In the hot desert of Dubai exists a cool oasis: an indoor ski resort ranking among the world's largest. At Universal Studios Florida, the Universal 360 movie experience is a cinematic adventure so spectacular that guests linger just to see it. Since 2001, Thinkwell Design & Production, an $8 million, Burbank, California-based designer and producer of experience-based entertainment, has been tackling projects that can cost more than $1 billion and take years to complete. The results are breathtaking, but for founders Craig Hanna, 45; FranÃ§ois Bergeron, 42; Joe Zenas, 40; and Cliff Warner, 44, pulling them off can be a managerial nightmare.
For sanity's sake, the founders have devised a fine-tuned system. They have only about 30 employees, but that can quickly jump to more than 100 when the pressure is on. Relying on a Rolodex full of specialized experts, they create out-of-this-world experiences without inordinate expenses. Says Hanna, "It allows us to keep our overhead manageable and predictable and allows us to bring in the right people to [work] on the project."