26 May 2024 Attractions Management Handbook

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Attractions Management Handbook - Thea Awards


Thea Awards

We look at the international attractions, people and technology that received Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Thea Awards in 2018 and were honoured at the annual Thea Awards Gala. Report curated by guest editor Matt Kerr

Matt Kerr, KerrCreative
TEA honours the creators and developers of compelling places and experiences photo: ©shutterstock/Jacob Lund

TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) honours the creators and developers of compelling places and experiences with the annual Thea Awards. The Awards, founded in 1994, recognise excellence and breakthrough innovation within the industry and build a greater awareness of the collaborative, educational, community, artistic and entertaining nature of globally engaging themed entertainment and experience design. There are three basic categories of Thea Award: Lifetime Achievement, Thea Classic, and Award for Outstanding Achievement (AOA). This report summarises the event, tributes and award recipients.

In April 2018, at the Disneyland Resort in California, the 24th annual TEA Thea Awards Gala paid tribute to the organisations and individuals who work in the world of themed entertainment and experience design. Prior to the Thea Awards Gala, the TEA Summit conference featured two days of presentations which allowed attendees to consider the industry through a business lens.

Sessions included an inspiring conversation with Phil Hettema, recipient of the Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements, interviewed by colleague Adam Bezark, and The Future is Now, AECOM’s foresight on futuristic developments that are closer to reality than most people think.

The popular “Elephants in the Room” sessions included a thought-provoking “Blinders Off” panel discussion, exploring inclusivity and #MeToo in the themed entertainment industry, as well as a look at sustainability in the sector and perspectives on succession planning.

Day Two of the summit offered the outstanding achievement award recipients an opportunity to give an overview of their projects, speak about the creative process, business impact and lessons learned, and answer questions regarding their achievement.

Cedar Point - Sandusky, OH, USA
AWARD: Thea Classic
Cedar Point is a unique American amusement park and resort paradise

The Thea Classic Award honours an exemplary and influential project that has stood the test of time (20+ year).

Simply put… there's no place like Cedar Point. Located on a scenic peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie, Cedar Point is a unique American amusement park and resort paradise. Cedar Fair Entertainment Company's flagship park has a rich history dating back to 1870, making it the second-oldest operating amusement park in North America. What began as a simple bathing beach and bathhouse is today a modern, multi-day family getaway and a mecca for thrill-seekers. With more than 150 rides, shows and attractions, Cedar Point is consistently voted one of the "Best Amusement Parks in the World" at the Golden Ticket Awards.

It's also known as "The Roller Coaster Capital of the World!®", home to many innovative, record-breaking, bold and daring rollercoaster creations, including: the first "hypercoaster", Magnum XL-200; the first "giga-coaster", Millennium Force; and in 2018, the world's first "hyper-hybrid" rollercoaster, Steel Vengeance.

Yet it's much more than great thrill rides. The 18-acre Cedar Point Shores Waterpark helps guests beat the heat, while the famous mile-long Cedar Point Beach and Boardwalk is a place to cool off. Three children's areas, spectacular live shows, unique food offerings, special events and even parasailing add to the multitude of family activities.

The fully restored 1905 Hotel Breakers and additional accommodations total over 1,500 rooms, while top-notch restaurants, night-time events and ferry boat excursions to nearby islands round out the many offerings that make Cedar Point a complete resort destination.

From attractions that can't be found anywhere else to pint-sized fun for families, Cedar Point is a place like no other – making it a worthy recipient of this year's Thea Classic Award.

photo: ©shutterstock/castate
Thea Awards for Distinguished Achievements and Service

The Thea Awards began in 1994 with a single Lifetime Achievement Award, and the first honoree was Harrison “Buzz” Price, pioneer in economic feasibility for entertainment projects. After Buzz passed away in 2010, the award was renamed in his honour.

