24 Apr 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

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Attractions Management Handbook - Thea Awards 2017

Thea Awards

Thea Awards 2017
Christine Kerr, BaAM Productions
Thea Awards 2017 ©shutterstock/Halfpoint

TEA – Themed Entertainment Association – presented its latest Award for Outstanding Achievement (AOAs) to the creators and developers of compelling collaborative, educational, community, artistic and entertaining places that exemplify the value of globally engaging themed entertainment and experience design.

Guest editor Christine Kerr summarises the event, the tributes and the award recipients.

On 22 April 2017, at Disneyland Resort in California, the 23rd annual Thea Awards paid tribute to the organisations and individuals who work in the world of themed entertainment and experience design. The Thea Awards Gala, produced by Phil Hettema and his incredible team and supported by Walt Disney Creative Entertainment, was a glittering affair held in the ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel and was attended by more than 800 industry luminaries.

Ahead of the awards, the TEA Summit featured presentations ranging from trends and influences on the business of the industry to case studies.

Day one included a lively conversation with Jeremy Railton, recipient of the Buzz Price award, while Nolan Bushnell and Bruce Vaughn talked about the reality of VR. “Elephants in the Room” presentations challenged us to consider thought-provoking, but often avoided, topics. AECOM gave its ever-popular statistical breakdown.

Day two offered AOA recipients an opportunity to share an overview of their projects, speak about the creative process, business impact and lessons learned, and answer questions about their accomplishments.


Recognising a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements
AWARD: BUZZ PRICE


 

Jeremy Railton
 
Jeremy Railton Founder/chair Entertainment Design Corp.

Jeremy Railton is one of the most versatile and prolific designers in entertainment. He’s a celebrated, creative force in themed entertainment, immersive experiences, gaming, television, concerts and ceremonies. His work has been recognised with Thea Awards, Emmys and Art Directors Guild Awards.

Jeremy’s career path into the world of themed entertainment included time spent designing for film, theatre and television. His work is often cutting edge, frequently tackling projects based on ideas that have simply never been considered before. In fact, his body of work includes so many unique and different projects that he might be credited with defining – and then redefining – the term “themed entertainment”.

Jeremy is no stranger to high-profile, large-scale spectacles, having provided creative input to Olympic organising committees for decades, including creation of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games’ opening and closing ceremonies. He was the creative force behind the Thea Award-recipient “Fremont Street Experience” in Las Vegas, and created the Fall of Atlantis for Caesar’s Forum Shops and the “Crane Dance” (another Thea Award recipient) for Resorts World Sentosa. Most recently, Jeremy designed and created a spectacular light, water and sound show that runs hourly in the Galaxy Casino in Macau.

His charm and humility make him a wonderful creative partner. He’s designed concert sets for Barbra Streisand, Julio Iglesias and Cher.

TEA founder Monty Lunde said: “Jeremy is individually imaginative while also being uniquely inclusive, supportive and mentoring to all who help make his creative visions real. He is constantly testing the boundaries of how to create ‘wow’, but is conscious of real-world budgets and schedules.” Perhaps Bob Rogers said it best at the Thea Awards Gala: “Jeremy Railton is the real deal!”



Peter Chernack, The Chernack Group
(posthumous honour, in memoriam)
AWARD: TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award


 

Peter Chernack
 

This award is presented annually at the Thea Awards Gala in recognition of a TEA member’s outstanding contributions “above and beyond the call of duty”.

TEA past president Peter Chernack, who passed away in 2016, embodied all the qualities that define this award and so it has been renamed in his memory. The TEA International Board of Directors has unanimously approved this posthumous award to Peter, in recognition of his distinguished service.

Peter Chernack, 1948–2016, was an industry innovator and a TEA pioneer. Not long after completing a BA degree in Theater Arts and an MA in Business, Peter started his own company, Metavision. It grew to be internationally recognised as a producer of award-winning shows and media-based attractions for theme parks, visitor centres and casinos. More recently, Peter formed The Chernack Group and continued to conceive and develop immersive experiences.

