Thierry Coup

Where Orlando - - Contents -

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


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