TEA News

19 September 2022

Congratulations! 2022 TEA Masters Announced

Congratulations to the new slate of TEA Masters! Please join us to celebrate the 2022 TEA Masters at SATE Las Vegas.

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) - the global, nonprofit membership association for the creators of compelling places and experiences - has announced the slate of TEA Masters honorees for 2022. The TEA Masters program celebrates Masters of Their Craft in the global themed entertainment industry. 

The 2022 TEA Masters will be officially honored and showcased at SATE Las Vegas October 12-15, 2022 where they will participate in an educational panel session, moderated by Adam Bezark of The Bezark Company. Click Here to Register for SATE Las Vegas.


2022 TEA Masters, associated disciplines


Meet the 2022 TEA Masters

                     Philip Bloom



Discipline: Theme Park & Attraction Design

Company: American Scenic Design, Inc.

Years of industry Experience: 35

Philip Bloom of American Scenic Design Inc. (ASDI) of Los Angeles, CA is known throughout the industry as an expert in the development and implementation of technically sophisticated theme park rides, and his client list includes Disney, Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. and others. His credits include being co-creator of the groundbreaking rides: Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Universal), Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Universal), Transformers, the Ride (Universal), Ratatouille the Ride (Disney), and Rise of the Resistance (Disney).

Mr. Bloom began his career as a licensed architect and a designer of sets for theater and motion pictures. To merge these disciplines he joined Walt Disney Imagineering and began work as a designer on many of Disney’s great themed rides of the 90’s, including Tower of Terror, Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin and Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Mr. Bloom then moved to Universal Studios where he co-created The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride that pioneered the use of 3D projection within a scenic ride environment.

An industry veteran of Walt Disney Imagineering and Universal Creative, Mr. Bloom established American Scenic Design Inc. (ASDI) to provide design and consulting services for theme parks, museums, guest experience venues and location based entertainment developments. Known for its expertise in the creation and design of themed rides, ASDI also specializes in attraction design, show set design and exhibit design.


                    Alfredo Ayala


Discipline: R&D - Theme Park Technology & Animation

Company: Walt Disney Imagineering R&D

Years of Industry Experience: 29

Alfredo Ayala is a true "left brain/right brain" creator. Throughout his 29-year career at the Walt Disney Company, Ayala's impact has ranged across multiple fields, including creative design; computer-based media and animatronic animation; special effects; new projection techniques; and most recently, bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) characters to life.

Alfredo's achievements are too numerous to list in full; here are a few samples. Joining Disney in June of 1993 as a technologist/engineer/chemist intern in the lmagineering R&D organization, Alfredo found his work falling into two broad categories: 1) Animation, and 2) Everything Else. He first developed new, longer-lasting, more realistic synthetic skin materials for Disney's Audio-Animatronics characters. He introduced breakthrough methods to program animatronic characters without the use of complicated sliders and buttons, allowing more intuitive, natural movement. He developed figures that used computer intelligence to read audience expressions and respond appropriately. Alfredo designed the animation pipeline for "Cars Land" at Disney California Adventure and programmed the "car dance" pattern of "Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters." He delivered the animation for the most complex animatronic face ever built; the Shaman animatronic in “Na'vi River Journey”, at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Most recently, Alfredo helped create the Al animation of characters at the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience at Walt Disney World, and he is also a co-inventor of the interactive "Lightsaber Training Experience" there.

In the "Everything Else" category, Alfredo pioneered new imaging and special effects technologies around the parks. He created the optical imaging system for "Mission: SPACE" at EPCOT, which provides guests colorful space vistas with tremendous depth. Alfredo helped pioneer Interactive-Floor surfaces, allowing guests to literally "step into" attractions. He pioneered the use of advanced projection effects to create the "launch" environments for Space Mountain, and to bring the Ghost Bride at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion to life. He was the technical lead on the Thea Award winning "Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure" at EPCOT and was the lead optical designer for the digital refresh of "Soarin' over California" at Disney California Adventure.

Alfredo holds 17 patents and is widely honored inside and outside of Disney. He was honored with the prestigious "Norman Lear IMAGEN Creative Achievement Award," as well as the CNET en Español, "List of the 20 most Influential Latinos in Technology" Award. Most recently, Alfredo has been featured on the Disney+ streaming series, “One Day at Disney”. He is especially interested in reaching diverse next-generation creatives and technologists from communities that have not had as much exposure in the past. Alfredo Ayala is a true Master of his Craft.