Peter was instrumental in founding the TEA and served a two-year term as TEA International Board President in 1997 and 1998. He remained involved in TEA long after his term as president ended because he was a passionate supporter of the industry and the Association. His many significant contributions include helping found and chair the Past Presidents Committee, strong support for launching the TEA’s NextGen initiative, and attendance at many annual planning meetings. His eloquence and passion will be missed by his colleagues but his inspiration lives on in the most fitting new name for this award.


WaterWorld – A Live Sea War Spectacular

Universal Studios Hollywood, CA, USA
AWARD: Thea Classic

To honour an exemplary and influential project that has stood the test of time for more than 20 years, TEA created the Thea Classic Award.

Since 1995, WaterWorld: A Live Sea Spectacular at Universal Studios Hollywood has done just that, entertaining millions of guests at tens of thousands of performances. In 1996, one year after it opened, TEA recognised the show with a Thea AOA, acknowledging that WaterWorld set a new standard for live stunt shows, notable for its design, scale, staging and showmanship.

Over the next 21+ years, the show has been kept up to date with changes in production technology that ensure it continues to engage and entertain increasingly sophisticated park visitors. The cast of talented stunt performers bring to life the characters and mythology of the original feature film in an immersive themed environment, made more impactful by pyro, flame effects and state-of-the-art sound. Audience favourite stunts include jet ski launches, multiple falls including a dramatic 50-foot flaming plunge and the intense, explosive crash landing of a full-sized seaplane.

The show has consistently been a guest favourite and has been recreated at both Universal Studios Japan and Singapore. For its enduring popularity and high standards of immersive guest experience, WaterWorld: A Live Sea War Spectacular embodies the meaning of “classic” in themed entertainment.

 



Audience favourite stunts include the intense, explosive crash landing of a full-sized seaplane

Thea Awards for Outstanding Achievement
Introduced during the third year of the awards ceremony to honour excellence found throughout the themed entertainment industry, the AOAs praise the entire achievement and everyone who worked on the achievement, rather than individuals. As there are no set categories in this section and the TEA is free to champion several achievements in the same category or skip categories altogether, the format of this aspect of the ceremony differs each year.
Slideboarding by WhiteWater©

AWARD: AOA Technology

Developed by WhiteWater, Slideboarding is a pioneering adaptation of video gaming for the world of waterparks. Combining a redesigned Slideboard with integrated videogame-like controls that interact with technology embedded in the waterslide makes for a real game changer for the waterpark industry.
A smart app connects players, amps up the competition and extends play before and after a visit. The system scans each guest as a unique rider/player and automatically increases the difficulty of the game for each guest visit.

Slideboards are equipped with coloured buttons that correspond with LED lights located inside the waterslide. As players move down the slide, the lights change colour and they must activate the corresponding button on their Slideboard. Riders scores are displayed at the end of the run. The system remembers riders and their scores for revisits, increasing the difficulty of the game and challenging riders to reach new scoring levels – which are globally shared with other riders. Players can log into their account via the app and continue to play at home.

This outstanding new technology is affordable and will benefit waterparks and the industry as a whole – whether it is integrated into a new installation or retrofitted on an existing waterslide.

 



Scores are displayed at the end of the run
 


Videogame-like controls interact with tech embedded in the waterslide
 
5D Castle Theatre, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom
Hengqin Island, Zuhai, China

AWARD: AOA Attraction

Located in a colourful, whimsical castle near the entrance to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, this attraction features the park’s mascots – KiKi, KaKa and KuKu – starring in an animated 5D adventure film.

The journey around the world is presented as a seamless 4D digital projection on a massive, wrap-around screen, and at time of writing – the largest in the world. The audience is completely immersed in the experience which blends seamless visual media, moving theatre seats and in-theatre atmospheric effects, all supported by a multichannel sound system.

In the finale of the film, the animated characters burst through the screen as a 3D scenic animatronic and fly out over the audience in the ultimate 5D effect.

It’s quickly become a visitor favourite, boosting mascot-related merchandise.