The TEA’s Distinguished Service Award recipients are selected by the TEA Past Presidents Committee (as opposed to the Thea Awards Committee) presented annually at the Thea Awards Gala, in recognition of a TEA member’s outstanding contributions “above & beyond the call of duty” to the association. TEA Past President Peter Chernack, who passed away in 2016, embodied all of the qualities that define this award, and so it has been renamed in his memory.

Phil Hettema, Founder, The Hettema Group
AWARD: Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievement
Phil's devoted his lifetime to creative endeavours in themed entertainment

Ask around The Hettema Group (THG) design studios for some words to describe Phil Hettema, and you'll hear an impressive list: creator, originator, technology wizard, entertainer, legend. They'll go on to describe him with words like: gentle, thoughtful, collaborative, respectful, respected. He's a visionary leader who's also a good guy, and proof that good guys can achieve great things.

Originally a music major, Phil carried his passion for creative expression into his early work in the themed entertainment industry: costume designs for Disneyland's classic Main Street Electrical Parade, work for legendary TV puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft, and production supervision for the Super Bowl XVII halftime show and the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. This led to a 14-year tenure at Universal Creative, where he became senior VP; after which he founded The Hettema Group.

An "inspirational ringmaster", Phil has built a diverse team of creative and technical talents who work in an atmosphere of collaboration, teamwork and respect. This knack for "lighting the spark that makes [the team] rise to the next challenge" has led to the creation of award-winning experiences like the One World Observatory guest experience at the One World Trade Center, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and the High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas.

Beyond his creative vision and leadership skills, Phil has a well-deserved reputation for being a nice guy. This generous spirit is evident in his passion for inspiring the next generation of creative professionals in creating compelling stories and memorable experiences.

Phil Hettema's devotion to a lifetime of creative endeavours in themed entertainment, and his ongoing efforts to "envision the impossible", make him a worthy recipient of this year's Buzz Price Thea Award for Lifetime Achievement.

*Written by members of The Hettema Group (THG).

Joe Fox, PMP, Senior Project Engineer, Birket Engineering
AWARD: Peter Chernack Award for Distinguished Service
Joe’s always positive and upbeat – and ready for a challenge

If you’ve attended a TEA conference, such as the annual TEA Summit or TEA SATE, you’ve likely met Joe Fox, and/or heard his name mentioned, as he’s generally a fixture behind the curtain-making sure all things technical go forward with quality and consistency.

Joe has been a supportive, reliable and highly valued volunteer within the TEA for a number of years. He’s always positive and upbeat and ready for a challenge. He’s also a TES “NextGen” success story, although he was making a career transition as an adult rather than a recent graduate.

A 1997 school trip to Epcot sparked his interest, but it wasn’t until 2013 when he joined Birket Engineering that he got his start in the themed entertainment industry. He’s added to their work in ride and show control, lighting, pyrotechnics, production, specialty consumer merchandise and many other things. Joe says, “It’s been a wild ride ever since, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Joe understands the concept and value of giving back: he knows that you get out of the TEA what you put in. He’s currently a member of the TEA Eastern North America Division Board and has served on the TEA NextGen Committee for several years.

Annika Oetken
AWARD: Peter Chernack Award for Distinguished Service
Annika’s always made EME members new and old feel truly welcomed

Annika first came into the themed entertainment industry in 2003, joining the attraction team at the Bremen Space Center, which at the time was under construction. There she met future TEA EME Division President Phil Hartley, who was managing the AV and lighting installation. Phil clearly saw Annika’s talent for organisation and quickly hired her as his Technical Coordinator for his next project – working on the Ice Age adventure ride at Germany’s Movie Park. Also working on the Ice Age project was Nick Farmer (due to be International President in 2008). Before long, Annika was known to all the original “old hands” of the TEA European division.

Beginning in 2007, over the course of seven years, she provided administrative support to four EME Division Presidents. Beyond her characteristic attention to detail and organisational capabilities, Annika always made EME members new and old feel truly welcomed and valued.

