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Why isn’t there a theme park talent database? – DePaoli on DeParks

by Jeff DePaoli

If you want to research the talented folks who worked on your favorite movie or television show, you can simply visit the Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDB. There, you can find the actors, producers, composers, directors, and myriad of other talented folks that it takes to create your favorite media. If you’re more of a theater fan, you can check the Internet Broadway Database to search for the people creating Broadway shows. But what if you want to look up those who created your favorite theme park attractions? Where would you go? Most likely Google, because, unfortunately, a centralized credits database doesn’t exist for the themed entertainment community.

Theme park

The talent behind the creation of theme park attractions is kept fairly secret. Sure, we’ll see some of the lead people involved in the creation of attractions on some documentary or social media footage that the companies decide to release. But for the most part, there’s no way to learn about the hundreds, if not thousands of people who work so hard to create our favorite experiences. I think a big part of the reason why we don’t see a database is simply because the large corporations creating these attractions don’t want to publicly admit how much of their content is outsourced to outside companies and talents.

One of the leaders in the theme park community is The Walt Disney Company. Back when Walt Disney created WED Enterprises (now known as Walt Disney Imagineering), this immersive theme park industry was brand new. Therefore, there was nowhere to outsource the work. Everything needed to be created in-house and every hand that created an attraction was a Disney employee. Times have changed considerably and now a lot of the work to create an attraction is outsourced.

We all think of the early days when WED Enterprises began making Audio-Animatronic figures. A lot of folks might still believe that that’s how it’s done, but the reality is that a lot of these convincing figures are outsourced to a company like Garner Holt Productions. If there were a theme park credits database, the theme parks would essentially need to admit that it’s not all done the way the general public may imagine. I don’t believe this is a good reason not to have the database, but I do think it’s a large reason for why it doesn’t exist.

I’ve been wanting a resource like this for years. Even as a kid, visiting and obsessing over theme parks, I’d always wished for a place to go and learn more about my favorite attractions. The closest I can remember seeing any sort of credit given was in the gift shop exiting Terminator 2: 3-D at Universal Studios Florida. I have a vague memory of leaving the attraction and seeing a small sign posted giving credit to James Cameron and a couple of other people for the creation of the attraction — but obviously, there were a lot more people involved.

If you’re not familiar with a company called Meow Wolf, they create immersive and interactive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration. Interestingly (and gratefully) they give credit to the artists who work on their various projects on their website. They come right out and state:

Meow Wolf works with a variety of individual artists and artist teams to design, build and share unforgettable immersive and interactive experiences. Artists of all disciplines including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, virtual and augmented reality, lighting, music and audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming, performance, and more, have created one-of-a-kind installations and pieces that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration.

I personally think it is very cool of them to have this statement on their website along with a full list crediting the artists involved. I would love to see the more mainstream theme parks adopt a similar strategy. But even more so, I would love to see a single resource (like an IMDB) with all of those credits. May I propose the Internet Themed Entertainment Database? It feels like a great way to archive themed entertainment history without having to rummage through individual company archives, and also, it simply feels like the right thing to do as far as giving credit where it is due.

What do you think? Would you like to see a resource like this exist, or do you not really care who is creating these attractions? If a database like this did exist, what would be the first attraction you would look up? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.


Jeff depaoli

Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.

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6 comments

Ron Kawaguchi December 25, 2021 - 12:08 am

Great idea that a lot of us had been wanting to do for years. Unfortunately only a few of the people who work on the attractions are ever credited, and rarely are any of the technical people such as the engineers and technicians who make the magic that enables the story. It would be a great idea to give everyone credit but I’m sure there are some legal hurtles in doing so.

Reply
Jeff DePaoli December 29, 2021 - 12:29 pm

I’m sure that non-disclosure agreements are a big part of the problem, but I would love to see this changed in the future. After the project is completed, I wish that NDAs were expired.

Reply
Tammie Richards December 27, 2021 - 2:14 pm

Try browsing the member database at teaconnect.org for support!

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Jeff DePaoli December 29, 2021 - 12:29 pm

Thanks for the tip.

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Madison January 7, 2022 - 9:03 am

It’s seldom that we are individually recognized for our efforts and the role everyone played in the making of the magic. My personal reward is seeing all of the park/museum guests interact and their excitement over the experience. I’ve had the privilege to give credit for every individual involved on an element that was being written about in a magazine. The artists seeing their name once the magazine was published was a whole new feeling of appreciation for the process. I would love to support a database that offers this service.

Reply
Jeff DePaoli January 7, 2022 - 2:10 pm

Hopefully we’ll see more companies adopt this practice.

Reply

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