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Think You're Good, um, WELL Enough to Design Theme Park Attractions?

California's Thinkwell Design and Production is looking for a few good recruits


Think You're Good, um, WELL Enough to Design Theme Park Attractions?

Thinkwell is designing the MGM Movie Resort in South Korea.

Thinkwell Design and Production
Updated October 03, 2007
Visitors to my About.com Theme Parks site often ask me for advice about breaking into this fascinating industry. After all, there are no college degree programs in park design. So how can aspiring Imagineers get the info and experience they need to jump-start a career?

That's why I was especially intrigued by an email I received the other day. Instead of looking for a way into the industry, Craig Hanna, principal and chief creative officer of Thinkwell Design and Production, wrote to say that he's looking for a few good folks who want to join the industry. His California firm, which is growing and involved in a number of high-profile projects, is ready to hire new team members. If you have a passion for parks, have always wanted to be a part of the attraction-conjuring magic, and have some related skills (although passion just might trump experience), Hanna wants to hear from you.

I spoke with Hanna about Thinkwell and his staffing needs. Here are some highlights culled from our discussion:

About Thinkwell Design & Production

Based in Burbank, CA, Thinkwell began in 2001 when four members who had worked together on the creative team for Universal Studios parks formed the company. Hanna describes what they do as creating "content-driven guest experiences" or alternately, "location-based entertainment experiences." That's industry-speak for rides and attractions, as well as shows, events, exhibits, and other cool stuff. Hanna says Thinkwell handles everything from design through implementation. While the company's clients have included parks such as PortAventura in Spain and Universal Studios in Florida, it has also produced park-like projects for museums, casino resorts, and other entertainment and retail destinations.

Projects have included:

  • Ice Age Adventure
    An indoor water dark ride based on the hit computer-animated film at Movie Park in Germany
  • MagiQuest
    An immersive, interactive play experience in Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Snow Park at Ski Dubai
    The world's first indoor ski resort, located in the middle of the United Arab Emirates desert
  • Furius Baco
    A highly themed launched coaster (Europe's fastest) at PortAventura in Spain

Why is Thinkwell seeking new staff?

In under a year, the company has gone from 30 to 55 employees. To accommodate upcoming and anticipated projects, Hanna expects to hire another 30 staff members over the next three to six months. Among the projects on deck are the ambitious (if controversial) makeover of Coney Island, an indoor entertainment complex for MGM (the film studio, not the casino) in South Korea, and a few major, as yet unannounced, projects in Dubai.

What types of positions are available?

Hanna says that Thinkwell is looking for both interns and entry-level staff members, particularly for its creative group. He stresses that new hires will be able to really get their feet wet. "We're small enough and interested enough in nurturing talent to allow new staff members to experience and participate in the entire process."

What are the qualifications?

The business can be approached from many angles, Hanna says, including (but not limited to) architecture, industrial design, engineering, theater, illustration, filmmaking, and finance. Many of the team members at Thinkwell have backgrounds in animation and video game design. In addition to their theme park gigs, Thinkwell's principals have played key roles in Cirque du Soleil, entertainment extravaganzas such as Superbowl halftime shows, and large-format films.

According to Hanna, however, the single greatest attribute a candidate must possess is a love of the industry. "We want to reach out to people who are passionate about the business," he says. "They must have genuine talent, but we can direct and mold new hires who don't have direct experience." Hanna adds that he's looking for people who are "students of the genre"--park fans who have an innate understanding of great storytelling and what makes attractions work.

How do I apply?

Pull together a resume and cover letter along with a writing sample and/or some pdf files that feature some sample portfolio pieces, and email them to: jobs@thinkwelldesign.com. Hanna promises that all serious inquiries will be taken seriously, and that the company will respond. For more information about the firm, go to the Thinkwell Design & Production Web site.

If you decide to go for it, be sure to let the folks at Thinkwell know that you read this article at the About.com Theme Parks site. And when you design the next mega attraction, be sure to give me the exclusive! I wish you and Thinkwell the best of luck.

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