Imagine’s Tom Zaller on dinosaurs, bodies and the art of the traveling exhibition

Imagine Exhibitions has been growing, generating, advertising and operating acclaimed traveling exhibitions for ten years. So what are the secrets and techniques of the organization’s fulfillment, and why did it put a Tyrannosaur on a truck?

Tom Zaller, President, and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions and veteran of the leisure and exhibition industries is famend for presenting artifacts and their tales in an interesting and compelling manner.

His creations consist of Jurassic World: The Exhibition, REAL BODIES, Angry Birds Universe and Titanic The Exhibition, Dinosaurs Around the World and Survival: The Exhibition, to call a few. He and his team have additionally collaborated on The Hunger Games: The Exhibition, Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal, Discover the Ice Age, Da Vinci The Exhibition, and Living Dinosaurs.
Bar mitzvahs and The Grateful Dead


He spoke to Blooloop approximately his heritage, the career path that brought him to his modern-day role, and his long-held dream of becoming a wooded area ranger.

Zaller grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, in which his brother Paul had a production employer:

“So I was in the enjoyment enterprise business from an early age. I started operating on the degree and in theatre, doing weddings and bar mitzvahs at 13 or 14 years vintage.”

After working weekends and over the summertime together with his brother for a few years, he had the enjoyment to exit on an excursion along with his first band on the age of sixteen. During his tenure there he labored with well-known acts which include Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren, and The Grateful Dead.

“Cleveland changed into a massive rock and roll metropolis, but also had the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Art Museum. It’s a completely cultural town, even though it gets a terrible rap.

“By a spread of circumstances, I ended up in this leisure area. My dream, even though, turned into of turning into a wooded area ranger and rescuing humans off the aspect of the mountains. This led to why I like mountaineering a lot, and why I became an Entertainment Rigger,” Zaller says.

He went directly to college with the aim of furthering his wooded area ranger ambitions, even as persevering with to do gigs in his loose time
A Titanic enchantment

Regarding his time at university, Zaller says: “I turned into working extra than I become studying. I by no means finished college, and ended up taking place a long time tour with David Copperfield, the magician.”

He spent seven years traveling with Copperfield. “After my time with David, I talked to my manufacturer to discover what could be subsequent. I imagined it might be some other excursion. However, he stated: ‘We’re building an everlasting enchantment targeted on the Titanic in Orlando. Why don’t you move paintings on that?’

“I went and saw the movie, and then met the humans that owned the smash site of the Titanic.”

He additionally took element in a submersible dive on the site of the destroy, which afforded the insight that enabled his sensitive coping with of Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition.

He says: “We started out by using licensing the artifacts from RMS Titantic, Inc., the organization that owns the salvage rights to the break of the Titanic. I’d spent quite a whole lot of time in museums as a kid, and this changed into the first time I knew of an enjoyment group wanting to create a brand new type of immersive storytelling, the use of artifacts from a smash web page to tell the story.

“When we opened our first huge exhibition in a museum in Chicago, nearly 900,000 people got here in 7 months, so we knew we truly had something.”
Plastinated our bodies and traveling exhibitions

This was the starting point for severa distinctive journeying exhibitions with Zaller as Production Manager.

On the evolution of his position in the entertainment enterprise, he says: “I then moved to Atlanta in 2003 to construct a brand new department at RMS Titanic Inc. Related to traveling exhibitions. I informed the CEO at the time that the Titanic is super, however, that I would love to create an exhibition using plastinated human our bodies. So we fashioned an organization, Premier Exhibitions, in early 2004.”

Zaller becomes instrumental in growing Premier Exhibitions, which now owns 5,500 Titanic relics with approximately 1,300 on display in numerous international locations, alongside numerous plastinated body exhibitions. That first bodies exhibition, BODIES…The Exhibition turned into a primary success from the start.

“At one time we had as many as 17 of those visiting exhibitions visiting the world,” says Zaller. “We additionally did a BODIES Revealed, Our Body: The Universe Within; Star Trek: The Exhibition, and Dialog in the Dark. The organization had a very success run for the 5 and a half years that I changed into there.”
Just imagine

His decision to transport on changed into driven by means of the corporation’s boom. He explains: “As these corporations grow and begin making greater and extra money, distinct investors are available in: it was a publicly-traded organization. To me, it seemed to have lost the unique idea of creating content material and journeying exhibitions and had become all about earning profits, so I left in 2009 and started Imagine Exhibitions. That was 10 years ago.”

Zaller started out by way of generating different human beings’ exhibitions. In that first 12 months of operation, he turned into asked to supervise the improvement of a brand new museum referred to as the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, for the Sands Corporation.

“I ended up becoming Founding Director of the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, that is a stunning building on the bay of Singapore. The task lasted approximately three years, and at some stage in that point we deliberate opened and operated the museum as well as bringing approximately 13 one of a kind touring exhibitions through at some point of that time.”
Working with predominant IPs

On returning to the United States, he persevered to build Imagine. “We commenced developing some of our own stuff, as well as doing licensing deals.

“We licensed Angry Birds from Rovio, to begin with, establishing that exhibition in Dubai and then Qatar: it’s miles nevertheless traveling nowadays. Then Lionsgate requested us to assist inside the introduction of a Hunger Games exhibition and be their advertising and marketing and excursion operator. We opened this in New York City, San Fransisco, Sydney, and Louisville. Then in 2014, we licensed the Jurassic World logo from Universal Studios and created a surprisingly hit and file-breaking exhibition, which was bought in 2017.

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