The quality of the production, creative storytelling and technical integration elevates the quality bar for attractions in China. The 5D Castle Theatre shows that large-scale, high-capacity shows can offer intimate and impactful experiences.

 



Large-scale, high-capacity shows can still offer intimate and impactful guest experiences
Inverted Powered Coaster by Mack Rides

AWARD: AOA Innovative Ride System

Mack Rides’ Inverted Power Coaster is a true ride hybrid that combines the control and showmanship of a sophisticated dark ride vehicle with the visceral thrills of a rollercoaster. First developed, tested and installed at Europa-Park in Germany for the attraction ARTHUR, it’s now part of Mack’s regular product line.

The ride system provides attraction designers with the flexibility of 360º spins and variable speeds as well as gravity, power-fed traditional coaster sections. Onboard audio can support any number of configurations. The new ride system dissolves the boundaries between traditional thrill ride and attraction categories and offers designers unprecedented ability to create new types of guest experiences. The ability to control speed using the vehicle-mounted motors allows for outstanding pace control in certain scenes with left and right rotation focusing riders’ attention where the storyline requires. The powered nature of the individual trains eliminates the need for the traditional rollercoaster lift, meaning the free-wheeling coaster thrills can take guests by surprise.

The Inverted Power Coaster cleverly combines previously existing technologies to create a flexible ride system that opens up endless possibilities for future storytellers and attraction designers.

 



A sophisticated dark ride vehicle with the visceral thrills of a rollercoaster
Senate Immersion Module, Edward M. Kennedy Institute© for the US Senate
Boston, MA, USA

AWARD: AOA Connected Immersion in Education

The Senate Immersion Module (SIM) is a role-playing experience at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, a non-profit, educational destination on the campus of the University of Massachusetts.

Students gather in a full-scale replica of the Senate Chamber in Washington, DC where they are sworn in as senators for the day. The experience is supported by live actors and an app available on handheld tablets and given to all participants. Students choose their state, learn about an issue, form a position and ultimately vote on the floor of the Senate Chamber. Throughout the day, the app provides updates including new information, provisions and amendments.

The SIM brings learning to life by immersing students in a realistic scenario and teaching them the subtleties and nuances of the political process. It also provides online curriculum for teachers and students so that they can prepare in advance for their visit and then debrief afterward.

This connected immersion experience gives the participants clearly defined roles and facilitates listening and compromise in order to achieve a common goal. It balances action and role-playing with technology in a way that makes the students more comfortable with the entire experience.

 



The experience is supported by an app which is updated throughout the day
Ghost Post, The Haunted Mansion, Disneyland Park
Anaheim, CA, USA

AWARD: Connected Immersion

Ghost Post embodied a new level of visitor engagement that took an attraction experience far beyond the typical. The alternate reality game and clever storytelling mechanism became personal and extended before, during and after the theme park visit – thereby creating an entirely new dimension to the classic Disneyland Haunted Mansion attraction. Multiple touch points engaged guests with a beloved and familiar attraction in new ways and drove repeat visitation.

A three-month paid subscription delivered authentic Haunted Mansion packages of trinkets, ephemera and magic to guests’ homes. These deliveries included a custom-created “Ghost Radio” app for mobile devices that played audio dramas, clues and more, setting up a multidimensional and immersive storytelling experience. This led to a scavenger hunt of sorts at Disneyland Park, beginning with the Fortune Teller in the Main Street Arcade and ending with a ride in the Doom Buggy at the Haunted Mansion – with a customised sound track.

This innovative extension of the guest experience delivered increased entertainment value and revenue. Ghost Post also created a level of customisation for guests who wanted it and a stronger connection and loyalty to the brand.

 



Authentic Haunted Mansion packages are delivered to guests’ homes
Transformations, Museum of Latin American Art
Long Beach, CA, USA

AWARD: AOA Museum Exhibit on a Limited Budget

Transformations tells the stories of five Long Beach community members who achieved personal transformation in the face of complex experiences that include cancer, prison and gang violence.

Each of the participants acted as a curator, selecting works of art from the collection of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) to represent the before and after of their story. The stories told in the exhibition are blunt, frank universal stories of human resilience, inspiring others to face and overcome their own challenges in life. They present the emotional power of art, and the diversity, challenges and creativity of the community they serve.

