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Themed design
Onwards and Upwards

Gordon Dorrett is stepping down as CEO and president of themed entertainment design firm FORREC, with Cale Heit taking over from October 2017. With more than 50 years between them in attractions, we asked them what the journey’s been like, what the future holds and for their thoughts on the industry



Gordon Dorrett
CEO and President


 

Gordon Dorrett
 

Congratulations on your “retirement”. How does it feel to step down after all these years?
I am definitely not retiring. It’s precisely because my life has been so entwined with FORREC for 30 years that stepping down isn’t really an option – it’s more like stepping to one side to make way for new blood. We decided to do this now because it’s the right time for FORREC. The company is in a good place in terms of our finances and our work, so Cale will have a good basis to build on.

What are you doing next?
My role will be focused on strategic corporate development, mentorship and creative project development – so I’ll very much be around day to day. My real joy is helping young designers realise their potential. I’m looking forward to spending time helping the talented people in our company grow. I’ve also been very involved in shaping FORREC as a corporation. For example, I set up our succession program that has helped Cale become the CEO. I plan to take on other strategic initiatives where the company feels that I can be helpful.

What have you enjoyed the most about working FORREC?
First, I have never felt that I worked at FORREC. I have always been part of FORREC, and in turn FORREC has been a huge part of who I am. That’s what makes this a challenge for me personally. No one day is the same as the day before. I am always excited by what our clients are thinking and the work our team does. Other than the obvious pride I have in our work, the most enjoyable part for me has been watching this company grow from an initial idea into an international success.

Could you name a couple of projects you’re most proud of?
Certainly any of our work for Universal Studios and LEGO has been a real pleasure. These are huge projects and I’m honoured that we are entrusted to work on them for our clients. But some of the smaller projects, like Aesop’s Village for Everland, have always been special to me. And some of my favourite projects are the really interesting ones that, sadly, never got built … but there is still time.

What has been most important in achieving FORREC’s success?
FORREC is above all else versatile. We have business plans and strategic initiatives, but we always make sure we are flexible enough to respond to the opportunities that arise. Our clients have trusted us for this long because we don’t only dream up crazy stuff that looks interesting. We’re just as focused on making sure the project works – financially and as a plan.

What advice would you give a young person coming into the industry?
For any young person coming into this industry, I would say keep an open mind and try as much as you can. It’s important to stay curious about the work you do and continually ask why you’re doing it – that’s the way good designers should think anyway.


“I’ve always been part of FORREC, and in turn FORREC has been a huge part of who I am”

 



Aesop’s Village at Everland is one of Gordon Dorrett’s most memorable projects

Cale Heit
Executive vice president of operations and incoming CEO


 

Cale Heit
 

How is your job going to change?
I’m fortunate to be taking on the leadership at such an opportune time. Under Gord’s direction, we’ve never been stronger and together we’ve built a recognised brand in the industry. We’re proud of the industry relationships we’ve fostered over the years.

As executive vice president, I’ve been involved in every aspect of our business and in serving our clients and giving them the best design possible. I might be kidding myself a little to think there won’t be a lot that changes as president and CEO.

Working for a company that’s nimble and is continually challenged by change excites me on a daily basis. I’ve yet to experience a “groundhog day” at FORREC. This industry is always evolving, and it’s going to be my job to navigate what’s ahead.

What have you learned from Gord that you will be consciously taking forward with you and building on?
Gord is a leader who isn’t afraid to ask the difficult questions, to challenge the status quo. He always asks what we could do to make things better. I plan to take a page from his playbook and work with our teams in the same way, challenging them to always look at things differently, without a one size fits all approach.

Are there any areas of the business you want to change?
FORREC’s mission statement is one I stand behind: we create places that make the people who visit them, own them and design them very happy. This is core of who we are and how we approach our business.

My focus will be on delivering this in every aspect of our business by continuing to design environments that offer engaging experiences and memorable moments for families to enjoy. I want to ensure that we deliver the high-quality service we’ve built our reputation on to help our clients maximise their business opportunities.

How we execute on that changes according to the evolving marketplace. Our sectors of work are created in response to where we see the opportunities. I plan to remain flexible as we go forward because this makes good business sense.

For the team, I’ll to continue to support their professional and personal growth.

