Prime Time for Themed Locations
Company Adds Larger-than-Life Prop Creation to Roster of Services
Prime Time Amusements (PTA), one of the premier global operators, sellers and event renters of video arcade machines and simulators since 1992, recently launched a new division in hopes of eventually becoming just as known for its abilities to theme facilities while also producing larger-than-life foam creations.
The new division, titled Prop Creations, is led by PTA President David Goldfarb, Art Director Jim Meckley and a team of sculptors with more than 40 years of experience who have worked with some of the biggest theme parks in the world.
Goldfarb decided to start Prop Creations, branded PC, out of sheer practicality. While working on a PTA project in Africa to build and supply the first entertainment center ever constructed in a mall in Luanda, Angola, a Dave & Buster’s –like facility that is about 18,000 square feet, Goldfarb was asked if his company could help with theming the venue.
“We were not in the business at the time, which was about two years ago, and I knew a little about it from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), so my original thought was to just farm it out,” Goldfarb said. “Just to get renditions, they wanted to charge $25,000 – that was just to see what it could look like. I thought that was ridiculous.”
So Goldfarb started crunching some numbers and realized it would cost the entertainment center north of $1 million to theme the venue with other companies.
“So I said, ‘Why not try it ourselves?’ And we hired Jim and a team of six people working under him with a wealth of experience in theme parks and other venues, and we went at it,” Goldfarb said.
The center, which will open about a year from now, is being constructed with a space and galaxy theme created by PC, one of the company’s first projects that Goldfarb believes will put Prop Creations on the map.
“Competition for theming has fallen by the wayside because of the bad economy, and I think the reason we will survive and thrive is we are adding it as an arm to a successful company that already exists,” Goldfarb said. “The advantage we have is we are offering them the full package. Instead of contracting out four companies – construction, theming, arcade and operational – we want to do everything, including construction if it’s in the United States. I may be on a personal learning curve from a business standpoint, but from an operational standpoint, we are just as experienced as anyone because of Jim and his staff. Their years of experience have made it a lot easier.”
Meckley and his team have worked on major projects before joining PC, including creating the sign for the Dumbo attraction at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, as well as a giant Grinch for Opryland.
“We can do anything, especially with rides and large characters, signs, you name it,” Meckley said. “The reason I came to Prop Creations was because I have done work for theme parks before. And they are always looking for people to do new work.”
PC, although young, is off to a strong start, particularly with its foam creations made under the name PT Foam Designs. Lightweight and easy to transport, the foam props are hard-coated with paint, yet they are waterproof so they can be kept outdoors. The creations are made using a combination of CNC 3-D Cutting machinery and hand sculpting.
The new division recently created three giant player statues for the Miami Heat of the NBA; is working with a boat company to make a giant postcard that will be placed in a post office as a prop; and is constructing on a giant Buddha for a Make-A-Wish Foundation charity event in South Florida; and signage for a an indoor race track in Russia that includes a giant go-kart outside of the building that is 12 feet long and 10 feet wide.
Meckley said the top-notch equipment combined with his team’s talents will provide services most others cannot.
“We are meeting needs for unusual pieces you can’t buy anywhere else,” he said. “The Buddha is a good example. It’s 7 feet tall sitting in the ruins of a temple with walls cracked, and we’re using it as a tunnel to go from one room to another. Design firms come to us and say, ‘Hey, we have this idea.’ And we take it and make it work and offer them something they can’t find anywhere else. We take something from a blank sheet of paper, develop it and eventually install it. Somebody can bring something in and we can enlarge it to 40 feet or whatever. We can scale it up. We pride ourselves on doing unusual things – from private to corporate.”
PC’s team enjoys projects that are challenging.
“We like to take on projects that are extremely large,” Meckley said. “One project I did was five-story-high replicas of John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin. Those are the types of project I would like to take on. The challenge is enlarging them to a size so that people point at them and say, ‘Wow! How did you do that?’ We want to work with people like Disney because they want their characters to be very specific. And we can provide that. It’s all digital and they can see exactly what it will look like so there is no money lost on product. Everything is laid out in the computer with lighting and we give them a walkthrough so they can see exactly what everything will look like and we can make whatever changes they desire. Disney is expanding right now, so it would be nice to help them do some of that work.”
“We just got a call from Bob’s Space Racers (a worldwide leader in coin-operated kiddie amusements and ticket redemption games) to create a giant fish for them that will be at the IAAPA Expo,” Goldfarb added. “So word is getting out there about what we are doing.”
PC and PTA will also make their own mark at IAAPA in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 12 to 16, by teaming with South Florida artist Miguel Paredes. PC will create life-size 3-D foam statue renditions of some of Paredes’ characters from his paintings. Then, Paredes will paint them in the style only he can offer. PTA will also offer video games and a bowling alley at its booth.
“PrimeTime Amusements is thrilled to do something unique and innovative that has never been done before,” Goldfarb said. “By bringing an internationally known artist’s work to life, we are showing how our Prop Creations division can build anything you can imagine. We want to start a relationship with the arts community, and we can’t think of a better way to do that.”
Three of Paredes’ iconic paintings will be recreated in 3D, including “Lucky Cat,” “Happy Buddha with Pulghas,” and “Pulgha Rising.” The pieces will be ultimately moved to Paredes’ gallery in Miami Beach during Art Basel, one of the most prestigious art shows in the country that will be held Dec. 6 to 9.
“I work with fiberglass and sculptures and limited editions, so creating installations is part of what I do,” Paredes said. “Working with David is ideal for me because I was already thinking of working with a company out West who does similar work, but at the end of the day, their equipment was limited to certain things. And David’s 3-D work and animations, they are very good at what they do.”
Paredes is particularly excited about the project because he feels it can expand his business eventually.
“I am known for creating realistic renderings and then creating urban backgrounds,” he said. “But it’s really expensive to create sculptures out of fiberglass and vinyl. But with foam, it’s very cost effective. You can make a small mold, bring it in to them to scan, and then you can add detail such as a nose or face and a 3-D animator can come in and create even more additional detail, if necessary. You can’t get something that large, that detailed, that quick, and that inexpensively. So the goal at IAAPA is to show how we can recreate somebody’s idea. We are creating an environment that is completely mine. You can see the original artwork and then you can see the 3-D image. I think they will be amazed to see the end result and how a flat image was made into a large, 3-D image.”
Both Paredes and Goldfarb believe this is the start of a relationship.
“It’s a possibility,” Paredes said. “We might have a niche where we can create environments for potential clients and do things that no one else could do.”
Goldfarb and his team are certain Prop Creations will grow quickly.
“I think one of our biggest strengths is that we will be ahead of others because we can offer packaged pricing for everything when setting up an operation from ground zero,” Goldfarb said. “That’s what gives us the edge on our competition. We are working our way toward becoming a one-stop shop.”
That includes going beyond family entertainment centers and arcades to develop commercial and residential facades, staircases and more made out of foam.
“The ultimate goal is to continue expanding operations, and believe the theming industry and us offering one-stop shopping is an ideal situation,” Goldfarb said. “There might be a place that doesn’t have $200,000 or more in their budget for theming, but we can work with them in package pricing to come up with a concept that works inside a budget for people who don’t have a budget for theming. And we are going to do it inexpensively. I think we have the potential to become one of the biggest companies to do this because of the experience we offer.” –