The exhibit features a short video narrated by each participant. Further story connections include personal items, the works of art they selected and quotes describing their choice. Visitors can even choose a necklace featuring an image of art that best represents their own story.

Transformations touches visitors on a deeply personal level. It combines unique storytelling with emotional resonance and strong community impact.

This is true storytelling within an art museum setting – powerful, personal and universally accessible.

 



Transformations is true storytelling in an art museum setting
 


Transformations is true storytelling in an art museum setting
 
 


The stories told in the exhibition are blunt, frank and universal
 
Décrocher la Lune VI
La Louviére, Belgium

AWARD: AOA Live Event Spectacular on a Limited Budget

This large-scale, live, city-wide theatrical celebration was first conceived 15 years ago as a thank you to the community of La Louviére from creative genius Franco Dragone. It is urban opera and immersive storytelling on a grand scale: a collaboration between Dragone, Luc Petit, 650 citizen volunteers, 200 technicians and 35,000 spectators. More importantly, it brings together an entire community for a one-night production that is re-imagined and re-staged every three years.

The sixth unique edition of the show – Décrocher la Lune VI – re-invents the telling of the story of town hero Sancho and his quest to take down the moon to reveal the sun. The spectacle proves that anything is possible with new and ever unique combinations of circus, dance, theatre, music, projection, lighting, pyro, aerial antics and super-scale puppets.

Décrocher la Lune VI represents the highest level of visual imagination and creative design. It immerses and involves its audiences and is executed with theatrical flair and showmanship.
Perhaps the most astounding achievement of all is that it rallies together a community with an unprecedented level of involvement in the pursuit of a creative collaboration. And it does this every three years with a re-birth of the tradition that is much anticipated and celebrated.

 



Urban opera and immersive storytelling on a grand scale
House of Eternal Return by Meow Wolf
Santa Fe, NM, USA

AWARD: AOA Connected Immersion on a Limited Budget

The premise for House of Eternal Return is simple enough: explore a seemingly ordinary Victorian house to discover what happened to its former owners. What guests discover when they enter is a combination of jungle gym, haunted house, children’s museum and immersive art exhibition.

What is perhaps more surprising is that the Meow Wolf community of artists has reinvented location-based attractions through the use of non-linear storytelling and technology-infused interactivity in a multimedia, hands-on art exhibit. The self-guided structure of the experience allows guests to build their own story and ensures each visit is unique. Portals – including the fridge, the dryer and the fireplace – allow the audience to move into new dimensions where the nature of time and space has dissolved. Each artist has brought to life their own interpretations of the theme, creating pocket universes of interactivity and media.

Visitors have been known to lose themselves for hours within the 20,000-square foot space where the lines blur between what is real and what is virtual.

The House of Eternal Return uses the creative inspiration of an art collective to produce exceptional themed entertainment. It is not surprising to learn that master storyteller George R.R. Martin is one of Meow Wolf’s earliest patrons.

 



The creative art collective produces exceptional themed entertainment
 


The self-guided experience allows visitors to build their own unique story
 
Meet Vincent Van Gogh Experience
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

AWARD: AOA Immersive Museum Touring Exhibit

The largest collection of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings, drawings and letters are held in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Challenged by the fact that these precious works of art and artifacts are too fragile to travel, the museum developed the Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience so that the artist and his work could be introduced to new audiences around the world through digital channels.

The resulting exhibit elevates the museum experience from a passive gallery of paintings to an immersive encounter that allows visitors to know the great works of art, and the artist, in new ways. The unique presentation combines various techniques to create an experience where visitors walk through and among Vincent van Gogh’s great works of art. They also journey through the cafes, villages and houses that formed the backdrop to his life.

Guided by van Gogh’s own words taken from personal correspondence, guests delve deeply into his brilliant mind and troubled psyche. The exhibit techniques combine immersive media, audio and lighting seamlessly with graphic images and three-dimensional props – facilitating immersion, interactivity and engagement.

