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02 March 2021

Storyland Studios Issues $20K Design Challenge for Freelance Creatives to Celebrate 20th


Storyland Studios launches NEW International Design Challenge for freelance designers in themed entertainment

March 2, 2021

Lake Elsinore, Calif. - Experience design and themed entertainment firm Storyland Studios is excited to announce its inaugural Storyland Design Challenge, an all-new, international concept design competition for freelance designers working in the themed entertainment industry. 


Freelance designers seeking to make their name in themed entertainment are invited to pitch their design concepts for immersive, story-based experiences. The grand prize is $20,000 and the winner will have the opportunity to pitch their concept to industry veterans in a spotlight session at the 2021 Blooloop V-Expo this October.


“After 20 years of telling stories in space, Storyland Studios is inviting the next generation of storytellers to showcase their talent,” said Mel McGowan, Chief Creative Officer at Storyland Studios and veteran Disney Imagineer. “We’re thrilled to offer this incredible opportunity to freelance designers during this unprecedented time in our industry.” 


Joining Storyland for this exciting event are industry leading judges, legendary in the themed entertainment world. They include: 


  • Michael Mack, CEO, Europa Park and Mack NeXT

  • Andreas Andersen, CEO and President, Liseberg Group, Sweden, and Board Member at LEGO®️ House Denmark

  • Doris Hardoon, Executive Creative Director and veteran Disney Imagineer

  • Laurence Beckers, Creative Director, Alterface and Board Member of l’Institut des Arts et Diffusion, Louvain-La-Neuve 

  • Rachel Read, Founder and co-CEO, Blooloop

  •  Mel McGowan, CCO, Storyland Studios and veteran Disney Imagineer


Storyland Studios Design Challenge partners include AlterfaceBlooloopMack NeXT and


Hardoon, a prominent voice in The Imagineering Story and Executive Creative Director at Disneyland Shanghai, is a passionate advocate for supporting emerging designers in the industry, alongside the group of stellar, industry-leading judges participating. 


“I know the entertainment industry is flourishing and relevant when I see versatile designers showcase who they want to be as the industry’s next generation of visionaries,” she said.    


Giving back to the themed entertainment industry

Twenty years ago this October, in the buildup following 9/11, Storyland Studios was formed as a design studio. Since then, Storyland has had the pleasure and privilege of serving the themed entertainment industry with some distinction. As a firm, Storyland has had the distinct privilege of working on award-winning projects, with award-winning industry innovators. 


For example, Poverty Encounter by the Children’s Hunger Fund, a project Storyland worked on, was honored with the prestigious Themed Attraction Association’s (TEA) Thea Award. Josh Steadman, Art Director for Storyland, was also honored with a Thea Award for his work on Shanghai Disneyland. Steadman is also the recipient of 11 Solomon Awards and 24 AAFIEs. 


Today, the Storyland team boasts over 100 team members and has evolved into a full experience design and storytelling firm with offices on three continents. Most importantly, the firm enjoys cherished relationships with its clients and partners.  


“To recognise this achievement, rather than do the usual patting ourselves on the back, we wanted to do something different,” said Ben Thompson, Chief Strategy Officer at Storyland Studios. “we want to give back to the industry which has enabled us to become who we are today.


In particular, we want to give a helping hand to freelance creatives who have been most impacted by COVID. It would be a great shame if talented creative people left our industry at this time, and we felt we could do something about that.” 

Design competitions create a networking boost for designers 

In light of the COVID pandemic, the nature of networking has changed. The Storyland Design Challenge offers freelance designers the opportunity to get their pitch concepts in front of a distinguished and influential audience.


"The crucial first step to one day landing that dream job is just getting the opportunity to be heard,” said Jakob Fagerström, an independent spatial experience designer and art director. “If you don’t have any natural touch points within the industry, that can feel almost impossible. 


“This makes every chance to connect and showcase invaluable for any designer who has a big dream but not as big of a network."


According to Hardoon, giving future generations a platform is a duty that industry veterans should strive to fulfill wherever possible. Likewise, new talent should be actively making connections among peers and mentors. 


“Awareness, connections and discovering talent are a relentless responsibility both the industry veterans and future talent need to engage in,” she said. “Opportunities like this Design Challenge provide a great platform to demonstrate who, why, and how an individual can be recognized and excel.” 

Pre-registration open now

Three finalists will be invited to present their concepts during this year's Storyland Innovation Webinar. All participants will receive a one-year subscription to the Kitestring virtual training platform. 


Early registration is open from now through March 31. Entrants who register early may enter the competition free of charge. Standard registration is open from April 1 through June 4, 2021. Entrants may register at


Storyland Studios imagines, designs and creates immersive experiences and environments that lift the spirit. For more information, visit




Ben Thompson, Storyland Studios International 

Email: [email protected]

International Phone: 0044 1494 732414


Mel McGowan, Storyland Studios West Coast

Email:     [email protected]

U.S. Phone: +1 800-218-1932


Matt Ferguson, Storyland Studios East Coast

Email: [email protected]

U.S. Phone: +1 800-218-1932

Posted by PlainJoe Studios / Storyland Studios


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