Annika also participated in the organisation of many members’ meetings, mixers and the first two SATE conferences held in Europe (Amsterdam and Paris), and she often worked beyond expectations.

It is with pride that the entire EME Division joins together in celebrating Annika’s Distinguished Service Award.

*Written by TEA Past President Nick Farmer.

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.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture Washington, DC, US
AWARD: AOA, Museum

Taking its place in Washington, DC on the iconic National Mall, the newest Smithsonian museum has welcomed more than one million visitors since opening in September 2016. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is the only national museum devoted exclusively to African American life in all aspects, from a new perspective.

Like an exquisite sculpture, the elegant bronze 400,000sq ft (37,160sq m) building includes 12 inaugural exhibitions and 37,000 treasured artefacts on three separate floors. NMAAHC is a magnificent example of excellence in dimensional storytelling, by unfolding the African American experience in a beautifully creative and emotionally stirring way.

The primary spirit behind the architecture is one of “praise”, as the form of the building suggests upward movement. The journey takes visitors from the darkest struggles for freedom in the lower History Gallery to the third floor, displaying the spectacular achievements made as free Americans, including examples in science, architecture, entertainment, music, art and sports. This is not a story of people brought down, but of a people that overcame tremendous challenges and obstacles, and helped to transform a country.

Highlights include: Nat Turner’s original bible, a segregation-era Southern Railway car, the slavery block, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, and Michael Jackson’s fedora. An extensive display of photography and artwork is innovatively showcased, from touchscreens to interactive videos, built inside props and within recreated sets.

Visitors may experience moments of introspection and the pain of the past, but they will also embrace stories of resilience, joy, hope, inspiration and commitment from lessons in history – NMAAHC is a form of reconciliation.

The only national museum devoted exclusively to African American life photo:© Alan Karchmer
Symbolica: The Palace of Fantasy, de Efteling, the Netherlands
AWARD: AOA, Attraction

Symbolica is a world-class dark ride that displays excellence and innovative storytelling through intimate detail. It deftly combines artistry, imagination and old-world craftsmanship with fluid animatronics, interactive, themed trackless vehicles and an orchestral score to deliver a uniquely effective experience to guests.

The journey begins outside the lavishly appointed castle of King Pardulfus of Hartenhof (Court of Hearts) and then continues with a totally unexpected surprise in the pre-show, where a staircase splits apart and guests pass under it, entering the secret areas of the castle.

“Flights” of the three trackless vehicles dispatch together from the load area, but thereafter each follows a slightly different path according to its particular theme: Hero Tour, Music Tour and Treasure Tour. Each path includes some large, shared scenes and also some more intimate, interactive moments unique to that vehicle’s theme.

The Thea Committee agreed that Symbolica is a lovingly crafted masterpiece. While making use of modern design and a state-of-the-art tech toolbox, it relies on original content, strong storytelling and the built environment to deliver a classic dark ride experience. This makes Symbolica an excellent choice for a Thea AOA in the Attraction category.

Excellence and innovative storytelling deliver a uniquely effective experience to guests
Pandora – The World of Avatar - Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort, FL, US
AWARD: AOA Theme Park Area Development
photo: © Disney

Based on James Cameron's 2009 blockbuster film Avatar, the new, 12-acre land is a tour de force of placemaking designed and built to be about the people, environment, culture, animals and beauty of the Na'vi world. It is celebrated for its unparalleled level of detail and immersive qualities, touching all senses.

Additionally, immersion into this world does not depend on the guest having seen Mr Cameron's film.

Guests enter Pandora's interactive rainforest and gaze up at iconic gravity-defying mountains that peak at 130 feet above the valley floor. Gushing waterfalls and grand rock formations are highlighted among the extraterrestrial Pandoran flora. One hundred per cent hand-sculpted and photo-realistic plants are both alien and grand in scale. The always-in-character eco-tourism travel agency "Alpha Centauri Expedition field guides" speak of the land's mysteries and warn guests not to get too close to the carnivorous "chalice plants". Guests can hear a cacophony of animals that vary in types of calls and by time of day.

