At the start of 2018 I had a call from my friend Bob Chambers, Founder and Co-CEO of The Producers Group (TPG), a premier provider of production and design services for destination attractions worldwide. TPG specializes in turnkey attractions, production management, technical design, and content development for everything from small projects to entire theme parks. TPG is a Go-To resource in the attractions industry and Bob, well he’s become a Go-To friend and colleague.
Bob had called to invite me to a meeting with some talented industry people:
• Geoff Thatcher – Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Creative Principals and a brilliant thinker, writer, and creative director. Recent projects of Geoff include the grand opening of Warner Brothers World Abu Dhabi, a traveling exhibition for the King Abdullah Foundation in Saudi Arabia, a new lobby experience for Palo Alto Networks and new concepts for the executive briefing program at Dell Technologies.
• Ty Granaroli – Principal of Granaroli Design & Entertainment(GDE) which designs, develops, manages and produces immersive themed entertainment projects worldwide including indoor/outdoor theme parks, themed entertainment centers, stand-alone attractions, live and 4D shows, corporate visitor centers and Retail Dining & Entertainment (RD&E) zones.
• Vlad Perelman – Managing Director of GDE and global business development executive with over 15 years of experience launching multimillion-dollar location-based entertainment and lifestyle projects including theme parks, restaurants, hotels and casinos. Vlad has a proven track record of building programs from concept to execution, cultivating strong working relationships with stakeholders at all levels along the way.
We met at GDE’s offices in Sherman Oaks. It was a welcoming group and I was excited to be in such company. Bob, Geoff, Ty and Vlad had wanted to talk about an idea for an app in its early stages and something that was close to home. Geoff introduced the idea, something that he had been thinking about – an app where you could find “design day” formulas for your attraction project that became another tool in your tool belt for planners, designers, creatives and operators.
Of course, my dad Buzz Price pioneered the industry and wrote about these formulas in his book Walt’s Revolution by the Numbers! And while the math and formulas continue to be tweaked, the principles and philosophies were all pioneered by Buzz Price.
And there’s nothing secret about these formulas even though there seems to be a mystery around them:
Expected annual attendance: ____________
Peak Month: 21.25% of expected annual attendance = ___________
Peak Week: Divide Peak Month by 4.3 (the average number of weeks per month) = _______________
Peak Day: 25% of peak week = _______________
Design Day: 18.5% of your peak week = ____________
Peak On-Site: Design Day _______ x .75 =
Square Footage/Meters: ______________
There are no doubt hundreds of consultants who have these formulas plugged into Excel sheets and tucked away in folders. What was being proposed by the group was a fun way to democratize roller coaster math by putting these formulas into the hands of anyone willing to download an app. Create an app on IOS and Android that features a simple name with a brand exemplified by Buzz Price’s iconic glasses. We call it “ASK BUZZ” and V1.0 keeps the math simple and focuses on design day while allowing people to answer a few simple questions and plug in desired attendance.
Links could allow people to select “indoors” or “outdoors” with a unique mathematical formula tied to each. If it’s indoor, Buzz will want to know if we are talking about a Museum or an entertainment attraction. Of course, we could offer other options…
The conversation turned to my interest which certainly had been sparked and the need to inject Buzz’s vernacular, brand and personality into the app. It awakened in me an interest to write about my dad and which was to become Buzz Stories at Thirty Thousand Feet. Part memoir, part consulting primer, and part love story, Buzz Stories at Thirty Thousand Feet contains stories written by those with whom he shared his intelligence, humor, passion and wit.
In fact, the book came quickly. I hadn’t taken the time to write about my dad since his passing in August 2010 or so I thought. I had on the other hand started writing about my own life, my career, my 43+ year marriage to my wife Alicia and our grownup children. I called the book Stories from Home & Beyond.
I found the whole writing process stimulating, reflective and fulfilling. Maybe my pull towards writing was part of getting older, when you start taking an assessment, a measure of one’s life. What struck me was how much my father was woven into my own story and his impact on the trajectory of my life. Dad’s influence and presence was pervasive even when I thought my independent spirit was taking me elsewhere, away to school, overseas, into the world of architecture and my own career. What emerged was an awareness that my writings had become in a sense a letter to my father.
I realized that I had already started writing about Buzz. Some of my recent writings which had only been intended for me, my children and close friends, laid the groundwork for what was to became Buzz Stories at Thirty Thousand Feet.
While industry practitioners could benefit from adding the Ask Buzz App to their tool kit, it’s important to remember what Buzz clearly understood. “While using valid numbers to project performance is rational”, we still need to channel our utmost alchemist strengths, drawing from our talent and collective experiences and demonstrated good sense and hard work. But no doubt about it, Dad would understand and value an app that helps us to read by the numbers.
Buzz Stories tries to capture some of the energy and creative wit (“Buzz-isms”) by which Dad is remembered. Part of Buzz’s charm was his ability to cut through the noise by speaking with colorful word choices to deliver a timely and necessary point. Some Buzz-isms were delivered face to face in the theater of experience.
I also recognized that I was not alone with Buzz Stories. My career had introduced me to remarkable friends and colleagues that had worked closely with Buzz and who had their own stories to tell. I found myself uniquely positioned to ask them to share their stories too which they gladly did. As their stories returned to me, the book emerged.
And that’s how Buzz Stories came to be. The spark started with a phone call from my friend Bob Chambers at The Producers Group. Thank you, Bob!
And yes, the Ask Buzz App remains the next challenge. Thank you – Geoff, Ty, Vlad and Bob. I think we have a heck of an idea. Ask Buzz!