A few months back, I stumbled upon a site called Blooloop. The basis of what they do is help professionals from the attraction industries network, and provide a place to post updates, job listings, and more. This year, they have announced a list titled the "Blooloop 50 Theme Park Influencer List" to celebrate the fifty most historic and influential people ever in the attractions industry.
Included on the list will be various different innovators such as executives, entrepreneurs, engineers, investors, and many others who have impacted the modern day themed entertainment industry. Nominations can be made until February 28th, and judges will then determine who will be included in the final selections.
I personally endorse this program, as it is extremely unique, and gives those who have helped build this industry to what it is today the proper recognition that they deserve.
Anybody is eligible to submit a nomination to the website, as long as they provide some basic contact info, and a short 500 word essay describing why the individual deserves to be part of the top 50.
You can visit the webpage here: Link
Below, I will list my personal top 5 individuals that I believe deserve to be honored on the list. Keep in mind that this is only a top five list. If I were to list all of the individuals that I believe should be included, it would take hours to write, and would likely be near the number of fifty regardless.
1. Walt Disney
Who else could possibly top the man behind the largest theme park corporation in the world? Walt Disney got his inspiration for Disneyland after taking his daughters to a small amusement park, where he felt the rides were unsafe and looked cheap. Already a major name in film production, and widely known for his animation skills, he set out to design his own, gigantic yet beautiful park which would open in 1955. Although he was not alive to see it, his company would soar to top the industry in attendance, as well as construct 5 more resorts worldwide. As of 2016, Disney Parks admitted a total of over 140 million guests in just that year.
2. Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon
Yes, you may say that it isn't fair to list two people together. However, these men were the masterminds behind the creation of Arrow Development, the first "big name" in the modern age of amusement ride and roller coaster manufacturers. Starting in 1946, Morgan and Bacon opened Arrow in a small auto shop in California. Soon, they would be contracted by Walt Disney himself to help design new rides for Disneyland. Some of their most well known ride systems include Dumbo, Mad Tea Party, Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World, Haunted Mansion, and the first steel tubular track roller coaster ever, Matterhorn Bobsleds among many others. As well as working with Disney, Arrow has created some of the most common types of amusement park rides enjoyed by millions, like the log flume, corkscrew coaster, mine train, and suspended roller coaster.
3. Werner Stengel
Werner Stengel began his own engineering and design firm working alongside German roller coaster manufacturer Anton Schwarzkopf. Together, they were able to design the world's first modern vertical looping roller coaster, Revolution at Magic Mountain. Other ride manufacturers took notice of Stengel's ability, leading to him designing or consulting on the engineering of over 600 roller coasters. Stengel's company is still very active today, and have accomplished many records such as designing roller coasters over 400 feet tall. Around three-quarters of the top fifty roller coasters according to the Golden Ticket Awards are associated with Stengel's company.
4. Marty Sklar
Walt Disney Imagineering has been home to a plethora of different designers, creative minds, and engineers who have constructed Disney's world famous parks and attractions. Marty Sklar worked as a President, Chairman, Creative Executive, and VP of planning and development among many other roles for 53 years. One of the longest tenured Imagineers of all time, Marty developed attractions for the 1964 World's Fair, attractions such as Small World and Tiki Room, and would go on to help the creative design of EPCOT. Along with these feats, Sklar oversaw the design and construction of future resorts in Florida, Tokyo, California, Hong Kong, and Paris. Sklar truly was one of the company's leaders behind Walt, and helped the Disney product grow to new markets and test brand new, innovative, and unique attractions.
5. Dick Kinzel
This was the toughest, and possibly most controversial choice of my list. I feel like it's appropriate to look at Kinzel's accomplishments as a whole, rather than some of the business decisions that the public may view as a sore thumb. Kinzel started out at the very bottom, and soon found himself as the General Manager of Valleyfair, VP of Cedar Point, and President and CEO of Cedar Fair. Over his career of nearly 40 years, Kinzel was responsible for development of new attractions and the purchase of new properties. Dick would not be afraid to try the latest and greatest technology in roller coasters over his tenure, and is unofficially credited with beginning the "coaster wars" of the 1990s. Some of his greatest accomplishments include constructing the first steel roller coasters over 200, 300, and 400 feet tall and world records in length and height for other models. In 2006, he made a bombshell move for the company by purchasing the Paramount Parks chain for a total of 1.24 billion dollars. Without Kinzel's leadership, Cedar Fair's portfolio would look nothing like it does today.