Bryan Ebenhoch’s work at Universal
From 2011-2013, Comcast’s NBCUniversal Universal Creative division was undergoing a restructuring and aggressive growth period. There were many projects in the planning queue and in-house resources were limited among just a few core designers. Many of the projects in development were part of their 5-year effort to develop design and construct various restaurants and attractions and expand on their own IP and the partnerships with others.
With the demanding workload and scope, it was a unique situation that valued those with diverse skills to meet the rapid schedule, to produce work that captured the vision for the company and enabled executives to understand the work presented as it would be represented when built.
Shapestorm’s founder, Bryan Ebenhoch was engaged with Universal’s effort to rapidly expand their parks at first as a consultant with Universal City Development Partners Ltd., developing several projects over an 8-month period and then accepted an employed role with NBCUniversal as Production Designer for their core team at Universal Creative.
Attending brainstorming meetings and having various collaborative team exchanges, he produced CAD drawings, 3D models, renderings and hand drawn concept sketches to support the blue-sky design phase. He also provided project research, design documentation, field and staff direction. Bryan’s experience in facility and theme design work in AutoCAD has spanned 18 years, providing such support while working for Planet Hollywood’s corporate office on their development of restaurants, retail, resorts and exhibits. His work utilizing Sketch-Up 3D software also started while he was with Planet Hollywood at the time the software was first introduced. Over the years his work in Sketch-Up Pro and Sketch-Up Layout enabled him to develop, design and present solutions within confined timelines to produce solutions for approval by executives.
Utilizing his skills and obtaining software to produce photographic renders from his model work enabled him to present his work in meetings that represented real-world lighting, guest sight-lines and perspective POVs in scale to the adjacent structures in the parks. This provided critical details for the projects to evaluate situations where different intellectual property features were subject to short distances and view of another. Having been a frequent visitor of the Universal Orlando parks since 1996, his site knowledge provided additional understanding of the park’s features to develop projects that met the operational conditions. It was a common process for Bryan to produce both CAD drawings of site plans and renderings of 3D models simultaneously for various meetings with department heads. His process had provided a valuable connection and understanding of the projects to meet the programming required by the various departments and the aggressive schedule for Universal’s rapid growth. Once the “blue-sky” development work had met the approval stage by the studio executives, his work would be issued to the assembled project teams, architects and contracted vendors to advance the projects to the build phase. As those projects progressed, he would support the work when needed in providing red-lines of vendor fabrication drawings and site visits during construction phase.
For Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in Orlando Florida, his development and design involvement includes the SpongeBob StorePants retail experience store, The Simpsons Games, The Simpsons USA, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem retail, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, the Transformers attraction site planning, the Spiderman attraction renovation of the guest queue areas, CityWalk waterfront development as well as four other attractions and expansions not realized. He was engaged in the brainstorming effort for Universal’s hotels and Volcano Bay water park, supported the effort to develop the studio’s AutoCAD standards, as well as being on the committee to support positive results in team satisfaction for the human resources department.
On Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Bryan was tasked to develop the site and attraction plans for the Islands of Adventure park in 2011. He was asked to return to the project in 2013 to model the site in 3D and issued additional story ideas for the various creatures attacking the visitors for the guest experience within the attraction leading up to the main projection screen area.
In his role as the lead on The Simpsons Games project, he was both the project producer and production designer, having weekly meetings with Twentieth Century Fox and Gracie Films to meet the standards of Matt Groening’s IP with his associate producer at Universal. His work included holding meetings with operational and construction members, providing the production schedule, drawings and 3D model work as well as field art direction and vendor visits with gaming contractor. In the end the project opened with Fox’s approval and was reported to be completed at half-a-million under budget.
To show his appreciation for the executive team, Bryan had designed a special crew gift to commemorate the completion of the project. Utilizing the Santa’s Little Helper dog as featured in the series and a main element in the games, this was a character that almost didn’t make it for use in the games due it’s dimensional proportions. Bryan worked with the contractor who fabricated the games to produce just twelve of the gifts.
With his involvement on The Simpsons USA expansion in 2012 for Orlando, his research and work on integrating The Simpsons games project for operational conditions with the studio carried over to developing the universe of The Simpsons community of Springfield, to feature restaurants, bars, retail, dining areas and character photo opportunities. This effort was carried out by producing several different 3D models and schematic plans of the site and facilities before reaching one that met the favor of the Universal executives through the weekly meetings where he presented each update.
Some views of Bryan’s office while at Universal from 2011-2013 show his various work on The Simpsons expansions for Orlando and Hollywood and well as his crew gift for the work on the SpongeBob SquarePants retail store.
For Universal Studios Singapore, he provided early development on the attraction and vehicle design for what eventually resulted as Sesame Street, Spaghetti Space Chase by the project team.
For Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Hollywood, he was engaged on the blue-sky master planning effort for the integration of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter property. He supported the production of schematic drawings in AutoCAD and provided the new 3D models of both sites.
Along with the Harry Potter addition at Universal Studios Hollywood, Bryan provided the lead work on the development, facility design and master planning effort on The Simpsons USA property expansion as he did with the Orlando location. This included the two-story food and beverage facility design, the Duff Gardens area and providing his earlier work established for Orlando for the games area. Additionally, he provided development work for other areas of the Hollywood park, including a story and attraction concept for the Fast and Furious property, the Tram Tour entrance, and the Star Way connector. For the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem presence in Hollywood, he provided early facility design work for the attraction and the Super Silly Fun land water-play areas.
For Universal Studios Moscow, he provided blue-sky development work for new representations of the various intellectual properties that Universal features in their parks well as new attractions and dining options. This work included facility design for the planned indoor park in determining placement opportunities for many of the attractions, facades for the show buildings and various features in the guest paths.
For Universal Studios Korea, he provided the 3D master planning concept model to support a working site plan to present to the developers. This was a large undertaking to produce in a very short time-frame.
In 2013, during Comcast’s executive review with Universal Creative of proposed projects, Bryan’s project which he developed and designed in both AutoCAD and Sketch-Up for an immersive land, attraction and retail area was the first project in the review to be approved by Comcast executives with a multi-million-dollar budget.
In January 2013, along with a letter of appreciation and certificate of recognition, he was awarded with a bonus by Universal Creative’s President, Mark Woodbury and Senior Vice President Thierry Coup for his hard work dedication and success of the division.
Framed certificate of recognition for Bryan’s work and award issued in January 2013 by NBCUniversal’s Universal Creative division.
Letter from NBCUniversal’s Mark Woodbury, President of Universal Creative, Universal Parks & Resorts, issuing gratitude for Ebenhoch’s important role at Universal Creative.