by Savas Abadsidis on 2012-06-05
Gary Goddard has the kind of job that you dreamed of as kid. As
both a director and an imagineer, Gary literally brings illusions to
life as one of the world’s foremost visionaries in the world of theme
parks, theme resorts and casinos, retail developments, and
destination attractions throughout the world.
In the world of theme parks and attractions, he is considered the top
creator in the field today and is named on the inventor’s patents for
many of the greatest attractions in the world. These creations include
TERMINATOR 2/3D, JURASSIC PARK: THE RIDE, THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF
SPIDER-MAN, and STAR TREK: THE EXPERIENCE to name but a few. He was
one of five key designers responsible for the concept and master
planning for UNIVERSAL’S ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE in Orlando, and was the
lead designer for theme parks that include SANRIO PUROLAND and SANRIO
HARMONYLAND (both parks located in Japan), ENCHANTED KINGDOM
(Manilla), FANTASIA LAGOON (Bangkok) and is at work now on projects in
China, Korea, Dubai, New York, and Macau.
A world traveler if ever there was, he’s currently head of the Goddard
Group. If you’ve ever had a “wow” experience at a theme park, he was
probably behind it! With summer here and the season of thrills in high
gear, Gary sat down with Escape Republic.
What is your favorite place to escape to when you have
I enjoy Venice (Italy) immensely and I can't say why exactly; I have a
sense of connection to the canals and city there, and I enjoy the
experience on multiple levels. I have been there in every season, and
for me it is always like being stepping back in time, and there is
truly nowhere else in the world like it. Of course it has great
restaurants and hotels, but it's more about the canals themselves, and
weathered city, and the architecture, and how it all comes together to
create a unique world. I never tire of it.
What are three essential items you must have when traveling?
My laptop, books and magazines, and my journal.
If you crash landed on a deserted isle, what are 5 things you
couldn't live without?
Oh I'm very adaptive, so if that happened to me I think I would "go
with it" and just kind of embrace the new experience (especially if
the source of food and water were there and easily available.) But I
guess I'd hope to have books and my journal (and pens to write).
Assuming there is no power available, we'll assume computers and iPods
and cell phones don't count. So I guess I'd be glad I had my little
medical kit along (I carry one all the time though I've never had to
use it so far), and I'd blankets, a pillow, and soap and shampoo to
stay clean I guess. I mean, I would presume, in survival mode, one
would want the basics, the good side of which, an experience like this
would remind of you of what is actually important in life.
How did you get started in the business?
Performing from the age of 5, writing my own musicals and making my
own little 8mm and 16mm movies in high school, and then hired by Walt
Disney World right out of college to direct a show for them (which is
still running today and has become the longest running and most
performed show in the world according to Guinness Book of Records),
was invited to become an Imagineer at Disney and did so, and then
started my own company at the age of 24.
What's the world's best theme park?
Best theme park to this day is still Disneyland, but the best overall
Destination Resort is Walt Disney World in Orlando. The best city for
theme park enthusiasts is Orlando, best dark ride in the world is
still The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (and yes, it’s better than
the new Harry Potter ride though the Harry Potter LAND is amazing and
very well done). The best park in Europe is Effling, the most charming
park in Europe is Tivoli Gardens, and the best park in Asia is Tokyo
What elements go into the best theme parks?
Surprises. Discoveries. Charm. Excitement. Wonder. Fun. Most modern
parks are big on the excitement but lack most of the other elements.
The best parks engage ALL of the emotions, just like a great movie or
a great book or a great Broadway show. Few of today's park designers
and owner/operators actually understand this so most new parks are
long on excitement, and short on the rest.
Concept Rendering of the 1st concept for loading
guests onto the Starship Enterprise, a finalist in the 1992
competition to re-vitalize downtown Las Vegas.
Additional information on Gary Goddard and the Goddard Group can be
found at www.garygoddard.com.