Thea Awards Recipients

Thea Awards 2017

Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements

Jeremy Railton, Chairman & Founder, Entertainment Design Corporation

The infinite diversity of Jeremy Railton

Celebrated designer Jeremy Railton’s innate versatility has brought him success and accolades in a wide range of entertainment fields while making it difficult for him to easily explain what he does for a living. From the first, he’s resisted attempts at pigeonholing and advice to “specialize,” trusting an inner voice that has always said, “I can do that,” no matter what – or where – “that” is.

Designing is designing, as far as Jeremy is concerned. “I’ve been able to do every single medium that there is, from theater to TV to corporate shows to theme parks, resorts and live events,” he said. “What I love is that now we’re getting asked for all those things. We have done a lot of work in China the past few years and continue to do so, but our projects also include Live shows for Princess Cruises, museums in the Midwest, YouTube award shows, a nighttime bird show at the San Diego Zoo, a game show pilot. That diversity keeps me totally engaged, totally thrilled.”

As Jeremy’s reputation and workload grew over time, “I can do that” became “We can do that,” in the context of various partnerships and firms large and small.

In recent years, with the Los Angeles-based company he founded, Entertainment Design Corp. (EDC), the Railton diversity has enabled adapting to and serving the explosive Asian sector with internationally acclaimed projects, the most celebrated being Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa (Singapore), which was honored with a Thea Award in 2011 as well as the 2011 Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY) “Excellence in Structural Design Awards (to McLaren Engineering Group). In EDC, Jeremy built a diverse creative team eager for challenge.

A sampling of awarded projects testifies to diversity of project types and clients alike: Thea Awards for Crane Dance, Fremont Street Experience, Titanic: The Experience, GM Showroom Theater (Disney’s Epcot) and the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies. He also received Emmy Awards for art direction on Salt Lake 2002, and an Art Directors Guild award. Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and the 57th Annual Academy Awards and an Emmy for costume design on Zoobilee Zoo, plus the Lester Horton Dance Award 1999 for Set Design and “Best Storefront Design” 1995 from VMSD magazine for the Panasonic Pavilion at Universal CityWalk.

What Jeremy and his team learned in Asia has brought about a shift in how they approach design for this market, and how they interact with clients. “Very early on, I was given good advice by Hee Teck Tan, CEO at Resorts World Sentosa. He said, ‘Jeremy, forget about all this arty, subtle stuff: Asians like bright and loud.’ It was excellent advice. I’m sort of a loud kind of guy – I always loved rock and roll concerts and variety television. I like the bright and loud and shiny. I do come from central Africa.”

As an active member of the TEA, Jeremy has drawn on his experiences to help boost the association’s presence in the Asian community, especially China. He wants to see more Asians become TEA members, “especially Chinese middle management, so they can get educated about this industry. The TEA has become a wonderful unifying organization in the theme park business providing education, information, social interaction to our design and creation community. There’s so much that can be shared from one side of the Pacific Rim to the other that will be good for their projects and for everyone’s professional experience.”

What, for instance? “The role of the designer, for one. Design doesn’t stop at the concept stage, but is rather a moving, continual process. This is especially true in the case of a one-off, unique project where you’re charting new territory and must expect the unexpected. The designer should be kept on the project through the building, production and programming stages. An experienced designer also has many well-established relationships and will tend to know the best choices for such roles as production, technical design, fabrication and project management. We are in a position to react to what comes up, solving problems as they arise in a way that is true to the vision we were hired to develop in the first place. The end result is the better for it.”

As an example, Jeremy related some details of the fabrication and programming stages in creating the Fortune Diamond for the Galaxy Hotel, Macau (client: Mr Francis Liu). The Fortune Diamond was one of two projects EDC designed for the Galaxy – the other was the Wishing Crystals. The original concept for the 22-foot high diamond was much more technically elaborate than the finished product, because in the process of turning the concept sketches into 3D visualizations and mockups, working with the fabricator, it was found that a simpler technical design would better achieve the desired result.

“This was achieved through creative give-and-take between the designer and the fabricator in which the best approach was given a chance to emerge,” he said. “Design doesn’t stop at the concept stage. In the process of working with the construction people, an illustration will grow into something more than was initially visualized. That’s how unique, breakthrough projects really happen, and a client who wants that needs to foster the creative, collaborative conditions where it can happen, and trust the designer through the process.”

As a child growing up in remote rural Zimbabwe crafting puppets out of clay and sketching the native birds and animals, Jeremy couldn’t have imagined that one day he would be creating the world’s largest animatronic creatures in the form of a pair of 90-ft dancing cranes – the star performers in a themed attraction that took flight in the winter of 2010 at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.

Educated in fine art, Jeremy has brought his formidable design talents and limitless imagination to some of the most significant artists, events and productions over the last three decades. His career spans legitimate theater, dance, film, TV award shows, live concerts for pop icons, spectacles of Olympian proportions, themed attractions, and unforgettable retail entertainment and architectural projects.

He began his career in British film production as an assistant art director. The director was helming a play in Los Angeles and asked Jeremy to do some sketches after reading the script. Jeremy was then brought to Los Angeles for a production at the prestigious Mark Taper Forum. He made history with this production, creating what is said to be the first giant-screen projection backdrop ever seen on the stage using a 40mm drive-in projector.

Following his early stage successes, he moved into film and television. He won acclaim as a production designer for recreating post-World War II Los Angeles in the motion picture, “The Two Jakes.” Among his hundreds of TV credits are landmark specials including concerts for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. His credits in live staging, television, concert specials and music videos include projects for Barbra Streisand, Cher, Michael Jackson, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, Julio Iglesias and the MTV Music and Movie Awards.

His unique blend of artistry and cutting-edge technology have graced major retail, amusement, resort and casino venues such as the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Panasonic Pavilion at Universal Studios, the GM Showroom Theatre at Epcot Center and Lake of Dreams at Resort World Sentosa. A pioneer in digital culture, Jeremy conceived and designed the two largest video screens in the world, the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas and the Sky Screen at The Place in Beijing.

Currently, Jeremy reports that he and the EDC team are developing a “new first”: what is billed as the “world’s largest music machine” for a client in China. “It has to be shrouded in mystery for now.” EDC has just completed a year’s work in Dubai for MOTIONGATE and Bollywood Parks Dubai; are developing a new show for the Great Wolf Lodge, and have started work on a new show for Fox’s Genting Highland in Malaysia.

He’s transitioned his role of late within the company: Alex Calle is now CEO and Jeremy is Chairman and Founder. “I am enjoying the fact that I can take a more creative role this way, and I have time to think about new directions and new attraction ideas.”

Jeremy was recently invited to consult on a nature park in his native Zimbabwe. “Personally, I am so thrilled to come full circle – the park is only 60 miles from where I was born. This is literally my dream - to have this chance to give back to the place that most inspired my love of animals.”

About receiving the Buzz Price lifetime achievement honor, Jeremy said, “It is just that, a great honor! I am humbled and really gratified, as it has made me look back at my career and life of artistic passion and appreciate the wonderful path I have had so far.

“Because I have been essentially a freelance designer and creator all my life, I always felt like an outsider until the TEA wrapped its arms around people like myself, giving us a sense of belonging. The most humbling thing about this award is that the past recipients, who have literally created the greatest theme parks in the world, have invited me to be to be part of their august group.

“This Is the greatest time to be a creator, because of the technological advances. We are almost literally at the point of ‘If you can Imagine it you can make it,’ and I am bubbling over with imagination and inspiration.”

By Judith Rubin

Find out more about TEA member Entertainment Design Corp.

Award Credits