Currently on a 30-city tour of China, the exhibit is accomplishing its goal of sharing the talent and legacy of Vincent van Gogh with new audiences around the world.

 



The exhibit seamlessly combines audio, lighting graphics and 3D props
Le Dernier Panache, Puy du Fou©
Les Epesses, France

AWARD: AOA Live Show

Le Dernier Panache is a historical pageant that follows the career of a young naval officer from his apprenticeship during the American Revolutionary War through the final days of the French Revolution.

The 34-minute show takes place in a purpose-built theatre where the audience seating rotates on a huge turntable to follow the performers from scene to scene around a 360º stage. Each scene is played as a part of a seamless tapestry that encircles the audience, revealing one breathtaking setting after another.

The spectacular scenery and costumes are supported by projected images and a cast of 40 performers, including children and a menagerie of animals.
Performed up to seven times daily, it’s one of the largest multi-performance production theme park shows in the world.

The show represents theatrical storytelling on a grand scale, with a high level of sophistication, impressive production values and beautiful execution. The show once again fulfils Puy du Fou’s brand of making history come alive and it has earned the park a well-deserved third Thea Award.

Le Dernier Panache is resonating with audiences who regularly rate it 9.3 out of 10. It is remarkable for its audacious scale, ambitious operating requirements and quality standards in production.

 



The show represents theatrical storytelling on a grand scale
 


A historical pageant that follows the career of a young French naval officer
 
Shanghai Disneyland
Shanghai Disney Resort, China

AWARD: AOA Theme Park

The 12th Disney theme park, and largest of Disney’s six Magic Kingdom-style castle parks, Shanghai Disneyland preserves the best of Walt Disney’s original vision while pioneering a host of dazzling new creations. It opened on 16 June 2016 to global acclaim.

Within its six themed lands are elements both classic and new, with many original attractions specifically tailored to the Chinese audience. Of significance are Mickey Avenue, the park’s main entry street, a playful, timeless introduction to the famous Disney animated characters, and Gardens of Imagination offering a serene, landscaped haven at the park’s centre, featuring charming rides and a playful interpretation of the Chinese Zodiac, as Disney and Disney-Pixar characters.

The other lands are familiar themes including Fantasyland, home to the soaring Enchanted Storybook Castle – Disney’s tallest, largest and most interactive castle.

Disney took time to rethink its brands in the context of the host country. Culture, innovation and creativity are seamlessly integrated to deliver a guest experience that is, in the words of Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, “authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese”.

Chinese influences throughout the park are both immediately recognisable and subtly incorporated. They’re most visible in the elements of classic Chinese design and in the entertainment experiences, which include seasonal festivals and stage shows that incorporate Chinese language, performers, theatrics and acrobatics. They’re flavourful, with a menu that reflects the guests’ desire for both local and international cuisine. And they’re found in the lush green environments featuring native trees and shrubs from across China.

The cultural fusion has resulted in spectacular, innovative and delightful attractions that combine breakthrough technologies and dazzling design to form a new generation of Disney adventures.

 



The Enchanted Storybook Castle is Disney’s tallest, largest and most interactive
Camp Discovery, Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disney Resort, China
AWARD: AOA Attraction

Camp Discovery is an aspirational, hands-on mountain climbing expedition that caters to guests of all ages. It’s ambitious in scale and complexity, rich in story, and big on adventure. Guests join a group of 1930s explorers for a journey that will send them on a hike over tumultuous river gorges, through majestic caverns, and past rushing waterfalls.

With more than 100 bridges and three expeditions to choose from, combined with multiple ground-based activities, Camp Discovery is a highly repeatable, aspirational family experience.

Features include the Excavation Site, a hands-on area for would-be explorers looking to navigate tunnels and search for ancient relics in active archaeological dig sites, and the Challenge Trails, featuring unique and thrilling elevated ropes-course expeditions. The walk-through Vista Trail provides guests with views and perfectly staged photo opportunities of fellow explorers traversing the mountainous terrain above.

As a best-in-class participatory experience, this attraction takes an industry standard – the ropes course – and evolves it into an aspirational, story-driven mountain climbing expedition.

