Designing theme park rides: An $8M business

A small company designs amusement rides and attractions.

Francois Bergeron, Craig Hanna and As Told to Jason Tanz, FSB Magazine

(FSB Magazine) -- By Francois Bergeron & Craig Hanna

Thinkwell Design & Production, Burbank, Calif.

Co-founders Hanna, Joe Zenas, Bergeron, and Cliff Warner (clockwise from left) in their toy-filled Burbank office.

We design attractions for theme parks, resorts, museums and retail developments. Since our founding six years ago, we've created everything from an indoor ski resort to an Ice Age-themed ride for a German amusement park to a Pussycat Dolls gaming area at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Everything we do is based on a story. For instance, we created a 50,000-square-foot traveling educational attraction based on "Jurassic Park" that sends visitors on a fictional investor-relations tour, where the company behind "Jurassic Park" is trying to convince investors that it's ready to introduce newer, safer dinosaurs to the public.

In the end, of course, everything goes horribly wrong. In the last scene everybody's locked in a box and the power goes out and a T. Rex and spinosaurus come in and have a fight literally over the audience's head. It scares the hell out of everyone.

Before founding Thinkwell, we worked together at Universal Studios' Creative Recreation Group. In 2001, Universal decided to relocate the division from Los Angeles to Orlando, and we felt it was time to look at our options. We said, "We've got a great team together. This is an opportunity for us to diversify."

Last year we were profitable and our revenues rose 60 percent, to $8 million. Now we want to do more projects for ourselves that can become annuities. We developed, with Sesame Workshop, a Sesame Street exhibit (above) that teaches kids how the body works and how to stay healthy.

Thousands of kids have experienced the exhibit in science museums across the country. We're looking for angel investors to help us fund more of these unique projects. We want to take control of our destiny.  Top of page

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