Hello, my fellow WOE Friends!
I hope you're doing well and enjoying the WOE Short Story; Welcome to the Neighborhood. The conclusion is this Friday!
I have included a new picture released by the WOE HR Department on Tuesday.
I also added the Universal Studios and IOA pictures I took on January 19, to the web page; Peter's Pic's. I may be adding more from my neighborhood walks I take in a neighborhood next to the WOE Property. I enjoy seeing other neighborhoods and will often take a golf cart to nearby neighborhoods to get my morning walks.
Tell me what your favorite picture is from the State Fair or Universal.
This weeks interview is with Roger, the Director of Systems Engineering at the WOE. I interviewed him last year, on my vacation there. The Systems Engineering Department is the equivalent to Disney's Imagineering or Universal's Creative Departments. They are world renowned for their quality and over the top attractions and rides. It tells a narrative of how theme and amusement parks should be run. It is found in Chapter 15, of the World of Entopia - The Story.
A quick side note; You may be wondering why I am pulling these interviews from the Story. Well, I know the story is long and it was my first. So, it may not be my best. However, it is a great story because it explains what happened to Jennifer and how I got to this position. So before I get to more exciting interviews with guests and other employees, I thought it would be great to give you a nice overview beforehand, on what the World of Entopia is all about. Then, if you choose not to read the Story, you will still know all the good this place does and how special it is.
Anyone can tell a short story, but these stories are from a special place and most often happen for a special reason; It has changed the lives of many, many people! Keep reading, my Friends!
I hope you enjoy my interview with Roger.
I just finished up my interview with Mark, when I ran into Roger.
“Hi, Peter. It’s nice to meet you. How are the interviews going?” asked Roger.
“Great, I’m learning so much about how the WOE works,” I said.
“Well, that’s great! If you’d like, I can show you our department and what we do in engineering,” he offered.
“Roger is the Director of Systems Engineering. This is the engineering behind all the rides, attractions and shows.” Mark told me.
“I’d love that!” I replied.
“Okay, then follow me, and I’ll tell you what we do here.”
I thanked Mark for all his time and information and walked away with Roger. Systems Engineering is world–renowned for their designs, creativity, and top of the line maintenance. The attractions they’ve created are “masterpieces,” and I’ve never heard of a ride breaking down and stranding guests. Their reputation is stellar, and they are considered to be the bell weather of the entertainment industry.
Luckily, Roger was going to lunch. So, I was going to get a bite to eat now as well. We walked mid-way through the State Fair, went in-between these two rides and came to a 40’ high dividing wall behind the rides. After gaining access, we walked through and into a large “alley” of sorts, that was between the other row of rides on the other side.
“Wow, this is really clever,” I said to Roger, “I never knew this was here.”
“We have two of these maintenance alleys. Each one is the length of the midway and 30 feet wide. Each one also has two freight elevators that allow us to bring equipment form our work area below to the main floor.”
“You have another level?” I asked.
“Yes, almost a complete level under us. There is about 80% as much space as what you see here, underneath us. The other 20% is for support. Each section has a percentage of work and storage space underneath, but this is the largest. We also have several tunnels that lead to the outside of the Complex that allows us to bring in supplies and equipment. The tunnels lead to the two warehouses, about 1,200 feet away. The warehouses thoroughly check everything that comes into them, before they can be delivered to the main Complex, hotels or the Villages.”
“I assume that’s for security reasons.”
“Yes, sir. Everything gets sniffed by our dogs, searched, and scanned by our proprietary systems. There isn’t an item that gets in here or the hotels without being examined. We have two separate warehouses, in case one must be taken offline for security reasons. Also, every delivery truck that enters our secured area must be pre-approved, and each driver is registered and needs to be finger scanned before coming in. We also have some of our top security agents who follow the flow of goods from manufacturing to delivery here. We know the origin and source of every item that is delivered here and follow its chain of progress very carefully.”
“Do you think a bomb could ever be brought in with the food or that the food could ever be poisoned?”
“Anything is possible nowadays. If a product was brought right to the restaurant and exploded… WOW! That could be devastating. We take every precaution we can. We 'spot examine' everything and have proprietary tests to check for almost anything.”
We took the stairs to go below the maintenance alley and into the storage and work area. This area is called the “underground.” There was a vast area of free space, surrounded by racks and racks of parts, supplies, and electronics. Forklifts roamed around moving items from one place to another. As we walked along, Roger pointed out different office areas that are used to support their department.
