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Insight - June 2016

TEA Takeaways

Themed Entertainment Association Summit 2016

by Jeremy Schoolfield

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) held its annual Thea Awards Gala on April 2 at the Disneyland Resort, honoring 14 different new projects from the previous year for “Outstanding Achievement.” In addition, Keith James of JRA was given the Buzz Price Thea Award for lifetime achievement, while AECOM’s John Robinett received the TEA Distinguished Service award.

TEA Summit 2016, held across the two days prior to the gala, gave the creators of these projects an opportunity to share the stories behind them and illuminate the challenges overcome in bringing them to fruition.

Here is just a snapshot of what the award winners shared during the conference:

One World Observatory
The goal for this attraction atop One World Trade Center in New York City was to be uplifting and positive about the future, not to focus on the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, said Phil Hettema, whose Hettema Group designed the project. Hettema’s team had to work with the tower’s elevator manufacturer to create custom conveyance devices that would support floor-to-ceiling videoscreens.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour, The Henry Ford
In taking guests through the creation of the new Ford F150 truck, BRC Imagination Arts actually put GoPro cameras on the production line to shoot point-of-view video of parts of the truck as they were assembled, said BRC’s Christian Lachel.

‘SpongeBob SubPants Adventure,’ Moody Gardens
This, ahem, immersive show combines 3-D film, 4-D effects, a live actor, and a real-time animated character using the new Geppetto Animation Control System developed by Super 78. The show features multiple branching narratives based on audience decisions, so no two experiences are ever exactly the same.

‘Les Amoureux de Verdun,’ Puy du Fou
This walkthrough attraction tells the haunting and heartfelt story of two lovers writing letters to each other during WWI. The story is set in a battlefield trench and incorporates projected media, audio effects, stage props and lighting, and live actors. The park’s Philippe de Villiers said his team overcomes budgetary limitations with deep and emotive storytelling; he also mentioned there is no prescribed path for visitors to experience the attraction, however, the live actors communicate with guests and help draw them through the story.  

JRA’s Keith James Receives TEA Lifetime Achievement Award

During the Thea Awards Gala, JRA CEO/Owner Keith James was given the Buzz Price Thea Award for lifetime achievement in the attractions industry.

James, a former member of the IAAPA Board of Directors, began his work in the industry in 1970, joining Taft Broadcasting’s amusement park division. His career has spanned the globe working on countless high-profile projects, both before and after he joined JRA in 1992.

“I’ve had an unbelievable life, because of you all—not because of me,” James told the capacity crowd of his peers at the gala. “We’ve all worked together on all of these things all around the world. This award is for everyone in the room, and the hundreds and probably thousands of people who I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with over the last 45 years. I can’t thank you enough.”