Whether it’s education classes, touring benchmark attractions or letting go at any of our teambuilding events -- it all matters. It’s rewarding to participate in the development of people and seeing them stretch out of their comfort zones.

What do you like about working in this industry?
Put simply, it’s the people. Seeing how happy guests are when they go to a project we’ve designed is very rewarding.

I also really value the friends and colleagues I’ve worked with: the owners, operators, consultants and our team.

In your 25 years at FORREC, the themed entertainment industry has changed a lot. What big changes have affected you?
The “we to me” cultural shift has impacted the industry far more than I expected. The balance between what you can experience at home versus a destination experience is eroding. We’re moving away from the shared experience to a more individualistic one.

We spend less time being in the moment with family or friends to share and talk about the experience. There are many distractions that people plug into to occupy their time. Designers are now having to compete with all these changes.

I think about this a lot, how we can encourage being part of the group experience. Technology, specifically the smartphone, will continue to impact our industry. It’s how we use them that impacts how we share time with others. Possibly this is being nostalgic, but I believe this is fundamental to our belonging and, yes, having fun. Sharing the experience in person, with another person, is half the fun.

Where do you see the next big developments in the industry?
Technology for the sake of technology is not sustainable. Technology that helps tell a story or makes the experience more authentic or engaging is more interesting as a goal, and more easily operationalised.

Recognisable IP in emerging markets continues to be a much sought after goal for many of our clients. The benefits of having an immediate impact through brand recognition is undeniable. I also see great potential in understanding how these brands are experienced in the specific market and how they can be celebrated within the framework of the local culture. I’m excited about where this is going and how we can help our clients and the IPs looking for development opportunities realise their potential.


“Our sectors of work are created in response to where we see the opportunities. We’ll remain flexible”

 



FORREC also designed a jungle-themed waterpark for Wanda Xishuangbanna
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International Wellness Tourism Conference

Virtual conference, United States
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tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
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Jobs    News   Products   Magazine
Themed design
Onwards and Upwards

Gordon Dorrett is stepping down as CEO and president of themed entertainment design firm FORREC, with Cale Heit taking over from October 2017. With more than 50 years between them in attractions, we asked them what the journey’s been like, what the future holds and for their thoughts on the industry



Gordon Dorrett
CEO and President


 

Gordon Dorrett
 

Congratulations on your “retirement”. How does it feel to step down after all these years?
I am definitely not retiring. It’s precisely because my life has been so entwined with FORREC for 30 years that stepping down isn’t really an option – it’s more like stepping to one side to make way for new blood. We decided to do this now because it’s the right time for FORREC. The company is in a good place in terms of our finances and our work, so Cale will have a good basis to build on.

What are you doing next?
My role will be focused on strategic corporate development, mentorship and creative project development – so I’ll very much be around day to day. My real joy is helping young designers realise their potential. I’m looking forward to spending time helping the talented people in our company grow. I’ve also been very involved in shaping FORREC as a corporation. For example, I set up our succession program that has helped Cale become the CEO. I plan to take on other strategic initiatives where the company feels that I can be helpful.

What have you enjoyed the most about working FORREC?
First, I have never felt that I worked at FORREC. I have always been part of FORREC, and in turn FORREC has been a huge part of who I am. That’s what makes this a challenge for me personally. No one day is the same as the day before. I am always excited by what our clients are thinking and the work our team does. Other than the obvious pride I have in our work, the most enjoyable part for me has been watching this company grow from an initial idea into an international success.

Could you name a couple of projects you’re most proud of?
Certainly any of our work for Universal Studios and LEGO has been a real pleasure. These are huge projects and I’m honoured that we are entrusted to work on them for our clients. But some of the smaller projects, like Aesop’s Village for Everland, have always been special to me. And some of my favourite projects are the really interesting ones that, sadly, never got built … but there is still time.

What has been most important in achieving FORREC’s success?
FORREC is above all else versatile. We have business plans and strategic initiatives, but we always make sure we are flexible enough to respond to the opportunities that arise. Our clients have trusted us for this long because we don’t only dream up crazy stuff that looks interesting. We’re just as focused on making sure the project works – financially and as a plan.

What advice would you give a young person coming into the industry?
For any young person coming into this industry, I would say keep an open mind and try as much as you can. It’s important to stay curious about the work you do and continually ask why you’re doing it – that’s the way good designers should think anyway.


