There are few forms of entertainment I enjoy more than theme parks. So when I learned of Evermore Park, I knew I had to learn more about it. Evermore Park had its grand opening September 20th, 2018, and it introduced visitors to a land in which magic, elves, knights, and other fantasy archetypes roam free. (It is also one of the few parks that encourages people to engage in archery and axe throwing.) Wanting to learn more about Evermore, I was able to interview Joshua Von War-Bear aka M. Joshua Todd – Evermore’s Director of Show Design as well as a former propmaker for CW The Outpost – about his career and his work at Evermore.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some stories you loved experiencing? Are there any you think still influence your work?
Joshua Von War-Bear: When I was growing up, there were a lot of stories that influenced me. Particularly things like: He-Man and every other Saturday morning, afternoon after school and Don Bluth classic cartoons out there. Of course, comics were a huge impact on me. Not to mention movie classics like Dragonslayer and Willow. All these things influenced me greatly and continue to serve as inspiration in all my arts.
Yanes: You are from Savannah, Georgia, which is simply a beautiful city in a beautiful area. Do you think the city’s landscapes and history shaped the artist you’d become?
Joshua Von War-Bear: I’d have to say not. Haha. I was born there, but lived in a very small southern town west of Savannah. I spent a lot of time playing outdoors, goofing off with friends in school and working with my family. Oddly enough, fighting against my Southern influences to become a bigger nerd. If that makes sense.
Yanes: You have been able to make some really cool props and armors for The Outpost. How do you think this experience has allowed you to improve as a professional? On this note, is there an armor or prop that you are particularly proud of?
Joshua Von War-Bear: The Outpost was a huge learning experience and growing period for me. My creative twin and predecessor Dave did a lot of the heavy lifting with most of that and when he left, I picked up where he left off with some of the armors, weapons and creature stuff. The experience taught me a great deal on streamlining the creative process as well as discipline to just keep going when your brain wants to stop. I’m proud of all the things I do, but I thing the sword and dagger of Essa Khan was my particular favorite prop.
Yanes: You are currently working at Evermore. Besides a paycheck, what was it about this park that captured your imagination? Was there an element of Evermore that you immediately resonated with?
Joshua Von War-Bear: Absolutely. I’ve been fortunate enough to land in job situations where I not only get to work with incredibly talented friends, but am given a great deal of creative freedom to stretch my wings. There’s a certain childhood fulfillment that is felt when someone hears your ideas or sees your sketches and says: “That’s awesome! Lets do that! Great work!”
Yanes: Theme parks have deeply impacted the American imagination for decades. What is it about theme parks that you love the most? On this note, what are some of your favorite theme park attractions?
Joshua Von War-Bear: I moved to Florida when I was 19, so of course I worked at Universal Studios more than a few times. I always loved the parks. Walking around early before everyone got there was a magical experience. I loved walking through the Marvel Comics Island and riding Spider-Man as well as walking through Jurassic Park and Lost Continent. The scenery was always inspiring, like walking through a movie set or other world. I honestly haven’t been to many theme parks since. But Spider-Man and The Hulk from Universal were always great. Then, at Disney there was the Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror, and the Star Wars ride.
Yanes: Buzzfeed recently released a video of one of their people visiting Evermore, and she decided to remain in character for the whole of her visit. Given that there will be visitors who don’t want to be in character the entire time, does this impact how attractions and stories are designed?
Joshua Von War-Bear: If it’s the video I think it is, I’m the Archer that was teaching her the ways of the bow and arrow. Haha. It impacts it in a few ways. Most of it is more enjoyable as a costumed character with friends. But the same quests are just as fun if you aren’t dressed up in your finest Tolkien attire. So, while it is designed with the more enthusiastic patrons in mind, it’s still geared to be just as playable for others, with the added benefit of a self-guided walkthrough experience and some of the best people watching around.
Yanes: A video that Evermore released discusses how the park will change from season to season. What are some of the challenges created from seasonal changes? Do you have to design elements that can be easily switched out every few months, or are areas easily re-skinned?
Joshua Von War-Bear: As artists, we’re challenged on a daily basis. With Evermore we’re challenged more so, as we are a start-up, we have to dream up, design, build, install and operate at super speed for the new seasons. I think that and the weather are the biggest challenges faced. We try to design elements that can go in fairly quick between the seasons, or stay in the park with a different theme. But again, challenging as it can be, it’s still a hell of a ride for an artist!
Yanes: At the end of the day, when people visit Evermore, what do you hope they take away from the interactions they had with elements you crafted?
Joshua Von War-Bear: Fond memories. I hope they take away a large assortment of memories caused by a fun and never before imagined adventure.
Yanes: On this note, what is your favorite area of Evermore?
Joshua Von War-Bear: That’s a tough one. My favorite areas are the Tavern, the Mausoleum and the Archery range. They were among my first projects when I was hired here and my team and I put a lot of heart and soul into them.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Joshua Von War-Bear: I’m working on a series of Evermore merchandise for our awesome fans as well as some more interactive games/experiences for the park. Outside of the park, I’m teaching a series of leather working instructional videos with Curious Mondo here in Utah. All of these are things I’m looking forward to and I hope everyone is just as excited as I am.
Remember, you can learn more about War-Bear by following him on Instagram at dark_archer_design. And you can learn more about Evermore by checking out its homepage and following it on Twitter at @EvermorePark.