The evening's gradual transitional experience beginning at dusk is as breathtaking as the meditative and awe-inspiring daytime experience, yet very different, as plant life begins to glow in the twilight. A reviewer commented: "… evening transforms into a bioluminescent feast for the eyes."

The success of this multi-layered, multi-sensory experience, immersing Disney's Animal Kingdom guests in Pandora – The World of Avatar, makes it an outstanding choice in Thea's Theme Park Area Development category.

A multi-layered, multi-sensory experience, immersing guests in the world of Na'vi photo: © Disney
Avatar Flight of Passage Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort, FL, US
AWARD: AOA, Attraction
Ingeniously designed rides simulate the breathing and heartbeat of each banshee photo: © Disney

This immersive flying experience, flawlessly executed, delivers the magic and majesty of the original James Cameron blockbuster film Avatar, allowing guests to link their avatars to ride of the back of a banshee and explore the world of Pandora. It achieves new heights of experiential storytelling and is exemplary in how it adapts movie fiction into the park setting in a meaningful way.

The newly designed, motion-based simulator is paired with an expansive screen and high-resolution digital media to achieve the scope and scale of this new world. It’s accompanied by off- and on-board effects that contribute to the feeling of open-air flying over vistas of thousands of migrating, feeding or leaping animals – bringing Pandora to life.

The queue to the main attraction – from the landscape that comes to life in living light and colour at night, to the mountain cave dedicated to banshee study and habitat restoration – provides a wonderful fictional nod to the mission of Disney’s Animal Kingdom®: giving animals a more natural habitat for living and study.

The pre-show gives a personalised and realistic experience to each guest. There’s a great decontamination effect, and visitors learn the importance of the connection between avatar and banshee.

Once in flight, guests experience panoramic views, a narrow escape from a massive predator, explore a bioluminescent cave, and a joyous sequence of aerial acrobatics – all with the impression of riding on the back of a real creature, thanks to ingeniously designed ride vehicles that simulate the breathing and heartbeat of each banshee. Wearing 3D glasses, the feeling of flight is so immersive that guests quickly enjoy the vivid, large-screen imagery. The programming and synchronisation of movements and off-board effects are executed flawlessly. The ride provides an authentic connection to the overall themes and values of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, making Avatar Flight of Passage a worthy choice in the Attraction category.

photo: © Disney
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom’s Journey of Lights Parade Zhuhai City, China
AWARD: AOA, Live Show
The art and technology of mobile night-time spectaculars has reached a new standard

Journey of Lights Parade spectacularly celebrates the lands of Ocean Kingdom with eight parade units, two carts and one wagon, supported by 75 performers in a 35-minute colour-changing, illuminated show, all set to an original soundtrack.

Each unit creates its own 90-second story-driven scene, complete with its own variation on the musical theme, “Celebration Tonight”.

One million lights are programmed, synchronised and colour controlled by 850 total DMX Universes across 120 Cue Server playback systems, creating technically stunning effects. This allows every light to simultaneously change colour, achieving technical sophistication and synchronised colour changes unimaginable only a few years ago.

The thematic sculptural and animation effects of the floats and the imaginative design of the costumes wonderfully celebrate the thematic zones of the surrounding theme park, bringing the characters and worlds of Chimelong Ocean Kingdom to life while creating the perfect finale to a day-long visit.

This combination makes the parade an apt recipient in the Live Show category.

Sleep No More - Shanghai, China
AWARD: AOA, Connected Immersion Theater
A haunting performance in which 25+ players become active participants

Sleep No More took Broadway by storm in 2011 with a unique show format that allowed the audience to go where they wanted, when they wanted, as voyeurs in a creative, interactive, distributed performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Sleep No More Shanghai – the first collaboration between creators Punchdrunk and Shanghai Media Group – has reimagined this pioneering show. It deserves special praise for adapting the show for Chinese audiences and maintaining a successful operational model for distributed performance and adapting it to a new venue.

