Who’s Responsible For Theme Park Leaks?

Let’s talk about leaks baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things – and the bad things that may be. Let’s talk about (theme park) leaks.

This is a topic I’ve wanted to cover for quite awhile. Theme park leaks are something that we dabble in and discuss here at Theme Park University from time to time. It’s part of what makes this industry interesting. The secrecy behind the attractions business is something that we try to break down in nearly every article we write here at Theme Park University.

If your only bubble is the theme park bubble, let me give you some insight. Leaks are a part of nearly every industry that’s an innovator. Looking for articles on the next iPhone or Tesla model? You’ll find literally hundreds of videos and stories. From speculation to news to leaks, they somehow manage to find their way out onto the internet. The attractions business is hardly a unicorn in this respect.

For the theme park biz, there are a lot of ways leaks can come out. For example, there was the time that a casting director for Halloween Horror Nights left a book open of Ghostbusters characters that was being used for reference during a promotional video. Or the time a third-party vendor took pictures of the hallway used for a pepper’s ghost effect in the Ghostbusters attraction before it was announced.

Notoriously, Universal Orlando leaks their own new attractions in advance. Literally every single time a new attraction is soon to be announced in the last few years, they slip up and put it on a web page that wasn’t supposed to go public. Then they pull it. Oftentimes, fans think those theme park leaks are intentional. I assure you, they are not. You don’t leak something “intentionally” and hours later remove it in an “oh crap, how do we handle this” moment. Then do a formal press release the next day with little to no information because you weren’t ready to talk about it. I digress.

Recently, some artwork was uncovered for a Moana meet-and-greet at the Enchanted Tiki Room at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. After doing some research, the artwork was posted to this theme park designer’s portfolio. What? It’s not there, you say? That’s because once a few theme park blogs found the website it was posted at and started reposting it, that designer quickly removed it.

Keep in mind, this particular piece of artwork was not under any kind of password protection. A quick Google search would have made it turn up. Many times, it doesn’t take rocket science to find things if you just take the time and do a little digging. In some cases, having this kind of artwork be made public can hurt not only the designer but their department or design firm they work for and can have a ripple effect throughout the entire industry.

Inevitably when this happens, the finger-pointing begins. Designers often blame news outlets for finding these leaks and sharing them. While I certainly believe that part of the “blame” goes to certain news outlets, I think there is another way to look at this. The best way to assess situations like these is to compare it to a topic everyone can understand: modern plumbing.

Let’s say you’ve got a leak in your house coming from your toilet. You know the smell, you know what it is. In order to stop the leak, at least temporarily, the quickest and most effective way is to isolate where it’s coming from. Sure, pressure from the toilet may have caused breaks in the sewage lines, but you’ve got to address the toilet first. If the toilet keeps getting used, your leak will continue. By the way, if you remove the toilet from the equation, you don’t have stinky leaks in the first place!

Now by no means am I saying that we should remove theme park designers from the equation. Theme parks need designers just as much as humans need a place to “drop the kids off at the pool.” In the case of artwork being leaked on a designer’s open-to-the-public webpage, in this case, they are the source. This happens literally all the time. Designers either get careless or too cocky and put up artwork that is considered to be confidential and make it available so anyone can see. Yet nearly every single time, a theme park website picks up on it, the media is enemy number one?

Here’s a perfect example. To be fair, I’m mentioning Taylor because he is the most recent one to do so. However, without the source of the leak, there would be no leak. For some reason, many theme park designers decide to protect their colleagues, but call out news media for reporting on what they’ve found. Posting a tweet like this is like a siren call to all plumbers. Imagine saying “attention plumbers! There is an awful leak in my house! I know what the smell is and where it is coming from! You may not have access to the bathroom, but those sewer pipes are a nuisance!”

In reality, both the toilet and the plumbing are partially responsible for the leak. Again… no toilet? No leak.

Now I know a lot of theme park designers read Theme Park University and I have a message for all of you: be a designer buddy. Listen, you’ve all seen it. Your friend posts a piece of concept art that you and I and even your seven-year-old nephew know that it was under NDA and not supposed to be made public. Yet, for reasons of gloating or a “slip up”, you see this particular image and think “I don’t think that is supposed to be up there!”

Whether you know that particular designer or not? Reach out to them and ask if they were given permission to share that image. If your gut tells you no, they probably were not allowed to share it.

Now I know that calling out a colleague takes guts and courage. Random bloggers that you probably don’t know are an easier target to shake your fist at. But you can do it. I believe in you.

Now am I shooting myself in the foot by potentially stopping theme park leaks and that’s one less thing for me to discuss on my website? Sure, but don’t you worry about me. I’ll be fine. Your thoughts?

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