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1982 Interview with Randall Duell and Ira West of R. Duell and Associates
(All photography from the 1982 company brochure)

Randal DuellIt's a safe bet to guess that you know a fair amount about R. Duell and Associates. Regardless, I guarantee you know their work. This company, an outgrowth of an architectural practice that began in 1937, was the single most influential creative force in the first decades of the theme park industry.

Like all of the original Disney park Imagineers, Randall Duell had a background in film art direction; take a quick look over his listing at the IMDB and you'll appreciate the scope of his early career. But note that his film work ended in 1959 - that's when things started going in a different direction.

After a couple of early misfires (like New York's Freedomland park), Duell's company entered the history books with their designs for Six Flags Over Texas. They then went on to design the other two original Flaggers, Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags Over Mid-America (now Six Flags St. Louis). And for those who are difficult to impress, there's more. A lot more:

Astroworld
Magic Mountain
Carowinds
Worlds of Fun
Hersheypark
The two Marriott's Great Americas
     (now Six Flags Great America and California's Great America)
Busch Gardens, Texas
Opryland
California's Lion Country Safari
Darien Lake
Libertyland
Parc Asterix
Bellewaerde

Those are just some of the parks they created; they also did work for already-existing funzones, including Great Adventure, Circus World, the Pavilion amusement park in Myrtle Beach, and on and on.

Marriott Carousel

Marriott's Great America's iconic double-decker carousel

Astroworld

The late, lamented Astroworld

Magic Gardens

This rendering above was for a proposed theme park in Honolulu, Hawaii called "Magic Gardens." Sure woulda loved to have seen that happen.

Randall Duell died in 1992 at the age of 89, and the Duell Corporation, as it was last known, is no more. But talk about a legacy...

In 1982, Duell and Ira West, the company's president, very graciously consented to an interview at their offices in Santa Monica, California. I think I'd originally planned to write it up for an issue of the American Coaster Enthusiast's Rollercoaster! publication, but for one reason or another, that never happened. The audio tape is dust, and the transcript sat in a file cabinet for years; I only recently came across it again. So here it is, in all its out-of-date glory. Enjoy.

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© Robert Coker
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