 



An aspirational, story-driven, hands-on mountain climbing expedition for all ages
Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, Shanghai Disneyland
Shanghai Disney Resort, China

AWARD: AOA Attraction

This attraction at Shanghai Disneyland represents the pinnacle of Disney storytelling, immersive design and advanced technology. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure reinvents and reimagines the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction that first opened at Disneyland in 1967 (and received a Thea Classic Award).

Though the experience begins with the familiar talking skull warning all who pass, it soon becomes clear this isn’t the same Pirates ride. The opening scene culminates with one of the skeletons magically transforming into Captain Jack Sparrow. Once you enter Captain Jack’s world, the real adventure begins as you sink to the Graveyard of Lost Ships, are caught by the master of the depths, Davy Jones, and are thrust into the middle of the ultimate pirate battle.

This epic adventure plays out in 10 major scenes with seamless technology, a new controllable boat ride system, operatic scale scenery, large format projection, award-winning visual effects, illusions and next-generation audio-animatronics all magically blended to completely immerse guests.

This high-capacity, thrilling experience is one that many in the sector have declared the “best theme park ride – ever!”

 



This epic adventure has 10 major scenes with seamless technology
Center Parcs Domain du Bois Aux Daims
Les Trois-Moutiers, France

AWARD: AOA Eco-Friendly Destination

At Le Domain du Bois Aux Daims, Center Parcs combines a spectacular natural setting with leisure opportunities and integrated storytelling. Within the 264-hectare site, guest accommodations include 800 wooden cottages and 11 very special themed tree houses. No cars are allowed within the grounds. Animals are a main feature of the outdoor experience, and Center Parcs partnered with Jacques Perrin (producer of Microcosmos) to create an ambitious programme of animal-related activities and observation opportunities. Indigenous animals of the forest such as deer, foxes, badgers, wild pigs and birds can be viewed from hiking trails and an aerial canopy walk. The Farm allows younger guests to discover ponies, sheep, cows, rabbits, chickens and donkeys.

Nature has also inspired the indoor facilities: AquaMundo, a large indoor waterpark, is set in a luxurious tropical garden that includes a wave pool, waterslides and a children’s water play area all presented in a naturalistic colour palette that integrates beautifully with the setting. The storytelling really comes to life in the restaurants and play areas where cleverly integrated scenic, prop and décor elements make dining a fun family time. Authenticity is the key to the success of this idyllic destination located in the heart of a forest in Les Trois-Moutiers, France.

 



Authenticity is the key to the success of this idyllic destination
 


AquaMundo is set in a luxurious and naturalistic tropical garden setting
 
Springfield USA, Universal Studios Hollywood©
Universal City, CA, USA

AWARD: AOA Themed Food & Beverage Experience

Homer Simpson is always eating – and his outlandish food palate contributes to the longevity of The Simpsons. The Springfield USA zone is home to a dimensional recreation of his world – in particular, a menu designed, developed and taste-tested that delivers real-life, authentic foods and flavours of The Simpsons.

Universal Studios Hollywood has raised the bar by recreating tastes and themes that previously existed only within an animated world. Places like Krusty Burger, Luigi’s, Cletus’ Chicken Shack and Lard Lad are set against a backdrop of periodic meltdowns at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. All the dining in Springfield is about food items seen specifically on the animated series and the food is as much fun as any attraction. At Moe’s Tavern or Duff’s Brewery guests can experience a “Flaming Moe”, and several specially draft beers are only available at these venues.

Much can be done to extend the themed experience into the area that is near and dear to every human being … the stomach. Springfield USA is an outstanding example of Universal’s leadership in successfully incorporating food to enhance the guest experience.

 



Incorporating food featured on The Simpsons series enchances the guest experience

About the author
Christine Kerr – immediate past TEA president – is vice president of Toronto-based BaAM Productions.

*Project descriptions have been edited from summaries written by the 2017 TEA Thea Awards Committee and originally published by the TEA in the 2017 Thea Awards Program.


Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2017 issue 1

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