Themed entertainment industry professionals from all backgrounds gathered May 29th on a public ZOOM call to listen as entrepreneurs, industry veterans and newcomers pitched their new concepts and ideas for potential investment. Organized by Cary Jardin and Lexington Blood, the event’s goal was to offer creatives and innovators an opportunity to present their ideas before venture capitalists, industry leaders, and peers for feedback and possible partnership.
An impressive slate of seven creative projects were invited to create 8-minute presentations showcasing their ideas. Presenters then fielded questions from the panel and others logged into the ZOOM event. Presentations varied from souvenir innovations, aerial spectaculars, VR technologies, and resurrecting a languishing shopping district, to high-tech escape room and immersive theater experiences. There was even a pitch for a full-blown theme park.
“Our hope is to help projects progress to the next stage,” said Jardin, an Adjunct Professor at California State University San Marcos and Machine Learning technologist at Jardin Labs. “We anticipate many of the projects pitched to receive the funding and support they need to become a reality.”
With extra time at home following the social distancing orders of early March 2020 and a passion for championing great ideas, Jardin and Blood began inviting investors and entrepreneurs to come together over ZOOM to meet and explore potential partnerships.
Later Jardin connected with Nathan Naversen, the founder of ThemedAttraction.com and theme park show designer and writer, to discuss the potential of rallying theme park innovators for a similar, business niche-specific event of their own.
“ThemedAttraction.com was founded with the purpose of collecting the experience, history, and fresh ideas of our fellow themed entertainment colleagues so that others might learn from it and be inspired to create something new,” said Naversen. “This event is a perfect extension of that impulse.”
Some presenters invited to carry the conversation on further with others with more questions or willingness to help bring ideas to market.
“It was a valuable opportunity to showcase a concept unique to the themed entertainment industry, with a sympathetic audience who would attest to the appeal,” said Cleve Nettles, Creator/CEO of Wondersmells who presented his idea for souvenir merchandise equipped to emit the familiar, memory-inducing aromas guests encounter in their favorite theme park attractions. “It was explained to me that a number of private investors had been invited with enthusiasm and interest to help launch projects with potential. Very grateful to have found the experience tremendously satisfying and the audience warm, welcoming and affirming.”
The event was moderated by themed entertainment professionals including Naversen, Denise Chapman Weston, Owner of Infinite Kingdoms, Freddy Martin, Senior Editor at ThemedAttraction.com and Account Manager at Storyland Studios, and Mel McGowan, CCO of Storyland Studios.
“All great ideas start somewhere,” said McGowan. “Walt Disney had been churning the idea of a theme park around in his head for decades. It wasn’t until he had the opportunity to present the idea to investors that he holed up in a room with artist Herbie Ryman to dump his ideas onto paper and create the first concept designs that would eventually become Disneyland. That’s what today’s event was all about.”
While some projects were focused on products that could be sold to help enhance or expand the theme park experience beyond the proverbial berm, others focused on unique experiences that are possible within closed environments.
“We’re transitioning from a time of storytelling to storyliving, where people want more than passive entertainment – they want to be a part of the adventure and make a tangible difference within the story,” said Anahita Dalmia, CEO and Co-Founder of Alterea, a group of innovators developing ideas for immersive entertainment experiences that take place within historic buildings, starting with Clifton’s Republic, the legendary landmark in downtown Los Angeles. “By using immersive theatre and live interactive gaming techniques, we facilitate co-authorship where each individual’s story and actions impacts a collective experience.”
The entrepreneurial spirit of many of the presenters gave inspiration to others on the call.
“When you take action it sets up a flight path to a goal,” said Alyssa Kyranakis, a past Disney Imagineer and pilot who pitched the idea of uniting airshows with outdoor theater productions to create a unique family experience staged against the sky. “Getting into the right path with the right people sets you up for better success. Doing nothing gets you just that…nothing.”
“The Themed Attraction Pitchfest bonded the industry, into a community,” said Jardin. “We have seen strong investor interest, an outpouring of support, and eager participation for the next pitchfest event.”
Follow Themed Attraction on social media for announcements and opportunities to participate in the next Pitchfest.