The visceral, tactile and darkly cinematic telling of Macbeth spans five floors of a specially constructed building. Audience members are participants from the start as they don masks and take the role of hotel guests. They can then choose where they go – ultimately exploring over 90 rooms.

The evocative era’s opulence and austerity have been meticulously created. Each room contains authentic artefacts and there’s even a bustling street market with dimly lit alleyways. The audience can peep behind gold picture frames and discover secret messages, while other detailed clues to the unfolding narrative could lie inside a cast member’s pocket.

Ghost Town Alive! Knott’s Berry Farm Buena Park, CA, US
AWARD: AOA, Attraction – Connected Immersion Theater, Limited Budget
Guests participate in a multi-threaded, real-time journey back to the 1800s

This Wild West entertainment experience engages thousand of guests per day in an interactive, role-playing attraction. Journeying back to the 1800s, guests participate in a multi-threaded, real-time story that includes period bandits, cowboys, horses and the town mayor.

Guests join costumed actors as they unfold the tale of the town of Calico in the park’s Ghost Town themed area. Immersed in adventures from bank robberies and jailbreaks to a good ol’ Western hoedown, the experience enables families to work together using their imaginations and become stars in the interactive theatrical production.

Calico is brought to life through authentic buildings and stunning reproductions. The actors naturally bring each guest into the story in an organic way by explaining the town’s happenings.

Sheriff Wheeler needs the townsfolk’s help capturing the notorious Mayfield Gang, and keeping Calico safe. Guests can ally with the Sheriff or join the Mayfields. Throughout the day, major events move the storyline forward. The storylines culminate in the evening with a town-wide hoedown celebration featuring all the characters.

As the creative team creates new storylines throughout the season, the experience is a driver of repeat visitation and incremental revenue. Purchases of food and beverage have increased as well as merchandise: unique Ghost Town Alive! souvenirs and Western clothing.

Most important of all, parents have shared uplifting stories about how their shy children have opened up to the Calico characters and acquired social skills.

Rainis’ Museum - Tadenava, Latvia
AWARD: AOA, Museum Rehab, Limited Budget
Each installation consists of a game that subtly refers to the Latvian poet’s life

This unique exhibition, celebrating Latvia’s famous poet, playwright and politician Rainis (1865-1929) takes visitors through a series of interactive installations, beautifully designed and crafted of wood, each evoking a key moment of Rainis’s life or legacy.

This participatory experience engages the imagination and is educational and meaningful for all ages. The TEA Thea Awards Committee praised the museum’s unique presentation, design, production excellence and community impact.

Instead of focusing on the poet’s life and literature in a literal way, the development team created an unexpected participatory experience. The exhibition, housed in a 19th century farm, invites visitors to work with their hands and tactile informative materials. Each installation consists of a game that subtly refers to Rainis’s life or literary heritage.

At the start, each visitor spins a big wooden wheel and receives a small wooden ball – a metaphor for the sun that shone on Tadenava when Rainis lived there as a child. The ball continues to play an integral part in each installation.

The deliberate lack of digital elements encourages the visitor to see and hear everything that the poet experienced in the first years of his life, while natural materials add to this sense of authenticity and organically blends with the peaceful setting of the historic farmstead.

The remodelling pays homage to a poet with the minimal use of writing. Instead it creates a unique, emotional and poetic experience for the mind and senses.

Frozen Ever After – Norway Pavilion, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, FL, US
AWARD: AOA, Attraction Reimagining
Special effects, scenic design and soundscape all blend seamlessly to immerse guests

The immersive journey of Frozen Ever After is the world’s first dark ride encounter based on the world and characters of Disney’s animation, Frozen.

