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Theme Park University website now offering insights about how the themed entertainment industry actually works

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Theme Park University website now offering insights about how the themed entertainment industry actually works

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The Internet is really a wondrous place. Especially if you're a young person who's considering a career in animation. If you've ever considered becoming a character designer someday, you can always swing by Tom Bancroft's Character Mentor Studio or Stephen Silver's blog and then pick up some good practical tips. Likewise if you've dreamed of becoming an art director, you should definitely be bookmarking Mike Peraza's sites.

The same goes with Mark Evanier's News From Me or Floyd Norman's Mr. Fun's Blog if you hope to someday write for animation. And if you want to master the actual craft of animation ... Well, starting tomorrow in Scottsdale, AZ, Don Bluth himself begins teaching a week-long master class in the Art of Animation.

Copyright 2013 Don Bluth Animation. All rights reserved

Mind you, that's on the animation side of the fence. But if you're someone who dreams of working in themed entertainment, the pickings online can be pretty slim.

Oh, sure. There are plenty of sites where fanboys pay tribute to various theme parks. And every so often, you'll come across something as spectacular looking like Kirk Design, Inc. or Tim J. Delaney Design. But these sites are really online portfolios. Long on genuinely impressive eye candy, but short when it comes to good practical information on how someone might actually pursue a career in themed entertainment.

Copyright 2013 Theme Park University. All rights reserved

Well, all that changed this past Friday with the launch of Theme Park University, a site that eventually hopes to become an online campus where one can go to study the art and the industry of the theme park & related fields.

As for Theme Park University's faculty ... Well, for starters, there's Ron Schneider. As the author of "From Dreamer to Dreamfinder: A Life and Lessons Learned in 40 Years Behind a Name Tag " (Bamboo Forest Publishing), Schneider has already demonstrated his gift for turning real life experiences from his time at various theme parks into teachable moments. And Ron doesn't disappoint in his initial essay for Theme Park University, where he talks about Epcot's "Journey into Imagination with Figment" attraction.

Ron Schneider wowed the crowd at D23's Destination D - Walt Disney World 40th
in May of 2011 by donning his old Dreamfinder costume and then joining
Richard M Sherman & Figment onstage to sing "One Little Spark"

Now you'd think -- given Schneider's close association with the Dreamfinder character -- that he'd be among the horde of Disney theme park fans who continually call for this Future World favorite to be restored to its former glory. But that's where you'd be wrong. As Ron explains in "On Imagination's 30th: A Re-Birthday Wish," while ...

... I can sympathize with all the self-appointed "Friends of Figment" who still campaign to bring back the old ride. It was a magic thing, an inspiration... and it's easy to believe that if it returned we'd also get something back of our lost innocence. But it's a lie. (Besides, I've actually heard the recording of Walt Disney saying, "You can't top pigs with pigs".)

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

(So) Let's punch the 'reset' on our hopes and expectations. Let's pray for another revolutionary journey, similar to the original but different.

That's what's great about the Theme Park University website. Right off the bat, it challenges your expectations when it comes to the themed entertainment business. Better yet, it takes you behind-the-scenes to events that few outside of this industry have ever had the chance to experience. Take -- for example -- Josh Young's excellent article about those employee meetings that Universal Orlando officials used to hold in the early 2000s in order to help energize & motivate the people who worked in their theme parks.

Copyright 2013 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved

So if you're considering a career in themed entertainment, do yourself a favor and bookmark TPU ASAP. For Ron & Josh are just get started when it comes to posting fascinating pieces about how this industry actually works.

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  • Interesting stuff by Josh and Ron, and best of luck to them. However, I've always wondered why there isn't a really-for-real (sorry, Jim) "theme park university" out there - some kind of school with interdisciplinary coursework in the arts, engineering, and business where folks interested in themed entertainment could learn about the trade.  

    It seems to be that about the only way to get involved in the industry is to be in the right place at the right time, or know the right person who could steer you toward that place and time, and given that most companies don't have the time, money, or possibly the inclination to  really nurture budding talent, the industry might be letting the next Tony Baxter or Eddie Sotto slip away.  Granted, an actual school devoted to themed entertainment can't guarantee someone a job once they get their degree, but neither can any other college curriculum (wouldn't you love to have a dollar for every film school student who didn't become the next George Lucas?).  Sounds like a project for someone with a passion for themed entertainment and some time on their hands...

  • You might also want to check out working designer Nate Naversen's themedattraction.com.  It has been around for several years and is packed with themed attraction insight.  Very educational.

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