TEA News

26 March 2019

The TEA Thea Awards cycle, process and history, from inside the awards committee

Curious about the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Thea Awards? Here are some insider insights into the nature of the awards, their history and how the committee does its work - from Susan Bonds, Chair of the 26th annual TEA Thea Awards Committee; Lisa Passamonte Green, past Chair of the Committee; Jeremy Railton, Thea lifetime honoree and a member of the Committee; Bob Rogers, a co-founder of the Thea Awards.

For tickets/more info on the TEA Thea Awards Gala and TEA Summit, visit the TEA Events page. 


How the Thea Awards evolve with the industry

Susan Bonds, 42 Entertainment; Chair, 26th annual TEA Thea Awards Nominating Committee

You were instrumental in defining the Connected Immersion category for the Thea Awards. What is Connected Immersion?

After leaving Walt Disney Imagineering, I got into game development and produced massively multiplayer online games. Going from fully immersive brick and mortar to fully photorealistic virtual worlds was a great transition that taught us a lot about guest experience. We then developed a genre of gaming that uses the world as it’s gameboard, and the digital devices that guests have in their hands: Alternate Reality Gaming. This taught us that there are new tools and stories that can be told when physical and digital are mixed. Your experience can start before you visit a physical attraction, be enhanced while you are there in person, and continue after you leave. The possibilities for format and storytelling with connected immersion are endless and bring two industry talent pools together.... Read the full interview with Susan Bonds

Susan Bonds


How the Thea Awards Committee carries out its role and responsibilities

Lisa Passamonte Green, CEO, Visual Terrain; Chair, 25th annual TEA Thea Awards Nominating Committee

How would you characterize the 2019 slate of Thea awardees?

"The 25th annual TEA Thea Awards recipient list continued in the trend of the previous several years of recognizing amazing projects of great variety, from all over the world. This includes small attractions that put a lot of creativity, ingenuity, and out-of-box thinking into developing some really engaging, touching, and effective experiences; as well as the larger, blockbuster projects that we kind of expect to knock our socks off. I have really loved the mix of the last few years, blending industry upstarts with well-known leaders, small budget and big budget, and I hope that pattern continues in the future."

Tell us about your role and experiences as Thea Committee Chair.

"The Chair, upon receiving the current year’s submissions, develops a plan for the judging cycle so that each submission can be thoroughly reviewed and vetted. Our job is to seek out excellence and find those projects that should be recognized. The Chair is responsible for maintaining order during the meetings, for ensuring that the rules for selection are followed, and for making sure that every voice is heard. The discussions about whether a submission is worthy of becoming a nominee can sometimes get quite passionate, and it is the Chair’s job to make sure that no one in the room feels that their viewpoint and/or thoughts were not considered and discussed. Additionally, as Chair it is my responsibility, along with the Vice Chair, to present the Committee’s final slate of nominees to the TEA International Board for final review and approval. And during the course of the judging, the Chair is also responsible for conducting a review of the rules that govern our process and for helping to identify potential future members at large to discuss with the Committee as a whole. It’s a serious responsibility, and it takes considerable time. That holds true for the Chair as well as all other participating members of the Committee"... Read the full interview with Lisa Passamonte Green (InPark Magazine).

Two past TEA Thea Awards Committee Chairs at the TEA Summit:
Lisa Passamonte Green and Adam Bezark 


How TEA and the Thea Awards have helped shape the industry

Jeremy Railton, founder, Entertainment Design Corp.; member of the TEA Thea Awards Committee

"TEA was founded in 1991. I joined in 1993, and in the span of years since then, I have seen the organization and the industry it serves make giant steps, boosting economies in the US and globally, stimulating leisure spending, and employing hundreds of thousands of people. The Thea Awards have helped bring visibility to this niche of the entertainment business that is of increasing importance. It has embraced companies and projects all over the world.

"And that’s where the handshake and the credits come in. Themed entertainment is a field where it can be challenging to get credit for one’s work. TEA has addressed this in how it structures the Thea Awards. The award is made to the project owner, with the condition that said owner must share a list of official credits to be published by TEA. Everyone who appears on that official list is also eligible to receive a Thea trophy.

"As themed entertainment has infused so many aspects of our culture, our provenance has expanded from theme parks into other venues, and we now consider categories in technical achievement, themed hotels, restaurants, and retail as well as museums, zoos, and waterparks. The increasingly global nature of the industry adds additional dimension. As a result, every year the Thea Awards become more fascinating, more instructive, and more exciting. There’s no better place to rub shoulders, and no better way to keep your mind open and stay current on your craft".... Read the full article, "Thea Confidential" in Live Design.

Jeremy Railton and Bob Rogers at the TEA Thea Awards Gala

History of the TEA Thea Awards

Bob Rogers, Founder & Chairman, BRC Imagination Arts

"The Thea Awards Gala has become THE social event of the year within our industry. In spite of limited budgets, our all-volunteer production teams comprised of enthusiastic TEA members have created a series of great awards shows — each one topping the previous.

"The Thea Awards are now internationally recognized as the equivalent of an Academy Award in the themed entertainment industry. Each year over a hundred highly qualified achievements from all over the world compete for between 12 and 18 awards. Traditional awards include:

  • The Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Outstanding Achievements
  • The AOA (Award for Outstanding Achievement) – Any Category
  • The AOA for Achievement on a Limited Budget – Any Category
  • The AOA for Technological Achievement
  • The Thea Classic Award (Recognizing an achievement, usually an attraction, that has stood the test of time)

"But the overriding objective remains to find excellence and celebrate it — a search for projects that call attention to the excellence that exists throughout our industry.

"As we look to the future, the Thea Awards will continue to grow, evolve and change, never forgetting their original objective of bringing recognition to achievement, talent and professional personal excellence within our themed entertainment industry..." Click to see full article

Posted by Judy Rubin



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