we think we have a meaningful list which will spark debate.
The usual suspects
It is no surprise that the major theme park operators are well represented in the top 50. There are 3 Disney people – Bob Iger, Scott Trowbridge and Joe Rohde – in the top ten alone. Merlin Entertainments and Universal are present too.
Key industry trends are also reflected in the nominations. So the growth of Halloween (Mike Aiello), the impact of brands and IP (Jenefer Brown, Christine Wacker and Paul Moreton) and the popularity of media based attractions (Benoit Cornet, Terry Monkton and Ernest Yale) are all highlighted, as are the new breed of immersive theme parks, fusing storytelling, interactivity, technology and art (Ken Bretschneider, Vince Kadlubek and Daisy Shang).
We considered from the start that this list should celebrate “influence”. Just as it is tough to define “art”, similarly “influence” is a subjective measure. It is easy to understand Bob Iger or Mark Woodbury’s influence. But the theme park business is changing in many ways. It is responding, like all industries, to outside pressures and the socio-economic environment.
For example, the inclusion of Merlin’s James Burleigh and Rob Hicks in the list, for the creation of the world’s first beluga whale sanctuary, is indicative of a change in public sentiment towards the treatment of cetaceans in captivity.
David Attenborough is, at first sight, an unusual member of this list, but his documentaries about climate change and plastic in the oceans have undoubtedly impacted the theme park business. The final episode of Attenborough’s Blue Planet II on the BBC has been widely heralded as a key moment sparking the war on plastics. New research has shown that a remarkable 88% of people who watched the programme have since changed their behaviour as a direct result.
Theme parks have responded by reducing their use of single-use plastics in F&B. But imagine how merchandise will change as consumers continue to think more carefully about what they buy.
Shigeru Miyamoto from Nintendo’s inclusion is also notable. This highlights the growing influence of video gaming in the location based entertainment sector. There will be more than just an overlay of an IP onto Universal’s Super Nintendo World. New patents have revealed how Universal’s theme park creatives are innovating to create ground breaking rides incorporating Super Mario Kart gameplay which will change ride design going forward.
Ones to watch
Tough decisions had to be made to whittle our list of nominations down to the final 50. It is interesting to note a few of the ones who didn’t quite make it this year.
The flamboyant jelly-mongers Bompas and Parr have turned food into art forms for many brand experiences. Their nomination shows that the industry is increasingly looking at bringing theming and entertainment into F&B to make it part of the experience. Notable examples are Butterbeer and the highly themed food offerings at Star Wars: Galaxys Edge.
Greta Thunberg was nominated a few times. As the figurehead for a new wave of climate change activism, we expect to see sustainability feature increasingly in theme park companies’ strategy in coming years.
The most nominated individuals in theme park media were Lance Hart (Screamscape and Blooloop), Arthur Levine (USA Today and About.com) and Robert Niles (Theme Park Insider).
Other individuals with multiple nominations were Michelle Hicks (Project Manager, Merlin Entertainments), Jason and Gavin Fox (Creative Directors, Framestore), Raphael de Borman (Head of Capture Innovation, Picsolve), Stuart Hetherington and Peter Cliff (CEO and Creative Director, Holovis), Ngaio Harding-Hill (Head of Attractions and Live Experiences, Aardman), Dina Benadon (Founder, Super 78), Nathan Jones (President, Park Attractions Divison, WhiteWater West), Peter R. Schnabel (CEO, Cavu Designwerks) and Annabel Rochfort (Director LBE, Ferrari).
Thanks to everyone who took the time to nominate this year. This year we had three times the number of nominations we had in 2018, so we are really pleased to see engagement with the Blooloop 50 growing. Thanks also to our judges and also of course the influencers themselves, who make our industry the vibrant and dynamic business it is.
Remember, if you don’t see you theme park influencer in the list this year, don’t forget to nominate them for 2020!