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In depth

Mark Nichols – a Career in Attractions and Theatrical Design


Currently the VP Design & Development at Global Experience Specialists, Inc. (GES), Mark Nichol's 3-decade career has been an unplanned journey through theatre, music and theme parks including being a producer/promoter of concerts & theatrical productions, full-time employment with Universal Studios, ITEC Entertainment, Paramount Parks and also with Walt Disney Entertainment as their show producer for the ESPN Club, Atlantic Dance, Rockin’ Rockets and Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot.  Blooloop's Chad Emerson caught up wth him.

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Chad Emerson:  Share with us how you got started in the amusement industry and some of the more interesting projects that you’ve worked on.

Mark Nichols (right): I started in theatre when I was 9 years old as an extra child performer in a high school production of Sound of Music.  Since then, I’ve never strayed far from the stage or backstage or related fields (like the themed entertainment business).  I’ve been fortunate to travel the world (on somark nichol themed entertainmentmeone else’s nickel) working on shows and attractions.  Being immersed in other cultures has been the most interesting aspect of my job. 

Emerson:  As you reflect on your career, what have been some of the most interesting innovations that you’ve seen in the amusement industry?

Nichols: Two things:  

  • The introduction of the computer into almost all aspects of backstage technology which has revolutionized the way creators envision what the show CAN be…and the envelope keeps getting pushed!  
  • The infusion of themed entertainment from parks into many aspects of our culture’s leisure life: restaurants, bars, museums, casinos, cruise ships…even grocery stores!

Emerson:  Along those lines, what has been one of your proudest moments?

Nichols: The nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World’s Epcot, Reflections of Earth…hands-down.  For me, this has been the best synthesis of theatre, music, fireworks, fountains, pyro, lights and lasers for an enormous audience of over 25, 000 guests, in-the-round, nightly for eleven years. 

Emerson:  Of the projects you worked on earlier in your career, which ones have best stood the test of time and why do you think that is?

Nichols: Reflections of Earth.  Why? Because it speaks to the innate part of all of us that wishes to be told a story…to identify with something bigger than any of us…than ALL of us.  Don Dorsey called our show, “the history of History in 12.5 minutes”.  I’d say that’s pretty big.

Emerson:  Last question.  It’s a beautiful autumn afternoon.  Share with us your perfect theme park experience on that day.

Nichols: I love that you chose autumn, because my perfect day is being outside with a bright, warm sun on a cool day…anywhere.  I love many parks for different reasons from the thrills of Universal’s Orlando Resort to the calm lush landscaping of Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, from the enrichment of the Sea World parks to the fantasy of the Disney parks.  They all have something to offer that is unique to themselves, their brand and their guests.  What I love most is being amongst guests who are happy and excited and creating memories that will last a lifetime…I love being a part of making those memories.

Image:  Top – Spectacular fireworks synchronized to a symphonic score burst above Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon during IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.  Kind courtesy Disney.

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