Universal Studios Florida – Orlando, FL
Beginning in 2011, the project to expand the existing Simpsons attraction with the implementation of a gaming area with iconic elements featured within the successful television series started development. This project was developed between NBCUniversal’s Universal Creative studio, Twentieth Century Fox and Gracie Films.
As Production Designer and Producer my tasks were to produce the themed expansion design while incorporating the intellectual property and operational requirements within the project scope. The process included routine meetings with core executives to reach the final overall project designs before transition to the project build team.
Developing the Property
While Universal was making plans to demolish the Midway games area in the property dedicated to the town of Amity and the Jaws attraction, discussion began on the options for relocating the games to the other side of the lagoon. In the early phase of development these games were considered for placement in a fairly underutilized area in front of the existing Kwik-E-Mart and International Food & Film Festival restaurant. As the development progressed, the space in front of The Simpsons Ride was then focused as the solution for the addition.
As part of the endeavor, development of the project consisted of planning the addition in AutoCAD and modeling the area within SketchUp. This was produced using drawings of the existing ride attraction. Many factors challenged this project due to the site conditions that were cost prohibitive to pursue. The current overflow queue area that utilized this space was reliant on the full square footage for peak attendance levels. Additionally, the pavement was not a level surface to provide proper storm drainage and the canopies had sustained damage from fireworks over the years creating holes in random areas. Area lighting poles were also obstructing potential gaming areas. Room for operational access and prize storage was also a conditional requirement. By evaluating the site conditions and game options being considered, the plan was revised to establish what worked best to utilize the space while still maintaining a large portion of queue area.
Starting in 2011, a preliminary plan was drawn up to reface the existing simulated game facades as an enclosed structure to the roofed entry pavilion. One of the early concepts that was produced was designed so guests would have entered from the ends and through the Krusty the clown mouth. As the work progressed through meetings with the facility team and management, this was abandoned and decided to be an all new construction where the games would reside. The existing facade on both sides of the Krusty clown head were then planned for demolition.
The approach on the design of the facades and the games was to encourage both Fox and Gracie films to maximize the potential of the property. This was done by developing unique gaming set ups in the design that complimented the IP. The marquees were also developed with more surfaces, having individual components in the design of the signs and characters with depth provided in the application of the artwork while still maintaining a flat-based format to represent the overall Krustyland carnival theme strategy .
Now with a plan of action, design intents were produced to draw up the working plan and elevations with game equipment, operational areas, utility provisions, storage, lighting and a take on proposed facades for the new games. This was the work that configured all the elements of the project into one cohesive document for advancing the work. With these intents approved internally by executive management, meetings were then scheduled with representatives of Twentieth Century Fox and Gracie Films on weekly basis as the project advanced to the next phase.
The design work went through a series of phases in working with Twentieth Century Fox and Gracie Films representatives. Having meetings scheduled on a weekly basis, the work was initiated to advance the process by issuing the designs for the marquees in dimensioned line-work plan and elevations. These series of drawings, issued as full design intent sheet sets, were then utilized throughout the design process to establish the working design to the final color and production files.
3D software based models were also provided in the process to propose and discuss sight-lines, scale of details within the art and to depict individualize elements that projected from surfaces and gaming components. Once the production files were received for the Simpsons artwork, I worked with the Universal sources to carry out production of the games and signage.
Many conflicts were present with the existing property to make it a functional space for gaming.
The overflow queue utilized the entire space prior to the games being implemented under the same roof structure.
In having the games constructed, a production schedule was developed that tied to the facility construction. This work was performed by the contracted vendor and directed to produce work based on the design to meet the overall theme while still allowing for new features that were unique to the gaming experience. Over many meetings I worked with the vendor on these games to build them with features that included fully illuminated components, sculpted character elements, and integration of the Simpsons graphic art issued by Fox. In addition to the design and construction of the games, operational conditions were also a part of the process to meet the site requirements. This included having each game platform elevated to provide for drainage clearance over the existing pavement as well as a means to secure each gaming area within the canopy-based facility.
The games and signage were all delivered to the site and were installed over a series of consecutive evenings after the park closed. Cranes and handing equipment were utilized to mount the marquee signs and assemble the games.
Progress on the new games begins with new steel framing to support the marquees.
Studs are added to the structural framing.
The framing is enclosed with cladding and paint and prepared for the theme work and signage.
Prior to final touches on the exterior the games open to the public for the first time during the week for testing.
The Completed Project
Park images photographed by Bryan Ebenhoch 2012