By Marilyn Alva www.investors.com
Standing water never had much appeal to Mark Fuller.
But moving water was enthralling.
As a youngster he’d stop to watch snow turn into streams of water rushing down hills near his home outside Salt Lake City.
Playing in his backyard, he’d use a garden hose to make swamps. Then he’d form canals to make the water flow. Once, using old washing machine parts and switches, he made a backyard waterfall.
“Salt Lake City was at first a desert. Water is something you think about,” Fuller told IBD. “It’s just something I’ve always loved.”
Fuller followed his passion. Today, at 58, he’s widely regarded as the world’s greatest modern-day fountaineer, with a host of awards and commissions to show for it.
His Sun Valley, Calif., company, WET, has designed and manufactured 220 fountains in 20 countries. Sales last year totaled nearly $60 million. No other fountain company comes close.
Water is Fuller’s main medium, but sound, light and fire are sometimes added for dramatic effect.
WET recently raised the bar when it created the $220 million Dubai Fountain, which soars almost 500 feet, near the highest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. The water displays are lit by 6,600 lights and are choreographed to Middle Eastern and other music.
Gushing In Vegas
Fuller’s most famous fountain has been singing and dancing on a lake outside Las Vegas’ Bellagio hotel and casino since 1998.
Steven Spielberg has called it “the greatest single piece of public entertainment on planet Earth.”
Despite all the song and dance, water is still the star attraction at WET fountains. That’s different from many famous fountains, such as the Trevi in Rome and those at the nearby Tripoli Gardens, where statues, coins and gardens can steal the limelight.
“He has built an incredible water language that allows water and people to interact and be entertained unlike ever before,” said Bob Ward, co-founder and former senior executive of Universal Studios Parks & Resorts’ creative development team.
WET — which stands for Water Entertainment Technologies — holds about 50 patents. Its inventions include water control valves, air-compression jet devices, underwater lighting and laminar (smooth) stream technology.
The firm came up with underwater nozzle robots called Oarsmen, as well as VirtualWET, a software program that can choreograph water movement based on nozzle settings and wind conditions.
Technology is a tool to an end, says Jim Doyle, a former Hollywood special effects expert who is WET’s director of technical resources.