I am in Orlando this week for the theme park industry’s largest annual convention, the IAAPA Attractions Expo. This is the place where the world’s theme and amusement park leaders come to look over and buy everything from roller coasters to plush toys that they will bring to their parks in the years to come.
It’s also the place where industry observers like me get to see what boundaries the industry will be blurring next. The theme park industry long has led the entertainment industry in mashing up different forms of entertainment to create something new. From Disney blending robotics with animation to create Audio Animatronics, to chains such as Six Flags putting virtual reality headsets on people riding roller coasters, this business is the place where entertainment becomes “real” – functioning not on a screen, a page, or a stage, but in a physical space where people can walk around and ride stuff.
The theme park industry might have kicked off the convergence revolution in entertainment, but that trend is hardly contained to theme parks any longer. What exactly is the difference between movies, TV shows, and online video anymore? Directors of photography use the same cameras, and editors use the same software tools, for all three media these days. Netflix and Amazon pay to create more TV shows and movies than some traditional studios do. An industry insider recently told me that he wonders when the Oscars will take over the Emmys, or vice versa. The lines defining media are disappearing.
Last week, I visited the Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream in Port Canaveral to watch the premiere of the new stage version of “Beauty and the Beast” that is playing the ship. It’s a 70-minute stage musical that compares favorably with the live version of “Frozen” that’s been playing at Disney California Adventure and the production of “Aladdin” that preceded that. Forget about having to going to New York or a big-city theater to see a…