Alumnus creates theme parks around the world
A city where The Avengers burst into action.
The discovery of a lost world.
A place where you can drift down a chocolate river.
These are all theme parks and rides UCF alumnus Joe Schaefer and the creative services firm he works for helped build.
Schaefer, who studied mechanical engineering, started out as a student intern at Falcon’s Creative Group, which specializes in the design and production of themed entertainment.
He is now the technical integration designer for Falcon’s Treehouse division where he creates ideas and concepts and looks over infrastructure.
“The most valuable asset that you can have in a situation is imagination. It’s a problem-solving tool, and it will get you out of situations where you’re not sure you can get out of.” Schaefer said in his lecture as a guest speaker during UCF’s first Themed Entertainment Association club meeting on Feb. 25.
Schaefer works on everything from special projects for venues to theme parks the size of small cities in different countries.
He gave an example of one of his biggest projects—the world’s largest indoor theme park in Dubai.
“When I started about four years ago now, this is what I came into. It was about halfway through design, and I kind of worked with it all the way until it was done, and now it’s being built. This is IMG Worlds of Adventure in Dubai. It’s the world’s largest indoor theme park. The whole park’s indoors in the middle of the desert in Dubai," Schaefer said. "I was out there probably a year ago — it was like 115 degrees. We had to air condition this. So, again, this is where you kind of have to deal with stuff like that. I’ve got a box … sitting out in the sun in the middle of the desert. How the heck to I keep this cool? Out there, what they do is they water cool it. They use liquid cooling for the condensers and actually cool the whole setup."
There are four zones to IMG Worlds of Adventure. One is the Marvel zone, which includes the main superheroes in Spider Man, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and all of The Avengers. There's also the Cartoon Network zone which features characters and themes from kid shows including The Amazing World of Gumball,Adventure Time, The Powerpuff Girls, LazyTown and Ben 10, as well as the The Lost Valley zone where dinosaurs roam around. The other zones have IMAX theaters and retail shops.
“To make an attraction work, you have to have everything right. It’s not just one thing that can make it good … The big thing about a park when you’re dealing with large-scale master planning is, and what I’ve found is, that you can’t have a park with one thing. You can’t pull it off," Schaefer explained.
His company had some aid in creating numerous theme park rides, such as SeaWorld's Turtle Trek and Busch Gardens' The Curse of DarKastle.
Schaefer is one of several guest speakers who will be regularly giving lectures and tips to UCF’s TEA student organization. TEA President Reece Attwood said that UCF's TEA student organization is for students who have an interest in the works of the theme parks and that it was formed because she didn't understand why there wasn't a club already at UCF similar to it considering Orlando has so many theme parks.
“This is the themed entertainment capital of the world, and there really wasn’t a club at UCF, which we didn’t understand why, and so that’s why we decided to start it, because there are a lot of students — I’m sure a lot of you here today came to UCF because you wanted to get involved with Disney, Universal or one of the major parks,” Attwood said.
The organization hopes to bring in speakers from all the major parks who focus on the behind-the-scenes production. The club’s next meeting is set for March 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the mathematical sciences building in room 260.
Veronica Brezina is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org