Open since 2016, it features scenes and characters inspired by the 2013 film and the 2015 animated short, Frozen Fever.

This imaginative new storytelling experience is delivered with elegance, grace and beauty, using each twist, turn and backward falling moment to full potential. New-generation Audio-Animatronics® figures plus projection, special effects, scenic design and soundscape/musical score all blend seamlessly to surround guests as they float through the world of Frozen.

Frozen Ever After was designed to seamlessly integrate with the same boat vehicles (and a slightly modified track layout) of the former Maelstrom attraction in the Norway pavilion at Epcot® Theme Park, in the park’s World Showcase. The elegant coupling of the existing ride layout with the beautiful new story experience combine to create “goose-bump” thrills and excitement for the guests. Designed and executed with such art and precision, the new attraction feels purpose-built.

The Thea Awards Committee selected Frozen Ever After for the Attraction Reimagining category and gave it praise for its impressive production values and execution, emotional resonance and guest impact.

Jameson Distillery Bow St Dublin, Ireland
AWARD: AOA, Brand Experience
Interactive elements are combined with hands-on participatory experiences

The Jameson Distillery Bow Street occupies the same building where John Jameson founded his original distillery in 1780, and the programme utilises many existing elements of the actual distillery.

The fully guided 40-minute tour takes guests on a multi-sensory, interactive, story-driven experience on any of six unique pathways.

Our Story: at the story table, a digital interactive map tells the history of Jameson. Guests are invited to choose from one of six “artefacts” with embedded RFID chips that, when touched to the table, tell a unique story from six different perspectives.

Our Process: the Jameson Whiskey production process is told through a 3D digital projection mapping show. The story table invites guests to touch, smell and taste the ingredients – grains, raw distillate and woods – that combine to give Jameson its popular taste.

Our Taste: guests participate in a taste test in which Jameson is compared with the leading Scotch (Johnnie Walker) and American (Jack Daniels) whiskies.

Whiskey Shakers: using professional bar tools and ingredients guests are treated to a 90-minute hands-on mixology course. It culminates in an actual maturation warehouse where a cask of Jameson is tapped and tasted.

Whiskey Tasters: guests blend their own whiskey and get to take it home in a bottle featuring their name on the logo.

Jameson Distillery Bow St, in addition to very effectively communicating the Jameson brand and story, blends a variety of highly effective methods in its storytelling. State-of-the-art digital, unique interactive elements – plus taste, touch, smell, and actual hands-on participatory experiences – are combined in an extraordinary manner, creating a memorable brand experience.

"Aura" Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal, Canada
AWARD: AOA, Immersive Event, Limited Budget
A synthesis of space, colour and music cleverly celebrates the sacred space

"Aura" is a light and video projection-mapping experience in Montréal's Notre-Dame Basilica, accompanied by an orchestral/choral soundtrack.

As part of Montréal's 375th anniversary celebration, the goal was to create a ticketed attraction that would highlight the architectural intricacy and beauty of the gothic-revival Notre-Dame Basilica.

While projection-mapping has become an industry trend, often using a building's façade as a "screen" on which to project images that have no relationship to the underlying architecture, "Aura" uses the technology to highlight and reveal the soaring beauty of the space.

The "architectural narrative" leads the eye to explore the soaring Gothic elements, illuminated by vivid colours and accompanied by an orchestral/choral score to create an uplifting experience.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! Disney California Adventure, Disneyland Resort, CA, US
AWARD: AOA, Attraction Reimagining
Guests enter an intergalactic fortress

This exhilarating new experience is based on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” film franchise. Disney Imagineers met the challenge by creating a thrilling, immersive adventure, leveraging what people love about “Guardians” and bringing the movies authentically to life.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! was designed around a pre-existing ride system, guest flow and facility layout, and re-imagined using the popular characters (and actors), environments and lore from the franchise.

