From Queue to Exit: How Zeitgeist is Creating Immersive Experiences

As the largest generation and the present workforce’s majority, Millennials are a driving force in the US economy. According to a recent report, 72% of those between the ages of 26 and 41 prefer experiences over material products. Instead of purchasing new cars, clothes, and devices, Millennials are spending their disposable income on memorable moments.

No one is better prepared to meet this trend than Ryan Harmon, Joe Lanzisero, and the team at Zeitgeist Design & Production in Pasadena, California. Since 2010, the company has transformed everyday moments into unforgettable memories for brands around the world. Immersive experiences were once reserved for amusement parks, but today, corporate events, retail businesses, resorts and even marketing pop-ups are getting in on the action.

Immersive experiences surround users with a story

The Zeitgeist team derives its name from the German word for “spirit of the time.” To keep experiences fresh, they employ state-of-the-art technology and draw inspiration from local trends and pop culture. The team’s real magic, however, springs from an art as old as time. 

“We bring experiences to life through the power of storytelling,” says Ryan Harmon, Zeitgeist’s president and chief creative officer. “With a story, we can transform one brand’s moment into the experience of a lifetime — one that makes headlines and goes viral.”

Zeitgeist has assembled the dream team of experience creation. Together, they have designed well over $12 billion dollars worth of successful projects for such brands as Disney, Universal, Sea World, Warner Bros., and China’s Chimelong. The team shares a combined 127 years of experience as Walt Disney Imagineers, and each boasts an average of 35 years in the industry.

“We stick to what we do best,” explains Joe Lanzisero, Zeitgeist’s executive vice president and chief art director. “We create a story through ideation, scripting, illustrating, and planning. We then bring that tale to life through our expertise in architecture, engineering, technical production, lighting, graphics, audio, landscaping, and interior design.

With the magic of storytelling and the right planning, even mundane moments can be transformed into thrilling adventures. Guests can experience the Zeitgeist team’s work at Disney theme parks worldwide, dark rides, thrill rides, motion simulators, animatronics shows, corporate product reveals, live shows, walk-thru attractions, brand experiences, waterparks, zoos, aquariums, casinos, historical centers, experiential retail, themed dining, and themed resorts.

Zeitgeist takes on dark thrills with three unforgettable Halloween experiences

Chainsaws and fake blood alone are no longer enough to make Millennials and Gen Zers jump in a Halloween attraction. As such, Harmon and his team at Zeitgeist have tapped into the power of immersive storytelling to take three of their recent haunted house walk-through experiences at Pennsylvania’s famous Hersheypark to the next level.

Each haunted house at Hersheypark’s Dark Nights incorporates a spine-tingling backstory, complex characters, state-of-the-art costumes, professional theatrics, clever effects, and unique physical encounters. In the “Haunted Coal Mine,” guests descend into an abandoned Pennsylvanian mineshaft where gnome-like creatures do whatever it takes to protect their hoarded gold. “Creature Chaos” explores the area’s legends about mythical creatures by taking guests into the sideshow of the sketchy cryptozoologist, Professor Stanley Darkstone. When his ravenous creatures escape their cages, no one is safe. Finally, “Twisted Darkness” drops visitors into another dimension through fortune teller Madame Zola’s psychic visions. Her funhouse quickly turns into a nightmarish carnival of terrors with little hope of escape.

“To design thrilling experiences unique to Pennsylvania, we began with Hersheypark’s natural setting,” Lanzisero remarks. “The creekside autumn forest provided us with a perfect dark palate to paint. We researched the area’s lore and legends to design a fresh experience unlike any other haunted house in the country.”

“We approached each house by designing an immersive narrative for you to walk through,” explains Harmon. “You are surrounded on all sides by a compelling multimedia story that unfolds all around you and culminates in a spectacular finale. Any haunted attraction can deliver a physical jump scare, but our goal was to go much deeper. A great scary story has the power to touch your emotions and haunt your dreams for nights to come!”Today’s millennials want multisensory, enriching experiences in everything from travel to a trip to the grocery store. The proof is on social media; over 500 million Instagram users are posting to the platform every day, and they’re not sharing what they own — they’re sharing the compelling experiences they have. The Zeitgeist team combines master storytelling, creative artistry, and the latest technologies to transform their everyday moments into shareable memories.

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