UVUSA Speaker Series: Brian Crosby ‘Marvels’ Audience

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UVU was visited by Marvel’s Creative Director of Themed Entertainment Brian Crosby. On Nov. 15, Crosby shared tales of his time with Marvel, starting out with a touching tribute to the late Stan Lee and some personal anecdotes from his relationship with the legend. Following this, Crosby showed a demo reel from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to get the energy back up and spoke about his rise to creating attractions for Disney parks all over the world.

Crosby started with a love of Disneyland from growing up in southern California, and then he eventually also found his love for comic books, specifically Marvel comic books. He claimed that the credits at the beginning of the comics opened his eyes to the possibility that you can create these things for a career. From there he was determined to make it as an artist.

In 1999, Crosby began working for a now defunct company called Digital Comics, and began his career working on the “Barbie Spawn” comics.He said that you can’t find them online anymore, he has tried.

In 2005, Crosby entered a design competition with Disney, which turned into an internship as an Imagineer. Crosby made sure everyone who came through his station saw his portfolio, because he was determined to move forward with the company using every means at his disposal.

At the end of the internship, Crosby and the other interns had to do a presentation. The other interns all did PowerPoints in dark rooms where they stood in the shadows, but Crosby decided to do something different. He had the venue open the skylight and brought his physical art on the stage and gave a presentation.

Crosby took public speaking classes and studied stand up comedians to see how they could command a room and keep everyone’s attention, all so he could impress Disney. He got the job offer with Disney doing art for corporate presentations. Crosby eventually turned this into concept design for Disney attractions.

When Disney bought out Marvel, Crosby saw this as an opportunity and began pitching every Marvel idea he could imagine for the parks. In doing so, Crosby built up a relationship with Marvel staff and began pitching the concept of building Marvel specific attractions to the higher-ups there. Marvel concluded that it would be a good idea to have these immersive experiences available to their fans and hired Crosby as the Creative Director. Crosby’s first project was wrapping the Disney monorail for the Avenger’s film.

Eventually, Crosby got to start working on actual attractions for Marvel properties, the first of which was the Iron Man Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland. It is a 3-D motion simulator, similar to Star Tours at Disneyland in Anaheim.

Crosby showed UVU students the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: BREAKOUT! ride at Disney California Adventure and used it as an example of telling a story with an attraction at a theme park. He explained that every part of the ride has to be part of telling the story, including the sign at the entrance. Crosby also informed the audience that you can’t assume that the people coming to experience the ride know the characters, even with the success of the Marvel properties in the public consciousness. It has to be treated like the first time a person is ever introduced to these characters. Crosby also told the audience about how the visitor needs to be the center of the story. “Story is about you, that’s how you tell a theme park story.”

The students were excited for what Crosby had to say. Joshua Reynolds, a junior in the gaming and animation program said, “The biggest reason we were interested in this was his history with the theme park attractions, it’s something we’re kind of interested in. We’re looking forward to seeing more of his perspective on where he started and how he continued to grow and do what he does.”