“The Collector” (aka Taneleer Tivan) has brought his travelling exhibit to Earth, and the Guardians are among his most prized possessions but they do not take well to being part of a live exhibit. While they are complaining, Rocket devises an escape plan and recruits the audience.

The environment leverages the unique production design and character roles from the film creative. Reimagined as Tivan’s Collection, the building is meant to resemble an intergalactic fortress. Inside, guests are greeted by Tivan. The props and items in lobby and throughout the pre-show are a fan’s dream.

When the ride (gantry lift) starts, a silhouette of Rocket pops up, unplugs a wire, and plugs in a cassette player to start the rock and roll music powering the experience. The gantry continues to move, stopping multiple times to open the doors, showing Rocket-induced chaos.

From exterior to props to new ride programming, the flow-through authentically integrates the Guardians mythology. Amplifying a small section of the first film, The Collector, gives fans a recognisable storyline. Selecting Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon, to help drive the pre-show is brilliantly executed.

Les Carrières de Lumières - Les Baux de Provence, France
AWARD: AOA, Immersive Event
Visitors are surrounded by giant images projected onto the walls, floor and ceiling of the vast cave

This unique, immersive experience, dedicated to the art of painting, is within a vast, ancient quarry in the scenic Les Baux de Provence in the South of France.

On entering this vast quarry within the rock of “Val d’Enfer” (the Hell Valley), visitors are surrounded by giant images projected onto the walls, floor and ceiling, creating an immersive “Cathedral of Images”. This spectacular living exhibition captivates everyone, from children to experts. The media delivery system includes 100 video projectors linked by fibreoptics to cover all visible surfaces, and 12-channel surround sound. The show is dedicated to the Baroque era painters Bosch, Brueghel and Arcimboldo.

The present operator, Culturespaces, undertook this state-of-the-art upgrade to enhance the experience and operations. Les Carrières de Lumières presents art in a popular and spectacular way.

“Holographic” 3D LED Display 3D Live
AWARD: AOA, Innovative Technology
A promising foundation for compelling and immersive guest experiences

This “Holographic” 3D LED technology, originally developed for Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” tour, had its first permanent, themed entertainment installation at California’s Great America, within the “Mass Effect: New Earth” attraction that opened in May 2016.

The technology is a patented method of assembling an array of 3D LED tiles that can be configured into any size screen and format. They can be arranged in flat, curved and circular screen format, or seamlessly integrated within scenery, theatrical spaces and MR experiences.

The 3D LED system provides superior brightness, more saturated colour and truer blacks than projection systems and twice the perceived depth of field over standard 3D projection. Where typical systems provide a viewing angle of 40°, this technology produces a viewing angle of 140°, with the use of passive polarized glasses that help control the cost and reduces eye fatigue.

This significant evolutionary step in creating large-scale 3D presentations for themed and experiential venues solves many of the problems associated with projection-based 3D systems. The interface with live performers, VR and other immersive systems is seamless and powerful, as demonstrated in the “Mass Effect: New Earth” attraction.

Cittadella Visitors Centre Gozo Island, Malta
AWARD: AOA, Heritage Visitor Centre, Limited Budget
Guests are fully immersed in a 360° av show within beautiful stone arches

The design brief for the new Cittadella Visitors Centre was to convert the city’s disused stone reservoirs into an experience that would reinforce the historical ties of the buildings, the people and the natural landscape.

This visually striking walk-through exhibition has nine multi-language storytelling zones, beginning with a more traditional exhibit experience of information panels, graphics and touchscreens. Then guests arrive at a stone portal where they are greeted by an image of the legendary mythical nymph Calypso, who enticed Ulysses to stay on her island. It opens and guests enter to find themselves on a short audio-visual journey of previous visitors to Gozo, including the Phoenicians and Romans.

Calypso reappears and guests pass through another portal to the final zone: the Cittadella Show. Using multiple video projectors and projection screens set within the beautiful stone arches, guests are fully immersed in a 360° audio-visual show that brings the entire journey together in one amazing experience.

