TEA News

20 April 2018

Record attendance for 2018 TEA Summit, Thea Case Studies Day and Thea Awards Gala

Showcasing a global spectrum of top-awarded projects, companies, people and technology leading visitor attractions and providing a forum for peer discussion, the annual Summit of the Themed Entertainment Association attracted record attendance with some 300 delegates for Day One and 550 for Day Two (April 5-6). The meetings convened at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim as part of TEA's big weekend of events, culminating in the TEA Thea Awards Gala presented by Chimelong, April 7, which also welcomed a record crowd of more than 800 celebrants. 

TEA International Board President David Willrich, 
of DJ Willrich Ltd., speaks to members of the press at the
VIP reception of the 2018 TEA Thea Awards Gala. More than 800
people attended the Gala - a record attendance number - 
taking place at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA USA.

Global top entertainment operators, creatives, brand managers and leading IPs - including Joe Rohde (Disney), Sir Richard Taylor (Weta Workshop), Jonathan Linn (Universal Parks & Resorts/DreamWorks Animation), Chimelong Group (China), Smithsonian, Dubai Parks & Resorts, Knott’s Berry Farm, de Efteling, Jameson, Marvel (Guardians of the Galaxy), AVATAR and Frozen were among those represented.

Photo at top: Three of TEA's four Division presidents welcome guests to the 2018 TEA Thea Awards Gala: Matt Barton (Europe & Middle East), Melissa Ruminot (Eastern North America) and Tricia Rodriguez (Western North America). The Gala was produced by Ryan Miziker and Miziker Entertainment.

Story by Judith Rubin


A champagne toast officially kicks off the 2018
TEA Thea Awards Gala, April 7 at Disneyland Resort.
Raising their glasses are TEA COO Jennie Nevin and Mr. Su Zhigang,
Chairman, Chimelong Group, presenting sponsor of the Gala. 


A mere quarter century ago, there was no Thea Awards and there were no official project credits for the industry. The work of designers, architects, artisans, producers, technical specialists and creatives of all kinds, the best of their kind putting together unique, influential, one-off projects went largely unsung. Moreover, there was no way to verify claims.

Phil Hettema, Founder, The Hettema Group, was honored with the
Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements.
Nancy Seruto, executive producer, Walt Disney Imagineering (right),
presented the award.

The membership of TEA represents a talent pool that all major entertainment operators draw upon, and it is common practice for even the biggest operators to supplement their internal team with an external team handpicked for the project's needs. The TEA Thea Awards have addressed this in the celebration of themed entertainment's finest and the publication of official credits for each awarded project. Global attention is focused on these projects and they earn acclaim not just as guest experiences but as creative accomplishments.

The Thea Awards are not a suspense enterprise – the projects, people and technologies selected by the committee are announced in November, several months before the big weekend takes place, with information about the projects and what makes them breakthrough, so that there's a significant window for attention.

Dierdre Cross (at podium) and Bryan Seiling accept a Thea Award
for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. 
The award was presented by celebrated actress Debbie Allen (right).

The big weekend is not just an awards party. The recognition of the TEA Thea Awards recipients extends with the TEA Summit, which features showcases of each awarded project, person or technology - each breakthrough accomplishment - in a peer discussion, pulling back the veil on the project process. The TEA Summit case studies enable the entire industry to benefit from the education and networking opportunities.

These events are held at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, a seminal hub of the entertainment industry.


Sir Richard Taylor, founder of Weta Workshop (right) speaks at 
the 2018 Thea Case Studies Day about the museum exhibit,
Gallipoli: The scale of our war. At left: Ian Crowe, director commercial,
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Some memorable statements from the 2018 TEA Summit 

Phil Hettema of The Hettema Group, Buzz Price Thea lifetime honoree 

“Our work works best when it’s collaborative and supportive, and negative energy does nothing - and I’ve lived through plenty of it.” 

"If you don’t have your hands on the big idea that’s really going to capture people’s attention, you’re probably going to be wasting your time.” 

"If you lead with technology you’re going to be obsolete within 6 months, you have to lead with a good story, don’t just jump on the bandwagon." 

"The secret sauce of what we do is the ability to connect people one on one, and the more we live in a world where we are looking at screens, we are more desirous of that thing that will connect us. The shared experience that takes us out of our everyday reality is going to be even more important going forward, the feeling of being alive and connecting with other people." 

