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Getting to know the process

Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 10:15 pm
by clink
Hello all -

I'm a theme park fanatic that has recently come across these boards for some graduate research. You see, I'm currently researching the commercial viability of a patent for a ride system that has been granted, and it has some really interesting applications. However, I must admit, I'm a bit confused on how the coaster/thrill ride chain runs.

Basically, I'm trying to identify potential investors for the technology, and identify parties that might be interested...however, it seems to be that the theme parks themselves are the investors.

Can someone let me know if this is right? (I know this doesn't apply to Imagineers since they actually design the rides, but moreso to a Busch Gardens, Cedar Fair, Six Flags type organization)

1. First, a theme park identifies the need for a new ride (at least a year in advance.)

2. They then look at themes, space, type of ride, etc.

3. They look at their budget and come to a number.

4. ?

Now at step 4, would the park start looking at manufacturers such as B&M, Intamin, Vekoma, etc., and then take bids?

Or maybe I have it all wrong, and the manufacturers come up with new ideas and pitch them to the parks (though this seems a bit backwards since you would have to retro-fit a theme...)

Can someone let me know if I'm on track here?

This is a great site, I am so glad I found it...not only for information like this, but because I am a fellow enthusiast, from Its a Small World to Kingda Ka.


Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:41 am
by wokcreative
Depending on what the patent is, it probably would go through one of the manufacturers, first. The theming may come before or after, depending on each individual project. Sometimes a new innovation is needed and figured out in the early "blue sky" or brainstorming stage. Later, it may be decided if it is practical or not (and in the budget or not). Sometimes Imagineering or Universal Creative (for example) may come up with the new innovation themselves (Disney holds many patents), but the manufacturers also hold many. Sometimes a big expo/conference may be used for presenting/showcasing a new technology, then letting other creative people find a way to use it. Also, technology/innovation/ideas... from other fields may find their way in to the themed entertainment industry, being used in a whole new way than what they were created for.

Just a start, and just my two cents.
Good luck to you and welcome to the site. Enjoy all that it has to offer.

(check out Joey's post on the trip report to Euro Attractions Expo (IAAPA) for an idea of what the expo's are like and what they present)

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:03 pm
by Joey
It's not a black and white process. Every company goes about it differently and even within the same company it varies.

For example, a park may decide to get a new ride for a number of reasons. Budgets change throughout the project. Sometimes, a manufacturer is the inspiration for getting a new ride as the park's design team may have seen one elsewhere and thought "this would work at our park".

I'd say contact parks/companies and ask them how they do it. :)

Posted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 10:19 am
by clink
Hey guys,

Thanks so very much for the replies. I thought that maybe it was a little of both, or in other words, there was not a defined process considering how dynamic the industry is.

I have tried contacting about 10 of the major ride manufacturers, and as you might imagine, they have been very unwilling to talk to me. I'm guessing the steady stream of e-mails about how to build rides and what to major in while in college have turned them off to random contacts.

I'll try contacting a few parks as well.

I was just curious as to whom to approach when investigating the industry, and how this patent might be licensed. My guess is that it would ultimately be a manufacturer that would be interested, but I could be wrong.

So from anyone who has been in the industry, could a theme park creative group come up with a great idea, and then approach different manufacturers and basically ask: "Can you guys do this?"

Again, thank you all for the great insight!


Posted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:11 am
by Joey
[quote]So from anyone who has been in the industry, could a theme park creative group come up with a great idea, and then approach different manufacturers and basically ask: "Can you guys do this?" [/quote]
Happens a lot. In fact, unless a park is buying an off-the-shelf model, then it happens all the time.

Disney and the other big players especially so. The rides they custom order are barely recognisable as the standard hardware. Vekoma are renowned for agreeing to make something the client wants work.

At the end of the day, it is always the client that wants something. Either they want something that has already been done, or they want something a bit different, or they want something completely different.

I don't know exactly, but I'm pretty sure that The B&M Dive Machine and Flying Coaster were something the park team at Alton Towers came up with and B&M agreed to develop. You might want to try and contact John Wardley to see if you can figure out exactly how that went, because it would have been him who came up with the dive coaster concept if so. Back when Nemesis opened, John spoke of it being the closest thing to flying. It's almost as if he was looking for Air, the flying coaster, all along.

Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:15 pm
by Holly
One of the difficulties that you may run into with this is that occasionally companies get sued for "stealing" ideas -- whether or not the people who invented a ride actually saw the idea. It is not unconceivable that two different people would come up with the same idea, so some companies have a sort of "hands-off" approach towards outside submissions, just so that they don't run into problems later of people claiming that their idea was stolen... That's not to say that what you're trying to do is impossible, but you may want to do some research with people who come up with inventions and sell patents, to see if there are some approaches that can help you get a foot in the door. Some companies get a lot of people approaching them with great ideas, and they have to be very careful... but there may be a formal pitch process to get around that...

And yeah, it can happen that someone in the creative disciplines comes up with a ride idea and then approaches a ride manufacturer to do it. Of course, you would probably look at their current portfolio of rides to see if they had the expertise, or if there was a ride system that might possibly be modified to do what you want... If they mostly do merry-go-rounds and flat-rides, you wouldn't ask them to do a roller coaster... but maybe you see a roller-coaster company that has something somewhat close to your idea, but would need some major modifications. In the end, the creatives have to trust the engineers... Some theme parks have their own engineers on-staff, and others consult with ride companies to find out what is and isn't possible.... and there are probably other situations as well. There are lots of ways of working together with different groups, and as long as you have people with the right kinds of expertise, you have a reasonably good change of getting the ride off the ground :-)

For the most part, it seems like the ride companies are actually their own investors when it comes to R&D. (The exception is the major theme park companies, who can afford to do their own R&D, but they are more of an exception than the rule.) If you ever go to IAAPA, you'll sometimes see sketches or models of rides that haven't been built yet (or sometimes even full-scale ride vehicles), but the engineering has been done... If a theme parks likes what they see, they might buy the ride (enabling it to be fabricated)... but the ride manufacturer has already thrown money into development without knowing if any theme park will be interested in actually buying it... It's a reasonable gamble, though, because there are parks out there that like having "the first of its kind" rides... It is good for marketing and getting people to re-visit the park.

Posted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 11:09 pm
by clink
Hey guys - just wanted to say thank you all for the fantastic replies! This is great info and has really helped me immensely. Thank you all so much for the input and info!