Thea Awards Recipients

Thea Awards 2017

TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award

Peter Chernack, The Chernack Group

Honoring the late Peter Chernack

By Monty Lunde, TEA Founder

Earlier this year, the Themed Entertainment Association International Board voted unanimously to change the name of the annual TEA Service Award to the “TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award” in honor of Peter’s tireless energy, enthusiasm and dedication to TEA.

Peter passed away April 3, 2016. His 40-year history in our industry as an entrepreneur, outspoken supporter of the TEA and cheerleader exemplifies what the TEA Service Award stands for. Over the last 25 years, Peter’s efforts and commitment to the association helped mold and shape the TEA into an international association that touches the lives of millions every day. 

Peter was an industry innovator as well as a TEA pioneer. He started his career in themed entertainment after graduating from UCLA with a Master’s in Business and a Bachelor’s in Theater Arts. In 1977, a few short years after his graduation, Peter founded Metavision with his friend Theo Mayer. The company was an internationally recognized, celebrated producer of experiential projects for theme parks, visitor centers and corporate exhibitions. Metavision produced award winning shows and media-based attractions for clients such as Universal Studios, Hilton Hotels, Kennedy Space Center, Hallmark, Matsushita International Development, the National Geographic Society, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Rockwell International. 

With the additional of Peter Inova to the Metavision brain trust, they took the world into space, back in time and way into the future. Metavision was instrumental in bringing giant video screens into sports arenas, developed the multi-projector display formats 3V and Video Panoram. They created new high-end computer simulation displays and established the viability of scalable, high-definition video servers. Metavision threw cameras over Niagara Falls (and retrieved all four of them), helped Rockwell and NASA show the world the vision of the Space Shuttle, gave the National Geographic Society the culmination of its centennial celebration, made presentations for the President of the United States and staged a 360-degree dinosaur fight. Metavision also created the high definition “Window into Space,” the world’s first immersive environment for gaming where guests were virtually transported to an immense space station 1,500 miles above Earth and 350 years in the future.

After Metavision, Peter formed The Chernack Group and continued to conceive and develop immersive guest experiences. As the firm’s executive producer, Peter managed the concept, design and production of projects for his client base, including Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, Lockheed Air & Space and Pioneer Electronics, among others. He worked directly with each client’s senior management and guided creative resources to successfully translate company brands, intellectual property and core business goals into engaging experiences.

Peter’s personal involvement with the TEA started in the early ‘90s, very shortly after the association was formed. Peter’s intellect and ability to articulate why the TEA existed and its benefits to our professional community were invaluable and convinced many to join the new-minted organization. It was all quite evangelical at the time, and Peter was an incredible spokesperson. Bending the ear of any and all, Peter possessed the oration skills of the most experienced trial lawyer, salted with passion and a sincere desire to help themed entertainment professionals (who were only just beginning to adopt the phrase “themed entertainment” largely thanks to TEA) grow and flourish. 

Peter’s volunteerism and his influence within TEA were extensive. He joined and eventually chaired the Standards Committee formed shortly after the TEA was founded. This five-year project ultimately defined over 60 industry disciplines and the process by which they work together to conceive, design, fabricate and install the largest and most complex entertainment projects in the world. 

In 1996 Peter was elected to the TEA International Board, and in 1997 and 1998 he was unanimously elected TEA International President. In those days, the TEA was bootstrapping, so when elected President you assumed all management responsibilities for the association, including moving the TEA office into your business! This meant all communications to and from the TEA went through Metavision and its support staff. Though the Board faced many mundane challenges due to a lack of paid staff, Peter always reminded everyone to “quit counting the shrimp” and think big about what the TEA could and should aspire to be. 

After completing his term on the International Board, Peter was active on various committees including Ways & Means, Education, Nominating, Thea Awards, and Strategic Planning.  Each committee was dedicated to developing and defining the building blocks of a sustainable and professional organization. Peter was always a thoughtful and thought provoking member of these committees and pushed for the highest standards.

From 2012-2016, Peter chaired the Past Presidents Committee and from there flowed his final contributions to the TEA. This esteemed group represents the 25-year lineage of TEA presidents and is tasked with looking 10 years into our future and conceiving long-range programs that will benefit the association and our industry. Under Peter’s leadership, the group established several initiatives that focus on broadening the membership and making the industry accessible to the next generation of designers, engineers and technicians – what grew into TEA NextGen. The TEA NextGen Initiative includes educational programs, mentoring, job placement and inclusion at various TEA events. 

In addition to his efforts on the TEA Board and Committees, Peter made a point of attending the TEA’s annual multi-day planning retreats, wrote articles on behalf of the TEA and spoke at numerous shows and engagements about the virtues of membership in this unique organization.   

As a person, Peter was always effusive with compliments and encouragement. He was the first to ask about your family, by name, and what they were doing. Peter always transmitted genuine warmth when he spoke on a personal level and you had the feeling he was completely focused on your concerns. He was the first to insist on taking the high road on all things that affected personal reputation, or the health of the TEA. And he never forgot how important it is to laugh….at yourself, with your friends, your colleges and with those you love.

Peter lost his battle with cancer on April 3, 2016, the morning after the Thea Awards Gala. Though too ill to attend the show, through the magic of FaceTime, Peter was able to see his dear friend Keith James receive the prestigious Buzz Price lifetime achievement honors that evening. 

Peter’s passion and unbridled willingness to commit so much of his energy and time to the success of the industry and the TEA made him a cornerstone of this organization. That is why his associates in the TEA wish to acknowledge Peter Chernack as the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, and why the award has been renamed in his honor. Peter has made his mark forever and in naming the Service Award after him, the TEA sets a high bar for those who follow.

Award Credits