Thea Case Studies Day (TEA Summit Day Two) 2018 
welcomed a full house and a record 550 delegates.

Tony Clark of Cedar Point, 2018 TEA Thea Classic

"Cedar Point's first ride was the Switchback Railway. It was 25 feet tall, had a speed of 10 mph, and people waited 3 hours to ride it."

Jonathan Linn, Universal Parks & Resorts/DreamWorks Animation

Project: DreamWorks Animation Zone, MOTIONGATE Dubai

“It takes an industry.” 

John Carroll, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard

Project: Jameson Distillery Bow St., Dublin, Ireland

"Why put 11 million euros into our brand home if we’re 'doing fine and everything is tickety-boo'? We knew there was room to build a better experience”

Ryan Miziker of Miziker Entertainment shakes hands with 
Mr. Su Zhigang, Chairman of Chimelong Group, who was presented
with a TEA Thea Award recognizing Chimelong Ocean Kingdom's
Journey of Lights Parade. (In addition to being a Thea recipient,
Chimelong Group was presenting sponsor of the 
2018 Thea Awards Gala. Miziker was producer of the Gala, and 
also executive producer of the Journey of Lights Parade.) 
At left is Dale Su of Chimelong Resort.

Charlotte He, Chimelong Group

"Time is gold."

Ryan Miziker, Miziker Entertainment

Project, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom's Journey of Lights Parade

"Parades are really moving shows, each unit is a scene in a story. 'Can we really just make everything out of programmable lights? Let’s do it.'"

Sanita Kossovica, Rainis' Museum Tadenava

"Kids learn by doing. Adults search for instructions; kids just do"

Augustin de Cointet de Fillain, Culturespaces (LES CARRIÈRES DE LUMIÈRES)

"Substance must take precedence over form; technology is just a tool; our visitor must be spectator and actor."

Left to right: Bob Rogers of BRC Imagination Arts
and Clara Rice of JRA presented a 2018 TEA Thea Award to 
Olaf Vugts and Coen Bertens, de Efteling, for the dark ride
Symbolica: The Palace of Fantasy

Sir Richard Taylor, Weta Workshop 

Project: Gallipoli: The scale of our war

"You couldn’t tell the story of soldiers with pathos by telling the story of a whole army. If you pluck out individuals and tell it through their own voices, they do have a way to speak to you across time."

"We will farm nothing out unless it’s absolutely imperative. We just quietly discuss what we think is the innovative methodology to achieve the desired result and we turn to the talented people around us."

"People come out at the end drenched in the subject matter and having become one with the content."

Joe Rohde of Walt Disney Imagineering, holds three 
Thea trophies bestowed for Disney projects at the 2018 Gala. 
He is surrounded by colleagues and team members from WDI.

Walt Disney Imagineering

Projects: Frozen Ever After, Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!, Pandora - The World of AVATAR, Avatar Flight of Passage

Michel Den Dulk: "Once we had Elsa’s 'Let It Go' moment placed, we could design the rest of the ride. We started with the middle."

John Mauro: "The countdown clock here feels like the timeline for the attraction."

Claire Weiss: "We wanted to start you with the ‘Boo!'"

Ken Parks and Eric Nix of Knott's Berry Farm talk to a peer group
of 550 themed entertainment industry professionals at
Thea Case Studies Day, about Ghost Town Alive! at Knott's,
which was honored with a 2018 TEA Thea Award.

Joe Rohde: "There is no exposition once the ride begins, that’s got to be handled before you pull the trigger, then there is nothing but laughing and screaming and slapstick... The number of possible yeses is really quite wide providing you’re trying to achieve this immaterial goal... We’re trying to make the completely imaginary world of Pandora and that is exceedingly difficult and thank God I didn’t have to do it all alone."

Mark Lavine: "It’s about you the guest, about experiencing something amazing that becomes your story."




PRESS COVERAGE - 2018 TEA Summit & Thea Awards Gala


More information


TEA offers profuse THANK-YOUs and Acknowledgments

to the sponsors and the team!  See below.

2018 TEA Summit Sponsors - Thank you!


2018 TEA Thea Awards Sponsors - Thank you!


2018 TEA Thea Awards Acknowledgments - Thank you!


Posted by Judy Rubin



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