What began 35 years ago as a mechanical “talking head” that educated patients in a local dentist’s waiting room has grown into a design and manufacturing firm with a global reach.
Sally Corp., headquartered at 745 W. Forsyth St. in the LaVilla section Downtown, designs “dark rides” that are installed in theme parks all over the world.
Dark rides are indoor attractions where guests ride through a story, often interacting with characters and other elements.
Installations include “E.T.’s Adventure” at Universal Studios Florida, “Yosemite Sam & the Gold River Adventure” at Six Flags Over Texas, “Voyage to the Center of the Earth” at Water World near Denver and “Zombie Paradise” at Geopolis/Korakuen Park in Tokyo.
The company also built the lion that roars at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Closer to home, Sally has an installation a few blocks from its headquarters and manufacturing facility, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the James Weldon Johnson story, at the Ritz Theatre and Museum.
Creating an animatronic attraction begins with the story, said Jan Sherman, assistant vice president and creative director.
From there, a staff of more than 40 writers, artists and technicians create all the elements for a dark ride or other animated mechanical installation.
Vice President of Creative Design Drew Hunter said the first time he ever took a dark ride was at the Missouri State Fair.
“I was only six or seven years old and I fell in love with it. I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he said.
“The most fun for me is helping develop the storylines. We have to believe in the ideas,” said Hunter.
The end product is what gives Sherman the most satisfaction.
“The most fun for me is to watch people ride the rides,” she said.
Sherman said the recession affected the theme-park business just like all others, but it’s rebounding.
“We had a hard time for about two years, but we got through it. This year is going to be great,” she said.
Public tours of Sally’s headquarters are available by reservation-only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Visit sallycorp.com for details.