                     Desireee Soto-Vaughn

Discipline: Art Direction

Company: Independent Consultant

Years of industry experience: 35

Desireé Soto-Vaughn is more than just a figure finisher, designer, and art director. She’s a “secret weapon” that show teams are lucky to have on any project. She is intensely intuitive and often speaks quietly to herself about the tasks at hand: thinking through the best approach, the most artful decisions, and keeping a careful eye on schedule and budget. Soft-spoken and kind, Desireé is an artistic soul, a hard worker, and a nurturing teammate.

Soto-Vaughn has worked in the themed entertainment industry for many years, starting as a Figure Finisher and Field Art Director at Walt Disney Imagineering in the 1980s and 90s. There she mastered the delicate specialty of bringing well-known animated characters to life in the physical world, respecting the official models while delivering specific, storytelling poses.

In the late 90s and 2000s, Soto-Vaughn moved to Universal Creative, where she worked with an all-new aesthetic as Art Director of Animated Figures and Props for Men In Black: Alien Attack. Later she was an Art Director on the Universal Studios Singapore project, where she supervised the US-based sculpting and figure finishing of all the figures for the Madagascar Boat Ride. Desiree joined the team in Singapore and helped with overseeing installation of the ride and retail store displays that included sculpted DreamWorks Madagascar characters. These were done especially well, and are part of the charm of the ride and the stores. Working with construction teams as a woman in Asia can be challenging, but the local contractors respected her and appreciated her guidance. This is a testament to her creative skills, but also as a manager, a communicator and a human being.

Desireé has also worked on a number of independent projects in Asia, including Imagica in Mumbai India, and Art Director for Chimelong Ocean Kingdom projects. This time period was 2014-2017.

Soto-Vaughn returned to Disney in 2017, to Art Direct the Hong Kong Disneyland ‘Iron Man Experience.” She continued to work in both Glendale and WDI Asia Ltd. for the Frozen Ever After and Oaken’s Sliding Sleigh Ride, Desireé provided art direction, production, installation and integration of all show elements.

Desireé is a longtime mentor and is happy to share and teach what she knows to all who wish to learn from her. For all these reasons — her skills and talent, her vast experience in the US and Asia, and her abilities to mentor — Desireé Soto-Vaughn is proudly submitted as a TEA Master for 2022.


                     David Willrich


Discipline: Technical Systems / Audio Visual & Multimedia Specialist

Company: DJ Willrich LTD (DJW)

Years of Industry Experience: 36

For over 3 decades as the founder of DJW, David Willrich has personally been responsible for working with clients to design and develop the audio-visual multimedia integrated systems that match their needs and aspirations to create memorable, immersive, and engaging guest experiences all over the world.

David and the DJW team’s body of work includes: hotels, museums, visitor centers, theme parks, and attractions. He and his fellow directors at DJW lead a multi-disciplinary team all from their headquarters in the New Forest in Hampshire in the UK.

David has served both as the TEA’s International President (2017, 2018)  and President of the EMEA Division (2015/2016) as well as being on the TEA International Board and the TEA EME Board and co-chairing SATE Europe and SATE Asia many times.

David has inspired many newcomers to take on more active roles in the TEA and has helped them connect to others in the industry. As TEA President, David always made himself available to the members at large and demonstrated time and time again that he genuinely cared about them. Many credit David with being their role model for someone successfully in the themed entertainment industry coming from Europe.

David is a master at using his enthusiasm for technology to deliver novel solutions, but never at the expense of the quality of the overall experience. Throughout his long career, David has built a reputation as a strong collaborator and colleague who works exceptionally well with all members of the project team.

As an industry leader David has worked the following notable projects:

  • National Motor Museum, Beaulieu – UK
  • Ski-Dubai – THEA Award
  • RingWerk, Nürburgring - Germany
  • The Shard, London – UK
  • The British Music Experience
  • Titanic Belfast Experience Center, Belfast – Northern Ireland - Recognized with a THEA Award
  • Arch of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri - USA
  • Indigenous Peoples Experience, For Edmonton – THEA Award

David Willrich remains an active member of the TEA community and has repeatedly demonstrated time and time again that he is the epitome of a TEA Master.  


                Takayasu Fujita Kimura



Discipline: Rockwork Sculpting / Design

Company: Walt Disney Imagineering

Years of Industry Experience: 22

For more than 20 years, Takayasu Fujita-san has been an amazingly talented and hardworking member of our industry, not just in the themed environments such as rockwork design and creation but as a renowned artist and wood sculptor from Japan.

