Seven inspiring statements made at this year’s Entertainment Designers Forum 

Live Active Cultures: Fifth annual Entertainment Designers Forum

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SETH KUBERSKY
  • PHOTO BY SETH KUBERSKY

The Entertainment Designers Forum returned last weekend with a thrilling evening of behind-the-scenes stories and sage advice from some of the artistic geniuses who create our local theme park attractions. For the Forum’s fifth annual session, organizer Kim Gromoll and MC Mike Aiello (both of Universal Orlando) assembled two high-wattage panels of attractions-industry veterans at Loch Haven’s Orlando Repertory Theatre. Between sessions was a silent auction of amusement park artifacts and prizes, including the chance to have your name written into a Halloween Horror Nights backstory, concept artwork and costumes, and a skull salvaged from the Dueling Dragons roller coaster’s pre-Potter queue (which now sits proudly in my curio cabinet). Most important, nearly $13,000 was raised and donated to the American Red Cross’ Relay for Life in memory of late Universal designer Stephanie Girard, who helped start the series. Without further ado, here are seven of the most inspiring statements made by panelists during the event’s two 90-minute Q&A sessions.

Gene Columbus, longtime Walt Disney World executive and executive director of Orlando Rep
“As a high-school student I was a pretty bad student, but one of the things I was good at was audiovisual. One day a drama teacher asked me to set up the recorder. Somebody didn’t show up, so she asked me to read, and when I read the script it was awful. She took me aside and gave me some advice: Don’t ask me to believe what you are reading unless you believe it, and don’t ask others to believe in you unless you believe in you.”

Nick Collins, scenic designer for Universal and Nickelodeon
“Inspiration can come from anywhere. We’re so fortunate that we’re living in a place that’s saturated with so many cool things and experiences.”
“Some people say there are no original ideas, just two ideas no one has put together yet. … I got the idea for the mechanics for a show once sitting in a Cracker Barrel looking at the little tri-fold menu.”

Brian Morrow, senior director of attraction development and design for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens
“Originality is sometimes difficult for consumers to understand because it doesn’t match what they’ve seen before.”
“You have to be very careful not to look at other people’s work to get direction, particularly in the theme-park business. If we start copying each other, we get a whole bunch of nothing.”

Cindy White, illustrator and designer for Disney and Orlando Rep
“Being an artist is like being an athlete. You have to feed the body, train, get mental.”
“Work on your vocabulary; it’s one thing to draw a picture, but the notes that are next to the picture are 10 times more important. … Work on your art history [and] pop culture; The Simpsons is as important as Raphael.”

Laura Tyler, makeup artist and winner of Face Off Season 5
“There are two rules I learned in art school. One is the rule of three: You can have something good, you can have something quick, you can have something cheap, but you can only have two of those three options. … The other rule: Always give the client three options, two you really like and one you don’t want them to pick. And they always pick that one.”

Michael Roddy, senior show writer and director for Disney parks and cruise ships
“Never throw away anything. You always keep your ideas, because there’s been countless times where something started out really big, and for one reason or another gets cut. … There are ideas from that you can reuse and repurpose in ways that are just as valid. … As long as you do something every day towards your ultimate goal, that is success. … Move one little centimeter forward, and you will be successful.”

Robbi Lepré, director of theatrical services at Busch Gardens
“Technology can only take you so far; the one element that doesn’t change is people. People want to see other people having a good time, they want to have that personal experience. They want to be touched in ways that make them feel special and make them enjoy that experience of spending time with their friends and families.”
“You have to be able to touch people and give them something new that isn’t just technology-based. … Eventually things have to come around full circle [and] technology should always be in a supporting role; it can’t be the star.”

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