“We have everything here Peter: Research, design, manufacturing, machine shops, labs, studios; you name it. We have over 300 people in our department. Everything from: Electrical, mechanical, computer, software engineers, architects, electricians, and sound engineers; just to name a few. We do everything in-house, from designing: Concert lighting, shows, thrill rides, attractions, and Zipvators. We provide full production, installation, and maintenance. This keeps our costs down and allows us to move much more quickly. It also allows us to have better quality control, as we know how everything is built and constructed,” Roger explained.
We entered one of the employee breakrooms, and Roger offered me a sandwich from the oversized, clear refrigerator that was full of them as well as fruit, yogurts, and other items. All of it free. I grabbed a sandwich, an apple, and a drink and we sat down.
“You all have a reputation for never having a ride break down. How do you accomplish that?” I asked.
“Preventative maintenance, that’s how. We don't fix things, we replace them before they need to be fixed. We have a backup motor for every ride here. As soon as any part or piece or motor reaches a ‘half-life,’ it is replaced,” Roger told me.
“So, you replace a motor before it gets past half it’s expected life?”
“Yes, we have a meticulous log of every ride and attraction. Each has a maintenance history of every part of the ride or attraction. As the date approaches for replacement, a new part is manufactured, or a motor is already waiting to replace it. Almost all our parts are made here in our shops, and once a motor is taken out of a ride or attraction, it is completely rebuilt, or a new one is made. We inspect every ride and attraction visually twice a day and use our proprietary computer software for hourly inspections, made every hour, of every day. Our Pulse Computers are continuously monitoring millions of sensors throughout the Complex. Any slight indication of an anomaly and a technician will receive a call to look into the diagnostics. Long before anything was to reach a failure point, we have been on it for some time and can continue to monitor or intervein. Guests come from all over the world to be here and they look forward to riding the rides and attractions. They don't want to come and have a ride or attraction break down while they’re on it or have it down for maintenance."
"There have been some big headlines lately about roller coasters and other rides stranding guests for hours or rides breaking and injuring or killing guests,” I told him.
“That, all of that, is completely unacceptable and avoidable. Many of these instances are due to a lack of routine and proper maintenance. Either they can't afford it or are cutting back to pad their bottom line. You don't expect a new car to break down on you, but if you don't properly maintain it as it gets older, you will have breakdowns; and they’ll happen more and more as the motor and car get older. If a car’s life expectancy is a good 100,000 miles before problems start, we would have already replaced the engine, air conditioning, transmission, power steering and all the other mechanical parts at 50,000 miles. It would be like having a new car. All the seats in the car and the accessories would also have been replaced.”
“Another reason is many theme parks or amusement parks have their rides built by outside companies. When one gets stopped or breaks, they only know a few techniques to get it up and running again. In many cases, the software freezes up, and they must ‘reboot’ it.”
“I’ve seen people stranded and the park doesn't even communicate to guests about what’s going on,” I added.
“Right. That’s just not having any real plan in place and/or a lack of well-trained personnel to handle a situation like that. Any ride or attraction that you have, you should have the ability to get those guests off within minutes, not hours. If you can't, then you shouldn’t be running it. Our most intense ride/attraction is Galactic War, in the Dark Room. It reaches speeds of almost 200 miles per hour and a height of almost 200 feet. We have a technician stationed at the top of the track, on a platform, just in case something were to happen. He or she continually monitors and can speak directly to the vehicle if need be. Almost all our rides and attractions have emergency buttons on them in case a guest senses a mechanical problem or experiences a medical situation. The alarm goes to the ride operator and the Ride Command Center. That’s where we are heading next.”
As Roger said this, we went to an elevator which took us up to the top of the building where Steven C. and the rest of them work. We went through a secured area and boom! There is this room which looked like a TV control booth. Monitors and computers were everywhere. The room was circular, with viewing windows overlooking the State Fair on one side and the Dark Room on the other.
As we walked into the middle of the room, the Command Operators, as he called them, were all watching the monitors and computers against the windows and consoles. A glass partition in the middle of the room separated us from them so we could talk without disturbing them.
“This is the nerve center. We call this the Ride Command Center. We receive all information here, just as the ride operators do. And we can control every ride and attraction here as well. If an operator were to go down or a malfunction was to occur, we can take over from here. We have a Rapid Response Team or RAT that can respond within minutes of any trouble. We also have EMT’s and paramedics throughout the Complex in case there’s ever an emergency.”
“What if a fire were to break out?” I asked.
We have water sprinklers that cover every inch of human occupancy on the property. We have two-hundred fire hose compartments throughout the property that can reach anywhere, and we have a full-time fire and hazmat team trained and ready 24/7, right here on property. Many of the firemen are also EMT’s and Paramedics, so they are working the clinics.”
“What is a fire breaks out in Metamorphoses, would you still douse it with water from the sprinkler heads? I asked.
