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THE NEXT – A Rumination by Rick Rothschild

Over these past weeks, I’ve come to believe that what the future holds for us is not a new normal, but rather the NEXT. Life will not be a return to anything like the normal we all knew or expect. Fear not, while we know that our collective world-wide lives will never be quite the same, life for the global community continues to regain a much healthier perspective. If not forever altered, there are going to be numerous ways in which our social interaction and daily lives will be radically different from what we experienced only 100 days or so ago.

This pause on what was as we transition to the NEXT has been aggravating and cumbersome for most of us, while for some it has been excruciatingly painful and deathly sad… both personally as well as for those close to many. I am so sorry for that pain. I am also so tremendously grateful for the heroic contribution so many have and are continuing to make to help others… from keeping us alive, to recovering from loss or malady, to helping us all find the basics of what are essential for us to just stay alive.

So, I ponder in my isolated moments… what might be the NEXT? What are we learning from what now has already shown, as well as what will all of this be as we reemerge into the dawn of the “return”? And what will this mean for our themed entertainment industry and each of us in it? Certainly, we can be sure that for some time to come, a guiding rule in life will be to “expect the unexpected” as our collective EXPECTED.

Against that challenge we are now presented, what gives me faith, first and foremost, is that we, who are in such a responsive, creative, and problem-solving industry, have learned to “expect the unexpected” as both a continual reality and a special opportunity. Now more than ever, our collective global tribe of energetic and passionate challenge-engagers has the opportunity to do so with lessons we’ve all been learning from this virus altering our new way of life.

Not considering myself a clairvoyant, more simply a provocateur, I’ve begun to ruminate on the following.

The mere fact is that much of the world now has access to a variety of technology and communication tools unavailable 100 years ago when the last massively impacting global pandemic struck. Along with it being essential to connecting us to friends, family, and colleagues as we continue to sit at home, we are using all this stuff to occupy, amuse, and inform ourselves. Let alone being fortunate to continue to conduct business, we are afforded “wine online” gatherings, multi-performer concerts, and check-ins with colleagues and family. With all of these amazing tools, we are exploring a new and ever-widening territory, discovering just how even more broadly productive and connected these tools are allowing us to be.

Consider how working from home could undoubtedly continue to benefit us as we re-emerge from our isolation and move into the NEXT.

Maybe not becoming a full-time replacement for collective workspaces shared by most of us, but perhaps on a more regular basis, we will find it continues to be valuable as we find ways to enjoy the productive use of the household “office.”

As we have seen in the early weeks of March, there was an almost immediate reduction in congestion in all forms of traffic - cars, buses, trains, and planes. The benefits to us all almost immediately evidenced in satellite photos and views out of our windows with clear BLUE skies. Certainly, it will be much more pleasurable and way healthier for all if we can find ways to reduce dependency and usage of all forms of transportation. It is clear that the biosphere, which we all share, will benefit with less pollution in many ways.

Perhaps a result of having more time on our hands, connecting with people out of our normal social sphere, from neighbors we’ve lost touch with during our OLD normal to a variety of folks who are further away from us and less on our mind, will be the new norm. I like all of the discovery and opportunity that creating a more social networking of the direct communicative kind, not just texting, has shown itself. I suspect it will continue to be part of my NEXT.

While the myriad of benefits has shown endless opportunities for us to explore extended use of technology, I also think that there will be an equal counter-revolution to technology-dependent interaction that will show itself. As we’ve already begun to relearn, it’s fun to do more in the realm of what is physically tangible… from sitting around the table with family, to putting puzzles together and playing cards, or whatever. Just being around family more is extremely rewarding, if not at times a bit challenging. People are going to want to head to nature and the urban fabric of life again - to enjoy independently and to enjoy with others.

I expect that all forms of entertainment are going to thrive when we begin the NEXT. It all won’t necessarily race back as we all adjust to how we must socially interact and maintain our distance to squelch the return of the virus.

And yes… how do we find ways to return to mass gatherings in all those many forms we once enjoyed having part of our lives? This is certainly the BIG question to answer. As we have been reading from sporting events, concerts, and theme parks… the NEXT is coming!

Yet, as I sit here, something told to me long ago by my father comes to mind. He was a young adult (29 to be exact) when the great depression of the last century hit. He said, “When times were good, people looked for entertainment. When times went bad, people looked even more for entertainment, social gathering, and interaction to help ease the challenges of daily life.”

I think this is a fundamental to human nature. We all look for escape and those occasional bits of communal joy. Across the world, we share a desire to enjoy ourselves with our families, friends, and others in ways that transport us into experiences and environments away from and out of life’s daily challenges and effort. This desire continues to be true for us all. It grows stronger as we find our way through the challenges that we must contend with, and hopefully soon defeat, as we find an end to this virus.

Our industry and all of us who share in it will be offered an even greater opportunity along with the numerous challenges, to do what we do as the NEXT arrives… find ways to ENTERTAIN people!

I can’t wait…


Rick Rothschild finding entertainment during quarantine.

About the Author

After completing 30 years as a creative senior executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, Rick founded FAR Out! Creative Direction in 2008. Blending a unique set of entertainment skills developed over 50 years in the world of theater, Disney theme parks, media and museums, Rick continues to lead concept development teams that explored and produce new attractions and other resort, recreation, and immersive experiences around the world.

Over the past 11 years, he has been responsible for bringing to life a series of flying ride experiences, from the first FlyOver Canada in Vancouver to recently opened FlyOver Iceland in Reykjavik and FlyOver the Wild West opening in Las Vegas in 2021. Additional projects have included Kaka’s Ocean Adventure, a state of the art 1000 seat 5D immersive 180º ride theater attraction at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. This attraction was honored with a THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2017.

His work with Disney has included creating Soarin’ Over California, consulting, and providing direction for numerous projects across the Kingdom of Disney resorts. His creative involvement has spanned from Nemo & Friends SEARIDER (Tokyo 2017) to popular 3-D attractions including Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, It’s Tough to be a Bug!, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, and Captain EO. In Florida, The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and a new Hall of Presidents were also completed under his leadership. Rick’s first directorial role with Disney was leading the creation of The American Adventure for EPCOT Center in 1982.

In November 2012, Rick completed a 2-year term as President of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and continues as an active member of the association’s Past Presidents Committee. Rick is also an active member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science, Producers Guild of America, and the Visual Effects Society. In the twenty years since the Themed Entertainment Association was established, 7 projects in which Rick has been involved have been recognized with the THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Connect with the Author: LinkedIn

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