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Founder and CEO of Goddard Group Gary Goddard is a sort of modern-day Renaissance man, a person with experience as a Broadway producer, screenwriter, playwright, designer and architect. The Goddard Group is behind some of the most massive and imaginative resorts, retail centers and theme parks around the world, including Universal Studios, Six Flags, Lotte World and Galaxy Macau.
His latest masterpiece is the Hollywood-themed Studio City Macau, an attraction which boasts 1,600 rooms, the 4-D Batman Dark Flight experience and the Golden Reel, a figure-eight Ferris wheel. Gary Goddard tells us about how it all came together.
You’ve played all kinds of roles in the entertainment industry. How would you sum up your career?
I have directed movies and written screenplays and produced shows on Broadway, but what I’m most known for is the imagineering stuff I do — the design of unique environments, theme parks, destinations and just creating worlds that people like to go in. It’s a good thing to be doing at this point, because with the advent of social media, online communications and virtual reality, the one thing you can’t duplicate in any of these things is being in a real-world experience.
How does your experience affect your designs?
As a writer, director, producer, I bring a whole different palette to design than a typical architect does. I think we try to create vibrant, exciting, unique spaces that connect with people emotionally. I am in this business of creating things — what’s interesting is that my background gives me a unique understanding of how you bring these elements together in a real-world live environment. That’s why you see these diverse things — the Spider-Man 3-D ride, the Terminator 2 3-D attraction, the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace.
When did you start working on Studio City Macau?
About a week after Galaxy Macau opened, we got a call from Lawrence Ho, the chairman [of Melco Resorts & Entertainment]. We flew right over. Lawrence said he wanted Studio City to be cinematic and based on the movies. We share a love of movies, and he loved epic motion pictures like Batman. But Batman is very dark, so we tried to create a lighter version of that. What we wanted to evoke was the idea of the epic motion picture — not just Batman [though] but Metropolis and Blade Runner. We had the two titans at one of the entrances to give the place more epic scope and make it more cinematic.
You also worked on Galaxy Macau with Melco Resorts & Entertainment. How have you differentiated the two?
We wanted Studio City to be completely unlike Galaxy. Whereas Galaxy is a lost paradise with a golden palace and an Asian flair to everything, Studio City is totally different. It’s urban, like a city of entertainment. We decided to go with silver for two reasons — we wanted something that would literally shine day and night and, when you think of movies, you think of the silver screen.
How do you come up with inspiration for the designs?
Whenever we do a project, we look at everything, and we want everything to stand out from what’s already available. I’m a big believer that when everyone is zigging, you should zag — we want to stand out. At Studio City, there’s a multiplicity of experiences. So here we want you to be thrilled, be shocked surprised, be happy — the many emotions that you go through.
The façade has an art deco feel. What’s the reasoning?
When you try to think of an architectural style that says Hollywood, the one that comes up the most is art deco. Even though it was from a time in movies of the 30s and 40s and 50s, you still see recurring elements in contemporary movies, too. No one has done it here — it’s classy, luxurious, appeals to all people, and it has a history in Shanghai and other areas of China, so it’s not a foreign design style.
How important is the silhouette?
Everything I design has a silhouette that’s recognizable. You see it and you know immediately what it is. The only other one you can really identify [in Macau] is Stanley Ho’s Grand Lisboa because of the crazy top. It’s because I think cinematically about that long shot. In a movie, you can see the castle, or the tower, or the fortress in the distance. As a director and a film director, this is how we think.
What are some surprising details about the interiors?
You find little details that guide you. Walt Disney called them “weenies.” You put in visual cues that psychologically make you go, “Oh, let’s go over there.” That’s the art of moving people through a large site without them feeling like they’re being herded or getting lost.
How did the Golden Reel figure-eight Ferris wheel come to be?
Along the way, Lawrence suggested we do something that looks as though a meteor crashed through the middle. That led to the idea of the Ferris wheel, which led to two Ferris wheels, and then we have the “8” which symbolizes good luck and good fortune in Chinese culture. I think it’s so iconic [that one day] it will be featured in a movie — Batman, James Bond, Mission Impossible. It just seems made for it.
But surely there was some pushback?
At first everyone said, “That can’t be done.” Not just the fact that we were suggesting we build a figure-eight ride, but to put it 590 feet off the ground, in the architecture of the building, that was crazy — but good crazy. But the other thing I love about it the most is that, when you think about motion pictures, it’s about motion. How many buildings have a continually moving part that animates the whole structure?