The Art of Attractions - January 2018

Arthur Levine got a dose of Hulkmania during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017.

Expo 2017: Of Hulksters and Attraction Mania

by Arthur Levine

The record-breaking IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017 brought folks in the attractions industry together to connect, learn from one another, and trumpet their latest concepts and products. For me, going to the Expo was like hitting a journalist’s jackpot and returning to summer camp all rolled into one mega-event. Like a giddy camper, I got to catch up with many of my parks and attractions buddies. As a journalist, I discovered a mother lode of source material that has inspired me and will keep me busy cranking out articles. 

As always, the gargantuan exhibit hall was a riot of sights and sounds and was crackling with energy. There were so many innovative developments to ogle, such as the underwater Aquaticar from Sub Sea Systems, the remarkably expressive animatronic from Garner Holt Productions, and the All-Terrain Dark Ride vehicle from Dynamic Attractions. I even got to hang out with Hulk Hogan, who came to the Expo hoping to transform his retail shops into brand experiences by infusing them with themed attractions.

But the Expo’s action wasn’t confined to the Hulkamania running wild on the trade show floor. The educational sessions and presentations were brimming with information and inspiration. For example, I enjoyed hearing panelists such as SeaWorld’s Brian Morrow discuss ways technology can best be used to enhance the guest experience.

Sage advice was in abundant supply at one of the presentations I most look forward to at every Expo: the Legends panel assembled by Bob Rogers of BRC Imagination Arts. In an unprecedented convocation of three fictional universes, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and “Avatar’s” Jake Sully shared the stage at this year’s epic meeting of the minds. Well, it wasn’t the protagonists of three of the world’s most popular intellectual properties (IPs), exactly, but the legendary designers charged with bringing their theme park worlds to life.

Disney Imagineering’s Scott Trowbridge and Joe Rohde joined Universal Creative’s Thierry Coup for a collegial talk about the challenges of adapting IPs for parks and attractions. Perhaps Trowbridge summed up the session best when he said that in the end it’s not so much about the IP as “about a story well told.” One of the chairs on the dais was left empty in honor of Marty Sklar, who was supposed to participate on the panel but passed away earlier this year. Before the presentation, there was a moving video tribute about Marty.

For those of you who attended the Expo, I trust you also were inspired. Hopefully you made discoveries that will help you tell your stories well. 

I’ll see you at the parks. I’ll be the one acting like a giddy camper.

A lifelong park fanatic, Arthur Levine has been writing newspaper and magazine travel features about the industry he loves since 1992. He’s been the Theme Parks Expert at since 2002, and is a regular contributor for USA Today.