Led by President Jeremy Railton (above), one of the world’s greatest live show designers, The Entertainment Design Corporation creates and produces award-winning themed entertainment attractions, immersive environments, live entertainment events and theatrical productions on a grand scale across the world.
EDC’s Director of Project Development (left) is the Academy Award-nominated producer of the classic Five Easy Pieces, Richard Wechsler (left). Chad Emerson speaks with him about his 4 decades in TV, film and themed entertainment.
Share with us how you first got started working in the amusement and recreation industry.
I’ve come to the themed attraction industry by way of a three-decade career in Film and TV as a Producer, Writer and Production Executive.
Related: Jeremy Railton and the Art of Live Show Design / The Goddard Group Announces News of Themed Entertainment Projects for IAAPA 2012 / Thinkwell’s Dave Cobb – Theme Park Nerdity and Jurassic Dreams
In 2000, I was contacted by Peter Rawley, a senior agent at I.C.M, who wanted to introduce me to an I.C.M client from Spain who was trying to develop a regional theme park based on the motif of Circus and Magic.
Rawley had seen me perform some sleight-of-hand, a passion of mind since I was old enough to hold a deck of cards in my hands, and being no stranger to hyperbole, he told the Spanish Producer that “I knew everything about magic”—far from the truth, but I had a very close friend, Paul Harris, who is a rock star in the inner world of magic and had created effects and illusions for David Blaine and Copperfield. Paul and I met with the Spanish Producer, and after jumping through many hoops we were finally hired to create a master plan for the City of Circus and Magic in San Sebastian, Spain.
Paul and I had a vision of creating an environment where everything was an illusion, from ‘floating buildings’ to a Vanishing Roller Coaster, but we knew nothing about master plans and concept presentations.
We interviewed the usual suspects and when we met Jeremy he had such a perfect ‘mind-to-mind’ understanding of our vision that we hired him on the spot.
For various reasons (Basque terrorists and diminishing theme park revenues in Spain) the project never got funded, but working with Jeremy and EDC was a very enjoyable and creative process. Several months later, Jeremy called me in to help write and create a proposal for a client in Korea and we have been working together ever since.
What have been some of the most rewarding projects you’ve worked on and why?
Since it was magic that brought me into the world of themed entertainment, I always look for opportunities to introduce magical illusions into our attraction design. We call this hybrid Astonishment Technology.
At Resorts World Sentosa, we transformed a generic escalator into a mood-transforming experience. We used an intricate system of mirrored cladding that created the illusion of infinitely expanding space. Combined with lighting, sound effects and LED ribbons that cycled through images of the primal elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, it gave guests the feeling of leaving their ordinary world and being magically transported into a realm of excitement and romance.
At the Galaxy Macau, we used classic sleight of hand principles to create a ‘miss-direction package’ that would manage guests’ attention and create the illusion of a giant diamond (22-feet in diameter and weighing 4000 pounds) floating in space.
What about some of the most challenging ones?
The Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa (see video, top) was very challenging because of the huge scale. The Cranes stand 90-feet tall and weigh over 160 tons, making them the largest animatronic creatures in the world. Located on a man-made island in the channel between Resorts World and the Singapore mainland, the cranes “dance” flap their wings and, via digital screens, bless the guests with long-life and good fortune.
The project was four years in the making, required over 800, 000 man hours and employed an international team of themed entertainment experts from 10 countries. In 2011, it won the TEA Award of Outstanding Achievement which, in our niche industry is like winning an Oscar!
Currently, what types of projects are you working on and how have the continued global economic challenges influenced those projects?
For the last few years, most of our work has been in Macau, Singapore and China, countries with aggressive development programs. The Crane Dance in Singapore has been a wonderful ‘calling card’ and we have been extremely fortunate to be sought out by Asian client