“I’ve always been part of FORREC, and in turn FORREC has been a huge part of who I am”

 



Aesop’s Village at Everland is one of Gordon Dorrett’s most memorable projects

Cale Heit
Executive vice president of operations and incoming CEO


 

Cale Heit
 

How is your job going to change?
I’m fortunate to be taking on the leadership at such an opportune time. Under Gord’s direction, we’ve never been stronger and together we’ve built a recognised brand in the industry. We’re proud of the industry relationships we’ve fostered over the years.

As executive vice president, I’ve been involved in every aspect of our business and in serving our clients and giving them the best design possible. I might be kidding myself a little to think there won’t be a lot that changes as president and CEO.

Working for a company that’s nimble and is continually challenged by change excites me on a daily basis. I’ve yet to experience a “groundhog day” at FORREC. This industry is always evolving, and it’s going to be my job to navigate what’s ahead.

What have you learned from Gord that you will be consciously taking forward with you and building on?
Gord is a leader who isn’t afraid to ask the difficult questions, to challenge the status quo. He always asks what we could do to make things better. I plan to take a page from his playbook and work with our teams in the same way, challenging them to always look at things differently, without a one size fits all approach.

Are there any areas of the business you want to change?
FORREC’s mission statement is one I stand behind: we create places that make the people who visit them, own them and design them very happy. This is core of who we are and how we approach our business.

My focus will be on delivering this in every aspect of our business by continuing to design environments that offer engaging experiences and memorable moments for families to enjoy. I want to ensure that we deliver the high-quality service we’ve built our reputation on to help our clients maximise their business opportunities.

How we execute on that changes according to the evolving marketplace. Our sectors of work are created in response to where we see the opportunities. I plan to remain flexible as we go forward because this makes good business sense.

For the team, I’ll to continue to support their professional and personal growth.

Whether it’s education classes, touring benchmark attractions or letting go at any of our teambuilding events -- it all matters. It’s rewarding to participate in the development of people and seeing them stretch out of their comfort zones.

What do you like about working in this industry?
Put simply, it’s the people. Seeing how happy guests are when they go to a project we’ve designed is very rewarding.

I also really value the friends and colleagues I’ve worked with: the owners, operators, consultants and our team.

In your 25 years at FORREC, the themed entertainment industry has changed a lot. What big changes have affected you?
The “we to me” cultural shift has impacted the industry far more than I expected. The balance between what you can experience at home versus a destination experience is eroding. We’re moving away from the shared experience to a more individualistic one.

We spend less time being in the moment with family or friends to share and talk about the experience. There are many distractions that people plug into to occupy their time. Designers are now having to compete with all these changes.

I think about this a lot, how we can encourage being part of the group experience. Technology, specifically the smartphone, will continue to impact our industry. It’s how we use them that impacts how we share time with others. Possibly this is being nostalgic, but I believe this is fundamental to our belonging and, yes, having fun. Sharing the experience in person, with another person, is half the fun.

Where do you see the next big developments in the industry?
Technology for the sake of technology is not sustainable. Technology that helps tell a story or makes the experience more authentic or engaging is more interesting as a goal, and more easily operationalised.

Recognisable IP in emerging markets continues to be a much sought after goal for many of our clients. The benefits of having an immediate impact through brand recognition is undeniable. I also see great potential in understanding how these brands are experienced in the specific market and how they can be celebrated within the framework of the local culture. I’m excited about where this is going and how we can help our clients and the IPs looking for development opportunities realise their potential.


“Our sectors of work are created in response to where we see the opportunities. We’ll remain flexible”

 



FORREC also designed a jungle-themed waterpark for Wanda Xishuangbanna
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Founded in 1966, the Antonio Zamperla SPA is privately owned by Mr Alberto Zamperla. Located in Vi [more...]
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iPlayCo was established in 1999. [more...]
TOR Systems Ltd

TOR Systems have been in this business since 1981. [more...]
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IDEATTACK is a full-service planning and design company with headquarters in Los Angeles. [more...]
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FEATURED SUPPLIER

Red Raion and Leolandia announce partnership
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Proslide Tech Inc - ProSlide | Atlantis Dubai
More videos:
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CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

29-30 Sep 2021

International Wellness Tourism Conference

Virtual conference, United States
01-07 Dec 2022

World Leisure Congress 2022

tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2021

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
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