Last year, 2013, the trade show of the amusement and entertainment industry took place in Orlando, Florida, from November 18 to 21. It hosted many interesting exhibits, but before going into detail, I would like to make a short introduction of what it was all about.
This expo was the initiative of IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions). Founded in 1918, it is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities and attractions, and it is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the attractions industry. The scale of the show is impressive. A few numbers may give you an idea of its size:
Over 1,098 exhibitors
17,000 attendee buyers
5,500 companies in attendance
Over 525,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space (about 49,000 sq. meters)
Over 100 countries represented
For laypersons I’d like to clarify that IAAPA encompasses only a small part of the entertainment industry. Its business is only amusement parks and similar kinds of public entertainment; these facilities might be as large as Wonderland in Ontario, or a tiny unit, fitting in a backyard or a party room. What I saw in Orlando would be categorized as entertainment for kids. That is not to say that adults wouldn’t enjoy it, however – those who take their kids to Disneyland or other amusement parks will understand what I mean.
Among all exhibitors there was a noticeable presence of Chinese companies. They offered all sorts of products and services, which fit different budgets. For example, Fantawild demonstrated a model of a turn-key amusement park. It can be customized, of course, to any individual specification. Even the model, if you examine it closely, would impress you. First, you would notice large objects, such as lakes, buildings, roads and alleys, and squares. But the closer look reveals a much smaller world: benches, people, umbrellas, and a lot of others. The designers’ attention to detail is astounding. A blend of innovative fantasy, science, technology and new materials made these parks a unique creation of human mind and ingenuity.
Selling such a project is not easy. The cost ranges from a few hundred million dollars to billions. It engages buyers with deep pockets and a good understanding of the amusement business, but the profit is also huge.
The show is evidence of the unprecedented Chinese phenomena: this country, being one of the poorest in the world only thirty years ago, now handles large projects, surpassing capabilities of Western industrialized nations.
A lot of exhibition space was taken by products which I would call ‘inflated world’. These are soft structures, which are inflated by air, and used for different activities. The picture shows an example of them. Three young women jump from the height of a few meters down on a soft, inflated floor. Its design excludes almost any possibility of injury. I could only imagine what a great fun this would be for kids. I wanted to jump as well, but the dress code for admission was a swimsuit. The picture shows what I mean.
The size of inflatable complexes varies from a small facility to humongous outdoor parks. A good representative of these companies is Inflatable Depot. Their parks include water rides, sport games, and many other features, which gain admiration for their work.
No less interesting, though, were smaller inflatable products, which were geared toward small businesses and individual consumers, such as a small house for children of all ages, shown on the right, offered by Princess.
It is 13 ft. wide, 20 ft. deep, and 12 ft. high. This ceiling is high enough even for tall adults. It can be filled up with variety of inflatable items, to satisfy individual needs. In this picture there are imitations of dishwasher, refrigerator, and other appliances and accessories. There is inflatable furniture as well, which is strong enough for use by people of any size. The house provides good protection from any caprice of weather, and could be bought with additions, such as bedrooms, living rooms, game rooms, backyard games, etc.
Since inflatable structures are the safest of all playgrounds, they are good for all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. As such, they can be manufactured for any facility, be it a room in a house, a party room, plaza, restaurant, or a large outdoor amusement park. The variety of items is really astonishing: individual toys such as balls, sticks, or Lego-type assembling pieces, furniture items of all sorts, arches, fenced grounds, games, pools, and many others, which have to be seen to be believed. A good example can be found on this website: http://www.idepotplay.com.
Also interesting are turnkey solutions for small businesses, which operate party rooms and indoor-outdoor playgrounds. Thus, Funlandia produces playgrounds, which could be installed in premises from 5000 sq. feet and up to as big as you can afford. Even at this smaller scale, the limit of features is just your imagination. Houses on different levels, rides, staircases, and whatever humanity has invented for the amusement of kids, is there. But sometimes our imagination is not enough, we have to see it to understand what we want.
The exhibits of animals, extinct and still living, are quite impressive. Real size dinosaurs were unlikely to fit even for ceilings as high as in the exhibition building, so their place was mostly in outdoor grounds. But smaller sized animals were fun. My attention was attracted to a big tiger, which at first I believed was real. The imitation of live tiger movements is a wonder of technology.
Not only its head moves, but so do other parts of its body: its skin, and even the tip of its tail. It exactly imitates the movements of a tiger – and its roar stops you in your tracks.
Entertaining kids nowadays is a serious business, requiring investments, maintenance and associated financial risk. As a consequence, many businesses whose specialty is marketing, administration and financing, were keen to attend the expo. Advertising and promotion companies staged a live show, at which giants with marketing messages performed odd dances. There were companies offering financial services of different sorts, marketing research, etc.
The expo looked like a humongous amusement park, consisting of all the amazing inventions so far. There were large screen electronic games, with graphics that made you believe you were in a different kind of reality: featuring figures of vampires and dead people, which are well-suited for horror rooms, railroads, go carts, and endless list of other items.
In summary, it seemed that the marketers of this industry are sure that they can engage kids and parents alike by wowing them with new and exciting technology, which assures the prosperity of this industry.