Are you an aspiring concept designer longing to work in the theme park and immersive design business? Here are some of the top companies in North America with teams and experience that work with A-list theme park, water park, and immersive experiences owners such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Creative, Lego, and more.
It’s a little known fact that very few theme park owners completely design their themed entertainment projects 100% in-house. While many projects may begin internally – pre-Blue Sky – nearly all themed entertainment owners utilize outside design talent to some extent. Even more of a rarity, there are very few themed entertainment owners that have full-time internal design teams.
Why you ask? Given the future and current load of themed entertainment projects globally, it would not be financially feasible for themed entertainment owners to staff up at a level internally, for multiple consecutive years, to perform all the design efforts for their projects 100% internally.
Themed Entertainment owners with internal design teams – such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Creative – and themed entertainment owners with no internal design teams, both utilize and bolster their project Creative teams and efforts with outside, experienced conceptual design companies.
Many of these outside concept design companies were started or are staffed with former Disney Imagineers, former Universal Creative Team Members, and other experts within the themed entertainment industry.
Theme Park Concept Design Companies
Here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of the top concept design companies that focus on themed and immersive design experiences in North America:
Legacy Entertainment is a globally leading entertainment firm focusing on the design and production of Theme Parks, Water Parks, Resorts, Aquariums, and Retail experiences all around the globe. They currently serve as the market leader in key Asian territories such as China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Signature projects within these markets include the Chimelong Marine Science Park, Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park, Sea Shell Aquarium at VinWonder Phu Quoc, Lotte World, Galaxy Macau, and Studio City Macau. Since 2002, Legacy Entertainment has opened over 50 successful projects internationally, and has been the trusted design partner to many of the world’s top entertainment brands including Marvel, Cirque du Soleil, Six Flags, Insomniac, Geely Automotive, Hengdian World Studios, Lotte, CJ and many more. Based in Hollywood, Legacy is a private company owned exclusively by Taylor Jeffs, Eric Carnagey, Barry Kemper, and Marcus King.
The Thinkwell Group began in and is currently headquartered in Los Angeles, California starting out support the theme park design industry. Today, with additional offices in Montreal, Abu Dahbi, and Riyadh, Thinkwell has expanded its creative services to include live entertainment, museums, immersive attractions, and more.
Jack Rouse Associates
Jack Rouse and Amy Merrell started Jack Rouse Associates back in 1987 and quickly became a stand-out team providing experiential design. JRA provides a multitude of services for a host of varying clients such as: conceptual design, master planning, content development, attraction/exhibit planning and design, media production, art direction, project management, and more. JRA has offices Cincinnati, Ohio, New York, and London.
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THG – The Hettema Group
Located in Pasadena, California and founded by Phil Hettema, The Hettema Group has grown over the decades to support and provide design services for some of the most prominent themed entertainment owners and A&E design teams. THG’s services include: Blue Sky ideation, media design, interactive design, special effects, graphic design, master planning, 3D visualization, and more.
Headquartered in Winter Park, Florida and started by two former Walt Disney Imagineers, AOA for years has supported the concept design, production, and project management of various themed entertainment and immersive experiences around the globe. AOA continues to grow to support the neighboring theme park and themed entertainment owners in Orlando, Florida and beyond.
ITEC Entertainment – A TAIT Company
Founded in 1985 in Orlando, Florida, ITEC has been serving the design, project development, and technology needs for the themed entertainment and hospitality industry for decades. In 2021, ITEC was acquired by the global creative group TAIT further bolstering ITEC’s presence and services provided within the overall themed entertainment market segment.
Forrec’s tag line is ‘we create compelling guest experiences’. Forrec, located in Toronto, Canada, provides a multitude of design services and project types including: theme parks, branded experiences, water parks, snow parks, master planning, mixed-use, resorts, and more.
Zeitgeist Design + Production
Ryan Harmon started Zeitgeist Design + Production in 2011 using his previous 20 plus years of creative writing and directing experience in the themed entertainment business. Located in Southern California near the famed movie studios in Hollywood, Zeitgeist operates like a movie production incorporating the talents of former Walt Disney Imagineers and master planners, architects, designers, illustrators, creative directors, and more on a host of theme park and immersive guest experiences all over the world.