TEA News

20 July 2018

TEA Advantage: Chuck Fawcett, Animax Designs

I would encourage any company in our industry to join and sponsor a TEA [Themed Entertainment Association] event. The benefits far outweigh any perceived cost. -- Chuck Fawcett, President/CEO, Animax Designs

It was the summer of 1979 when an eleven-year-old kid’s career path came into focus. Chuck Fawcett sat in a movie theater surrounded by his friends, watching Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy bounce around the screen in The Muppet Movie. From the impact of that one moviegoing experience, Chuck went on a mission to find out everything he could about the Muppets - how they were designed, fabricated, and puppeteered. So astonished by the storytelling and technical excellence of what he had seen, his idolization of Jim Henson and the masterful art he crafted through those iconic puppets was inspirational. Determined to follow his passion, Chuck was driven to improve his craft in making his own characters come to life.

Young Chuck with one of his puppet creations, circa 1979

Between his junior and senior year of high school, Chuck landed an internship in New York with Kermit Love, one of the renowned puppet designers who not only worked with Jim Henson, but also created such well-known characters as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for Sesame Street. One of Chuck's very first projects was assisting in the creation of the second-ever Mr. Snuffleupagus costume for Sesame Street, leading to a dozen more international Sesame Street contracts ranging from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.

In 1989, Chuck founded Animax Designs Inc., specializing in highly engineered animatronics, interactive three-dimensional characters, puppets, and more. It was then that Forest Bahruth (show director with Disney Creative Entertainment) called Chuck after hearing about his work and hired him to work on a small community outreach program, an opportunity that became his introduction to the theme park world. It was an auspicious day for Chuck when he delivered the 12 brand-new character puppets; he was gratified to see them well-received by his new client, and this initial success led him to more work, for major theme park operators across the globe.

Today, Animax Designs is a 130-employee operation that occupies a state-of-the-art, 80,000 square foot facility in Nashville, Tennessee (USA). This one-of-a-kind animatronics design and manufacturing powerhouse is outfitted with cutting-edge machinery and a talented, skilled staff ready to create and populate new worlds full of animated figures for storytellers around the globe.

Chuck’s awareness of TEA came into focus during the IAAPA Attractions Expo in 2008. As he walked the gigantic show floor, he took note of a very visible pocket of companies that centered their work around the creation and design of theme parks and Location Based Entertainment projects, hearing murmurs of this “TEA group” they were all part of. Animax found a warm welcome and was recruited to become a member, subsequently becoming active attendees of TEA mixers and events and the TEA SATE and TEA Summit conferences to gain further exposure to the themed entertainment industry.

Chuck Fawcett of Animax (center) with
Mike West of Universal Creative (left)
and John Paul Guerts (right)

Later, upon the completion of Animax’s animatronics work on the Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Animax stepped up for the first time as a TEA sponsor. Universal senior director/executive producer Mike West approached Chuck to recruit Animax to provide sponsorship support for a TEA behind-the-scenes gathering celebrating the opening of this new attraction. Chuck was also invited to speak at the event about his company’s contributions to the project. Chuck recognized the value of the opportunity to "be supporting the TEA, and to share our great work and all the blood, sweat, and tears that were shed into the project.”

Chuck Fawcett with his wife, Renee,
at the 2018 TEA Thea Awards Gala

That initial sponsorship experience led Chuck to increase his company's level of activity within TEA, recognizing that deeper involvement would lead to better knowledge of the industry and business relationships for Animax. He sits on the Board of the TEA Eastern North America Division and on the TEA Business Development Committee, and Animax continues to give sponsorship support to TEA events. In Chuck’s words, “Speaking as someone who is an active sponsor of the TEA and their events, I can say that the value we receive from a business development standpoint is hard to put a price on. I would encourage any company to give it a try, because the benefits will far outweigh the cost. TEA sponsorship gives immediate visibility into your company – and that’s an investment that we can all use to our advantage.”


Story by Matt Kent, Director Global Business Development, Hotopp Associates (Matt also sits on the TEA International Board) and Alyssa Hostetler, Office Assistant, Hotopp. This article is part of the TEA Advantage continuing series produced by volunteers within the TEA Marketing & Communications Committee. They profile people and companies for whom membership in TEA was a significant boost and benefit to their careers.


Posted by Judy Rubin



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