Merlin Magic Makers

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While most of us have heard of major theme parks and attractions like LEGOLAND, Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds, or the London Eye, fewer are aware that the same central group of designers are behind them all. Merlin Magic Making (MMM), is the UK-based creative development arm of Merlin Entertainments, made up of a small, but highly talented team responsible for creating and producing the magic behind nearly 100 attractions across 21 countries.

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MMM is the creative; almost maker-space like division under the Merlin umbrella; at times, it was like walking on to a movie set or part finished wonderland. Imagination and passion are of no shortage here, from outlandish signage, to detailed paint works, to robotic sculpting and so on. What sets MMM aside is that they not only design and develop hundreds of attractions world-wide, but also produce many of them onsite at Alton Towers in a relatively short period.

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All theme parks and attractions are visited by children and parents alike – each with their own needs, wants and expectations that seem to constantly evolve over time.

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One challenge faced by the team, was; how do we provide the best possible experience and exceed expectations in the shortest time while managing intellectual property (IP). Many attractions are IP-based from movies or T.V programs, which provide the raw material to build upon. For example, LEGOLAND characters, are easy to create as the raw data is provided by LEGO, however, other rides that are non-IP-based require innovative thinking from scratch; explains Edwin – Theming Production Director, Merlin Magic Makers. “It was about four years ago, when we were challenged by a growing demand for customization, from new Lego characters, to bespoke themed rides. The demand from our customers was demanding and at the time difficult to manage until we took the leap into digital”.

“Making one-offs in the joinery rooms, you cannot do trial and error”, it’s a difficult and a time-consuming process to replicate something from a drawing without the aid of digital technology. Previously, we would carve out a model that was 90% correct, sometimes no-one would notice, other times we’d have to make the model again. Now that we’re using digital technology, in the form of Computer Aided Design & Computer Aided Manufacture (CAD & CAM), our modeling time has increased 10-fold and what we get as an IP-based file is exactly what we make; a 100% of the time, says Nathan – CAD Draughtsman, 3D Artist. Robot and CNC Programmer, Merlin Magic Makers.”

“Autodesk has helped us transform our business, and if we hadn’t taken the leap we wouldn’t be here now!”, says Edwin

MMM really care about their attractions and look to people of all ages to enjoy their creative and quirky ideas, along with a passionate dedication to quality, and innovation it’s what allows them to transform creative ideas into some of the most successful attractions in the world.

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Al Whatmough is Product Manager at Autodesk for the HSM based CAM product; HSMWorks, Inventor HSM & Fusion 360. A machinist by trade, prior to joining Autodesk, Al was involved in the CADCAM field by running or owning companies that provided sales, services and created training for businesses wishing to implement integrated CAD/CAM technology.

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