Takayasu-san has greatly contributed to the success of numerous world-class projects around the globe as a mentor, sculptor and art director. Starting his themed environment career on Mt. Prometheus at Tokyo DisneySea as a rockwork field art director, he continued to excel and develop his reputation as one of the most respected and sought-after professionals in the business.

In addition to his immense gifts as a sculptor, Takayasu-san played a major role in developing the talent base for the Shanghai Disney Resort rockwork scope, one of the largest undertakings in the history of building Disney theme parks. With his quiet and humble manner, Takayasu-san has trained and led artisans for more than two decades globally.

Over the years his impressive portfolio includes monumental figures created with steel and sculpted cement for Dubai Land, UAE; treehouses at Hong Kong and Tokyo Disneyland; floating mountains at Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida; Cars Land at Disney California Adventure; Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland; and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan — just to mention a few.

In addition to helping to create world-class projects, Takayasu-san also creates and exhibits regularly throughout Japan his beautifully delicate “Hina Dolls” which are stylized wood sculptures treasured in the Japanese culture. His diversity in talent and scope is remarkable!

Fujita-san is currently working on the Fantasy Springs expansion for Tokyo Disney Resort as the rockwork field art director for the Never Land attraction. In addition to that, Fujita-san is one of the carefully selected figurative sculptors who will be creating dozens of sculptural interpretations of Disney characters incorporated into the landscape.

We are excited and honored to welcome Takayasu-san into our esteemed community of Masters of Their Crafts.


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More about TEA Masters

The TEA Masters program, initiated several years ago by the TEA Past Presidents Committee, helps boost awareness of the many creative specialties and disciplines that collaborate to produce excellence and breakthrough guest experiences in themed entertainment. Engaging more fully with leading practitioners in these areas benefits our TEA membership community and the industry as a whole, fostering greater appreciation and understanding of the disciplines themselves and their role and impact within a project team. 

                           Adam Bezark

“What an astonishing gathering of experts!” said Adam Bezark, 2021-2022 TEA Masters Chair. “The TEA Masters represent the breadth and depth of talent in our amazing industry. They also represent the TEA’s ongoing commitment to mentorship and growth. In addition to the honor that comes with being selected as a Master by your peers, our TEA Masters programs are all about sharing knowledge with students and NextGen talent, as well as professional TEA Members who may be changing careers and learning new skills. We’re incredibly proud to welcome these new TEA Masters, who embody incredible diversity in professional disciplines, companies and geographies.”

How TEA Masters are nominated and selected

TEA sends an official call for nominations to its worldwide membership and to the themed entertainment industry at large. The TEA Masters Committee reviews the submissions and recommends the slate of honorees for final approval from the TEA International Board of Directors.

To qualify for TEA Masters consideration, nominees must have a substantial number of years as a professional in a discipline associated with the themed entertainment industry; have made significant contributions in that regard; and be currently practicing. Nominees must not be currently serving on the TEA International Board, or the TEA Masters Committee.

Additional details will be shared and announced in coming months when the TEA Masters re-open for 2023 nominations. 

Read about the 2018 TEA Masters, the 2019 TEA Masters, 2020 TEA Masters, and the 2021 TEA Masters.

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Nathalie Bournillat, 2021 TEA Master

Catherynne Jean, 2021 TEA Master

Dale Mason, 2021 TEA Master

Rick Rothschild, 2021 TEA Master

Frank Weigand, 2021 TEA Master

Jill Wu, 2021 TEA Master

Ray Braun, 2020 TEA Master

Tracy Eck, 2020 TEA Master

Linda McBride Alcorn, 2020 TEA Master

Roberta Perry, 2020 TEA Master

Bonnie Sinclair, 2020 TEA Master

James Scheidel, 2020 TEA Master

Lanny Smoot, 2020 TEA Master

Adam Bezark, 2022 Committee Chair and 2019 TEA Master

Philip Vaughan, 2019 TEA Master

Lisa Passamonte Green, 2019 TEA Master

Zsolt Hormay, 2019 TEA Master

Wayne Hunt, 2019 TEA Master

Glenn Birket, 2018 TEA Master

Joe Falzetta, 2018 TEA Master

John Lindsay, 2018 TEA Master

Ralph Nielsen, 2018 TEA Master

Rich Procter, 2018 TEA Master

Philipp van Stratum, 2018 TEA Master

Nina Rae Vaughn, 2018 TEA Master

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Posted by Morgan Lucchese



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