Meet the mastermind behind the modern-day theme park and go behind the scenes in Universal's new Diagon Alley.
Coup moved from France to Hollywood and lived out of a car while getting his start in the entertainment industry. Today, he leads the creative development for Universal Parks and Resorts world-wide. Since joining the team 10 years ago, he has opened high-tech attractions like Spider-Man and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, revolutionizing the modern-day theme park.
How did you make the transition from film to theme parks? I worked my way up as a set builder and doing model making and visual effects on "Flight of the Navigator," "Gremlins," "Dick Tracy" and "Total Recall." Walt Disney Imagineering had seen my work and wanted me to be part of their creative team. I ended up falling in love with the theme-park business. A lot of it is similar to film but it lasts a lot longer. You can actually touch and feel it, and it appeals more to the senses. It takes the film to a whole new level.
How did you join Universal? I was working on a big project in Japan, and Universal called me about Islands of Adventure. It was an opportunity to create something awesome from the very beginning. I was art director for [Marvel] and focused a lot on Spider-Man. It broke new grounds on many levels. I had to create a patent to change the perspective of the 3-D film as guests moved through it. Otherwise we never would have been able to do it.
What drives you? For me it’s about pushing the envelope and making our guests dream, to create these memories and insert them in their favorite world, with their favorite characters they could never even dream of before and that requires pushing the technology. It needs to be invisible to them but allows them to expand the way they are experiencing it. It’s the best job in the world.
What is the reaction of Diagon Alley so far? Harry Potter is a phenomenon worldwide. We set the bar high with Hogsmeade in 2010, and we created the immersion to a whole new level and achieved it. For Diagon Alley we wanted to raise the bar one more time. As creators, when we go back, it takes your breath away, even when you’re familiar with every detail. You’re taken in that story; it makes you forget everything outside. It fuels our desire to do the next best thing.
What was it like working with JK Rowling? She’s such a source of creativity. In 2010 when she came to see the finished product, there was nothing more rewarding than to see her reaction. She changed the world with the stories of Harry Potter, and it was a natural next step: the books, the films and now the world that we created that’s as real as you can imagine. We can place the audience right inside the 3-D story. We go to the source and work with the authors and the creators. It’s the best way to make sure we deliver on the authenticity to our guests and our fans who are so into every detail. We owe it to them and to ourselves.
The new Diagon Alley