Behind The Scenes With Falcon’s Creative Group
Back in April, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s new virtual reality attraction, Battle for Eire, opened to rave reviews. One of the companies behind the attraction was the Orlando-based design firm, Falcon’s Creative Group.
A company that I have seen popping up more and more in the theme park industry recently, I wanted to learn a little bit more about the history of Falcon’s Creative Group, the company behind attractions like Battle For Eire, Turtle Trek at SeaWorld Orlando, and more recently, the Atlantis Sanya Resort in China. Luckily for me, they were able to answer my questions!
C101: For our readers who might not know, tell us a little bit about the history of Falcon’s Creative Group and its mission. How did the company get its beginnings?
Falcon’s Creative Group: Falcon’s Creative Group is a design firm focused on creating immersive experiences. From global entertainment destinations to cutting-edge digital storytelling, to unparalleled themed experiences, our team successfully transforms everyday reality – every day.
Falcon’s Treehouse was founded in 2000 by Cecil Magpuri as a place where he and his team could truly let their imaginations soar. In 2014, Falcon’s Treehouse officially rebranded as Falcon’s Creative Group, the overarching brand which encompasses three divisions: Falcon’s Treehouse, Falcon’s Digital Media, and Falcon’s Licensing. Under the leadership of Cecil, Falcon’s Treehouse has grown from its humble roots as a small design firm based out of Windermere to an internationally recognized firm that has completed projects with companies including Universal Studios, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Lego Group, Hard Rock, Lotte, and Chimelong Group.
C101: Where might our readers have seen Falcon’s Creative Group’s work in action?
FCG: Falcon’s is proud to have a large portfolio of projects all over the world. Some of our most recent projects include; Battle for Eire located at Busch Gardens Williamsburg; the Aquaventure Water Park and The Lost Chamber Aquarium at Atlantis Sanya in China; National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey, located in the heart of New York City; IMG Worlds of Adventure, located in Dubai, and Heroes & Legends attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
Concept Artwork for the Atlantis Sanya Resort
C101: You wear many hats in the industry with all that Falcon’s Creative Group creates. Is your creative process different for different projects? (Ex. When designing a themed restaurant or hospitality area, is it a much different process than creating a media-based attraction, or is it all “attacked” the same way?)
FCG: The creative process flows much the same way for all our projects. We start with developing an over-arching storyline or high-concept and then build on that foundation to mature and refine the thematic style. Our process is very collaborative, allowing for our clients and all aspects of our cross-disciplinary creative team to add value throughout development. At the same time, our project managers help to ensure that the vision can be realized on schedule and on budget. We channel this pragmatism to help inspire innovative creative solutions that not only avoid compromising the design but can actually enhance the final experience. The main difference between various projects are the styles, techniques, and tools that we utilize, but the overall creative process from project to project is very much the same.
C101: What’s the most rewarding thing for Falcon’s Creative Group, as it relates to the theme park industry?
FCG: We love being onsite opening day and seeing guest’s reactions to our experiences. It those moments that make all the hard work completely worth it and pushes us to work harder on the next projects.
C101: What advice would you give to someone looking for a career in the theme park industry?
FCG: Passion, tenacity, and thirst for knowledge. Our best team members are those that are passionate about what they do and are on a never-ending quest to keep learning to skills and technologies.
Author’s note: We were also joined in the interview by Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Vice President of Design and Engineering, Larry Giles, who helped us out with some of the specific Battle for Eire questions we had!
C101: When creating a media-based attraction like Battle For Eire, what was the creative process like? Who held most of the creative power? Was it Falcon’s, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, or some combination of both?
Larry Giles: While Falcon’s Creative produced the media for the attraction, the process for creating the overall ride experience was certainly a collaborative effort among all the teams involved, including the team here at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Dreamcraft Attractions.
C101: Were there any challenges when creating Battle for Eire?
LG: As with any ride, the challenge is making sure we create the optimal experience for our guests. That process can be demanding, but we know we’re working toward creating the best product possible. For this attraction, we were tasked with coordinating an assortment of elements, from the media, headsets, VR technology, hardware, software and the logistics of guest throughput. We were definitely pushing the available technology to provide the best experience for our guests.
C101: After experiencing Battle for Eire, what do you hope the audience takes away from the experience?
LG: We are certain our guests will appreciate how truly unique this attraction is. Riders are transformed to a whole other world through the eyes of our Enchanted Lenses, and the combination of immersive 360-degree virtual reality and the motion simulators creates a phenomenal new experience that has never been done before. You really feel like you’re there in the Otherworld with Addie and her dragon sidekick, Ollie. You’re not just watching the action unfold in front of you. You’re a part of it.
C101: After the success of Battle For Eire, what’s next for Falcon’s Creative Group (that you’re allowed to tell us about)?
FCG: We are excited to announce that The Atlantis Resort Sanya is also recently opened. We were honored to have supplied the designs for the Lost Chambers Aquarium and Water Park. The project turned out great and we are really proud of the team.
C101: At the IAAPA Expo, we briefly were able to experience the Augmented Reality headsets at the Falcon’s Creative booth. Where do you personally see AR’s place in the amusement industry in the future?
FCG: We see AR as another tool in our belt for immersive storytelling. With all technology, the story and experience must come first. AR technology is rapidly evolving, and we see opportunities for it to enhance guest experience rather than replace any existing approaches.
C101: Not to look too far into the future, but with Falcon’s Creative Group being on the forefront of new theme park technologies, is there a new technology that we can expect to appear in theme parks that we might not be thinking of just yet?
FCG: We are working on some exciting things that we can’t release quite yet but as the “Internet of Things” (IoT) expands, we see this affecting the theme park experience in amazing ways.
C101: Our last question, that we ask of all of our interviewees – what’s your favorite roller coaster, at any park, anywhere in the world?
FCG: Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion is a fan favorite at our office.
For more background on Falcon’s Creative Group, be sure to check out the video below, and check out their website: www.falconscreativegroup.com
Thanks to Falcon’s Creative Group, Lauren Bowes of Findsome & Winmore, Larry Giles and Nathan Warters from Busch Gardens Williamsburg for their time and helping facilitate this interview. All Photos and Videos via Falcon’s Creative Group or Coaster101.