TEA Connect Blog

21 May 2018

Designer Morgane Keesling found opportunities through TEA NextGen

This first-person account by Morgane Keesling is part of the TEA NextGen "Where are they now?" series.

Themed entertainment seems uniquely populated by people who love this industry and stick with it from the beginning of their careers to the end. It’s fascinated me since I was quite young and always been the type of work I wanted to pursue as a career.

Morgane Keesling was an award presenter at the
2018 TEA Thea Awards Gala

My heroes growing up were the animators who became theme park design pioneers, especially Marc Davis; I loved his approach to theme park attraction design through the lens of an animator - the two are similar in many ways. I wanted to bring that same sort of sensibility to my own work and, one day, to attraction design.

While studying animation at Cal State Long Beach, I met Bill Butler (Garner Holt Productions) who was then a member of the Western North America Division Board of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). He encouraged me to get involved with TEA. Since then, I’ve thrown myself headlong into all the incredible opportunities the TEA gives to young people still in school and just getting into this industry, particularly the TEA NextGen Initiative. 

Right after I joined, I took part in my first TEA GibGab event (speed networking events to help NextGen members meet potential employers and polish their personal presentation skills); it was a humbling and eye-opening experience that every young designer should participate in - as a student I was familiar to critique and portfolio review, but having professional designers in this industry look at and comment on my work was invaluable. At that event, a TEA leader in the Western Division, Shane Grammer, gave me portfolio advice that changed the way I create my work and has improved the way I communicate in themed entertainment.

With the TEA NextGen team of volunteers and staff for the 2017
TEA Summit and Thea Awards Gala, 
Morgane Keesling is 5th from right

The TEA provides many opportunities for its NextGen members to volunteer in a wide variety of events and programs. Putting all my energy into freelance work and finishing my degree, I volunteered for every event I could, checking attendees in at events and learning about the industry by meeting the people who make it happen.

In 2016, I was awarded a scholarship to attend the annual TEA Summit conference, which leads up to the annual TEA Thea Awards Gala and gave me an incredible chance to work with designers and owners from all over the world. In 2017, I once again volunteered and was on the team for the Summit and Theas. I did my best not to let a broken leg slow me down and was gratified to help a talented team support an incredible program. By the following spring the cast was off and I had the honor to be one of the award presenters on stage at the 2018 TEA Thea Awards Gala.

Volunteering to work at TEA events is not only an education and experience in itself - it provides chances to meet people and network. The relationships that grew out of being a TEA NextGen volunteer have helped lead me to a variety of opportunities for freelance work designing products for Disney, unique playgrounds, museum exhibits, animatronic characters, escape rooms, attractions, and more. It also led to a stint as concept designer with Rethink Leisure and Entertainment.

Today, I’m the NextGen representative for the TEA Western Division Board of Directors and the creative director at Fractavisual, where I get to work with diverse clients to create unusual and wonderful designs for everything from seasonal attractions to entire theme parks. The TEA was, and continues to be, instrumental in making it happen!

Past "Where are they now" stories can be found here.

Posted by Judy Rubin

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