It is the combination of traditional exhibition techniques, exceptional storytelling and the 360° show finale, set in the unique historical environment, that makes this project so special. The project was intended to increase tourism while creating a unique, moving and entertaining way to highlight Cittadella’s importance and long history.

Gallipoli: The scale of our war Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa), Wellington, New Zealand
AWARD: AOA, Museum Exhibit, Limited Budget
The ingenious presentation of the giant figures connects visitors to the horrendous experience on Gallipoli

The brilliance of this exhibition, as noted by the Thea Awards Committee, is the emotional connection and ingenious presentation of eight sculpted figures, crafted 2.5-times human scale, and in hyper-realistic detail. They tell the epic story of New Zealand’s commitment to World War I, and its huge cost in human life. The exhibition includes artefacts, full-scale mock-ups, and models with time-lapse projection of battles.

Gallipoli: The scale of our war is a collaboration between Te Papa and Weta Workshop. The story of the campaign is told through the voices of the personalities, carefully chosen by Te Papa to represent a cross section of actual Gallipoli soldiers, and a nurse. Captured at dramatic moments, they create a powerful emotional link with all visitors.

In 1915, New Zealand troops participated in the storming of the beaches at the Gallipoli Peninsula in what is now Turkey, and over 2,700 soldiers lost their lives. While a relatively small campaign within the context of WWI, the New Zealand commitment, including a Maori contingent, played an important role in fostering a sense of national identity in the years after the war.

The exhibit is anchored by the astonishing execution of the figures and the stunning level of detail based, down to every pore, every bead of sweat, every microhair around the eyelash – so real it feels as if they could start blinking.

DreamWorks Animation Zone MOTIONGATE™ Dubai, Dubai Parks & Resorts, UAE
AWARD: AOA, Theme Park Land
The indoor land features attractions dedicated to DreamWorks animated IPs

The DreamWorks Animation Zone at MOTIONGATE™ Dubai is an indoor land in the park featuring attractions dedicated to DreamWorks animated intellectual properties (IP), immersing guests into Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.

The exterior of the building/land is representative of the DreamWorks logo and has static characters from the DreamWorks films for photo ops. Just inside is the Fountain of Dreams rotunda, with bronze sculptures of the featured DreamWorks characters. Adjacent to the rotunda is the main DreamWorks Store.

Each sub-zone is highly themed with impressive theatrical lighting, stirring audio, immersive environments, iconic character graphics and sudden moments of discovery.

Dragon Gliders is a suspended coaster ride featuring custom animatronics and CGI scenes from How to Train Your Dragon, culminating in a dragon’s-eye-view of the themed land below.

Shrek’s Merry Fairy Tale Journey is a guest experience retelling the first Shrek motion picture story through epic-scale, trackless ride technology, while Kung Fu Panda: Unstoppable Awesomeness is a multi-platform, high-capacity 4D simulator theatre taking guests on a wild and unpredictable journey with Po and friends.

The mix of highly themed climate-controlled environments and intellectual properties makes the DreamWorks Animation Zone feel like a theme park-within-a-theme park. Throughout each area, the sense of immersion, lighting, graphics, audio and overall integration into the facility create a world-class experience and make it a standout at MOTIONGATE™ Dubai. DreamWorks’ IP comes to life at a grand scale in exciting and immersive lands, attractions and experiences.

About the editor
Matt Kerr

Matt Kerr, principal of KerrCreative and a TEA member, is an educator, writer, editor and director based in Toronto, Canada.


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*Project descriptions have been edited from summaries written by the 2018 TEA Thea Awards Gala Program, originally published by TEA. Most summaries are originally provided by the

TEA Thea Awards Committee, which selects the slate of Thea recipients each year to be approved by the TEA International Board. Reprinted with permission from TEA. www.teaconnect.org

Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2018 edition

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