When walking into The Attraction Services Company’s 45,000-square-foot warehouse in Valencia, what stands out first is the metal. A lot of it.
Metal welded together to form what CEO Ron Griffin calls “Lego blocks,” metal parts, metal control panels and more. Though it may not look like much to the naked eye, these are the materials that come together to allow Griffin to build neat stuff.
“This is the behind the scenes, and you get to see how it really comes to life,” said Tracy Klein, business development. “It definitely gives you a feel for how much goes into it.”
Griffin and the employees at the Valencia-based company are special effects connoisseurs, able to create show action equipment, motion-based platforms and animated characters, from concept and design to fabrication and installation.
“My whole career has been about building things that other people would probably be afraid to build,” Griffin said.
Griffin has worked on a full spectrum of projects in various industries, beginning his early career by building off-road racing ATVs before he moved into creating autonomous military vehicles and special effects movie props, such as the Energizer Bunny and the Johnny 5 robot that stars in “Short Circuit” to name a few.
“So, no matter what industry I’ve been in, when somebody says they need something designed to be built, I’m not afraid to go do it, no matter how unusual it is,” he said.
Ultimately, Griffin has learned that he doesn’t really care what the project is, the pleasure comes in figuring out how to build it, designing it and then making it come to life.
“I think that’s my best talent,” he said, later adding, “And, I pride myself in coming up with the simplest way to do it.”
It’s that reputation for getting his hands dirty and figuring out how to make something happen when no one else can that has propelled Griffin and Attraction Services forward.
From movies to real life
Nowadays, clients often come to them with a cool concept, but no idea how to do it or if it’ll work. That being said, they once built a prototype autonomous ride vehicle from scratch in eight weeks, just to see if the idea would work, and have also built motion bases holding 40,000 pounds, which tilt, rock and move.
“And, we’ve managed to put together a team of great people that support that and work with that,” Klein added.
One of the first jobs Griffin did outside of the movie industry was for Universal’s new Florida theme park. Since then, he’s been involved in each and every one of Universal’s theme parks across the globe.
Right now, it’s all hands on deck as they work on Universal’s new Beijing park, but in addition to theme parks, Attraction Services creates exhibits for science centers and museums, and is also currently working on an immersive project for the Georgia Aquarium.
For each project, they make sure it fits the client’s needs, such as taking conservation efforts into account for the aquarium project and ensuring the safety of not only humans but the animals, as well.
The nuts and bolts
“Ron really is a true driving force,” Klein said. “He doesn’t get too bogged down by the latest and greatest thing. He’s like, ‘What’s the best way to do it?’”
Though technology has evolved and improved, the latest and greatest in that technology might not always be the best answer, according to Griffin.
“Technology changes, but the law of physics never does … (it) governs 90% of what you have to do,” Griffin said. “It’s then the technology that might give you better methods of doing it than we had 20 years ago.”
Much of their equipment must not only look realistic, but it also has to remain reliable and repeatable through constant use.
“Gravity is the most reliable thing there is, period — I tell everybody that,” he said. “You still have to look at the best components to do the job and figure out what that is.”
A unique project
When Attraction Services was contacted by Insomniac events back in 2013, they had just six weeks to create what would become the iconic symbol of the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, a 40-foot tall moving, mechanical owl with an 80-foot wingspan.
“We built it, took it up to Vegas, had never put it together ‘til we got there and it ran for three nights from dusk ‘til dawn perfectly,” Griffin said.
The owl’s head bobbed up and down while its eyes were animated using oversized TV screens, which Griffin did the artwork for. Its wings even opened and closed to reveal each DJ.
“I was on a stage every night because I was actually operating him,” Griffin added. “I have this photo of Monday morning, 5:30 a.m., and there are still 80,000 kids out there jumping up and down.”
Though the owl was only supposed to be used for one event, it became the mascot for EDC.
“It was such a hit,” Klein added. “People were coming in with owl costumes and masks. Then, they asked us if we could make it so they could use it at other events, so we actually toured around with them, with the owl.”
Why Santa Clarita?
Griffin has lived in the Santa Clarita Valley since 1988, and Attraction Services has always called the SCV home, as do many of its employees.
“Doing business in Santa Clarita is very advantageous because of the abundance of machine shops and related companies, such as waterjet companies like Jet Technologies,” Griffin said. “It’s a very good friendship up here … All the companies are always helping each other out.”
The company moved to a larger location right down the street about a year-and-a-half ago, giving them more room to work inside along with 30,000 square feet outside, which Griffin considers a “play yard” where they often do mockup flame effects and one of the many reasons Klein says they appreciate the SCV.
“Doing business here is nice because this is fairly close to where the theme park headquarters are, but we’re still far enough away that we can kind of operate by ourselves,” Klein added. “We can do things here that you couldn’t do down in Burbank and Glendale — we’re not going to do flame mockups down there.”