“Absolutely! We will drench everything if need be. Equipment can be fixed and repaired. A person lost cannot. We know our priority lies with our guests and employees first, property second.”
“You guys have thought of everything,” I said.
“We try. But the maintenance performed should prevent anything from breaking or catching fire. If it does, there would be a lot of explaining to do.”
“What about doing major upgrades or refurbishments on attractions?”
“All of this is done at night or, in the case of the larger attractions, during the day, while the attraction is still operating. We build in ‘extra’ parts of our attractions that are integrated into the attractions’ show. We can take an entire section of an attraction offline, while the guests travel through the other part, not even noticing it.” Roger said.
“Isn't that more expensive? I mean, you’re building more than you need, right?” I questioned.
“Yes, it is more expensive. In some cases, we are building another half of an attraction. But we don't have to take the attraction down for ‘refurbishment,’ and that makes our guests very happy. If we don’t have an ‘extra section’ the attraction can use, then we must do the work at night or a little at a time during the day. Our department is open 24 hours a day."
“Please tell me about your Sight and Sound Division.”
“Sure, let’s go back to the Underground and take a ride to the Hologram Theater.”
As we headed back down to the Underground; the floor under the main floor, Roger told me about the division called Sight and Sound. They are part of the Systems Engineering Department.
“We have over 60 people that design our lights and special effects, as well as program and operate them. We design and build our own lighting, speakers, and lasers, in-house. We hold over 300 patents on special effect lighting and lasers, particularly holograms. All video lighting, sound, and effects come through this division. Our Pyro team takes care of all the flash pots, flames, fireworks, and explosions. You’ll see them with the bright, iridescent polo shirts with ‘PYRO’ on the back of them.”
As we took an electric cart and drove through the underground to where the Hologram Theater is, we passed a warehouse section called, ‘The Holiday House.’ Mark said to me that that’s where they store all the Halloween and Christmas Props. “To many of our employees and guests, that warehouse holds a lot of fond memories and fun,” Mark said.
“Is that where you store the Halloween props for Evening in Terror? I asked.
“Yes, it is. The Halloween props are brought up to the State Fair alleys, and when the State Fair closes, we bring the props out onto the floor. It takes us about thirty minutes to set everything up. When the guest comes back for the event, the lights are mostly all out, except for the ambient lighting to make everything look eerie.”
“I believe you also have someone playing spooky music on the organ, complete with fog and fire effects? I asked.
“Yes, your right. The organist is playing about fifty feet above the ground. We use dry ice to cover the floor with a white fog and haze generators to make the lighting stand out."
Halloween and Christmas are top-rated events at the WOE. At Christmas, a giant Christmas tree is erected in the front of the State Fair and is illuminated in thousands of colors and changes lighting patterns throughout the day and night. During the evening, there is a magical Christmas show that takes place. After, the lights on the midway all change to Red and Green.
As we arrived at The Hologram Theater, we came to a staff only door and went inside.
“This is the belly of the Hologram Theater,” Mark told me.
All I could see was a mechanical web of steel arms and platforms with lights and screens on them. A show was going on at this time. We stood and watched for a few minutes. You could see different arms of lights move up and lower down below the main floor of the Theater. We then went back out and upstairs to the control room of the Hologram Theater.
“This is where the ‘brains’ of the Hologram Theater are Peter.”
We walked along this hallway, and I watched several employees watching computer screens and control boards through the windows. It looked like a mini NASA Control Room.
“The Hologram Theater is run by twenty-five separate computers and has a full backup system for all of them. In the worst case that both show systems go down, we can perform the show from this control room manually. That’s why these employees are here. This show will go on, just like every other show, no matter what."
This is the playroom for the Sight and Sound Division. New lighting, video, and effects are all tested here, before being installed in Metamorphoses or the Harmony Theater,” Roger explained.
We then headed back to the information desk, next to the World Stage. I could tell that Roger was almost done with his tour. As I thanked him, he told me how much pride he has in the work they do here.
“Many of the engineers and skilled workers get solicitations from other theme and amusement parks and ride manufacturers all the time. They know the talent we have here, and they want to hire them away,” said Roger.
“Are they successful?”
“No, they’re not. I think we have lost two employees for about a month each. Then they came back because they missed being here and love what they do here. We are constantly creating new shows, upgrading our attractions and have a desire to continue to, ‘blow our guest’s minds’ with what we can do. We strive to always deliver the best entertainment in the world and never let our guests down. In most cases, if we can dream it, we can build it. We are not limited by budgetary constraints. Our people know they are the best in the industry and absolutely love what they do and where they do it at.”
Thanks for reading! Until next time,