Thea Blog

15 November 2016

TEA names 23rd annual Thea Awards recipients; Awards Gala to be held in Anaheim in 2017


BURBANK, California USA, Nov 15, 2016 -- The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) announced the new slate of TEA Thea Awards recipients – to be formally awarded April 22, 2017 at the 23nd annual Thea Awards Gala in Anaheim, presented by Chimelong Group.

The prestigious TEA Thea Award is considered one of the attractions industry's greatest honors. Tickets for the Gala will go on sale in December at

Photo at top: WaterWorld: a Live Sea War Spectacular at Universal Studios Hollywood - Thea Classic Award recipient

TEA International Board President Steve Birket (Birket Engineering) said, “As TEA heads into its 25th anniversary year, our annual Thea Awards reflect an industry that is increasingly global and technically sophisticated. Entertainment is ever more immersive and interactive and audiences place ever more value on storytelling and the quality of the guest experience. Themed entertainment is and will always be on the cutting edge, because it simply must – that’s what brings people back year after year. We invite the community to become familiar with the new slate of Thea Awards recipients - because they represent the very best our industry has to offer - and to celebrate with us at the Gala in Anaheim next spring.”

Hashtag: #TEAtheas


Jeremy Railton, 
Entertainment Design Corp.,
Buzz Price Thea honoree

Media contacts:

23rd Annual TEA Thea Awards Recipients

(scroll down to see descriptions)

The Buzz Price Thea Award – Recognizing a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements            

  • Jeremy Railton, Founder/Chairman, Entertainment Design Corporation      

Thea Classic

  • WaterWorld: A Live Sea War Spectacular, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City CA, USA

Thea Awards for Outstanding Achievement (AOA) 

  • Slideboarding - Technology 
  • Mack Rides’ Inverted Powered Coaster – Innovative Ride System
  • 5D Castle Theater, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Zhuhai, China - Attraction
  • Décrocher la Lune VI, La Louviere, Belgium – Live Event Spectacular on a Limited Budget
  • Ghost Post, The Haunted Mansion, Disneyland Park – Connected Immersion 
  • House of Eternal Return by Meow Wolf, Santa Fe NM, USA – Connected Immersion on a Limited Budget
  • Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience, Developed by the Van Gogh Museum – Immersive Museum Exhibit: Touring
  • 5D Castle Theater, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom; 
    Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Attraction
    Springfield USA, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City CA, USA – Themed Food & Beverage Experience
  • TRANSFORMATIONS, Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach CA, USA – Museum Exhibit on a Limited Budget
  • Senate Immersion Module, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, Boston MA, USA – Connected Immersion in Education
  • Le Dernier Panache, Puy du Fou, Les Epesses, France – Live Show
  • Center Parcs Domaine Le Bois Aux Daims, Les Trois-Moutiers, France – Eco-Friendly Destination
  • Shanghai Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort – Theme Park
  • Camp Discovery, Shanghai Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort - Attraction
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, Shanghai Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort - Attraction

Video: Le Dernier Panache, Puy du Fou, Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Live Show


TEA Past President Peter Chernack
at the TEA Thea Awards Gala in 1997. 

TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award

  • Peter Chernack, The Chernack Group (posthumous honor, in memoriam)

New Thea Awards category: Connected Immersion

Several of the new Thea Award recipients fall within a new category created by the TEA Thea Awards Committee: Connected Immersion. The Thea Awards Committee wrote, “Tremendous advances in technology, social behavior and connectivity are reinventing our notion of storytelling and immersion. 

Connected Immersion mixes digitally-led interactivity with the real world to create rich, high-touch, high-context experiences that seamlessly connect to the broader themed entertainment space. These immersive experiences extend beyond the established borders to allow audiences to “live” the story in unforgettable ways. Visitors can now be the heroes in their own story, discover hidden depths, solve mysteries and go beyond the box.”

Video: Meow Wolf, House of Eternal Return has been named for a Thea Award in the new Connected Immersion category


Key characteristics of Connected Immersion experiences:

  • Give the audience a meaningful role in the story
  • Create an attraction that provides quality experience yet gives the audience agency
  • Make emotional connections across platforms and mediums


Mack Rides' Suspended Power Coaster -
Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Innovative Ride System

TEA Service Award renamed in honor of the late Peter Chernack

The TEA Distinguished Service Award is now the TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award. TEA past president Peter Chernack, who passed away last spring, will also be the recipient of the award this year. Peter was an active leader within the TEA Past Presidents Committee, which developed the annual Service award and selects its recipient. TEA is departing from tradition this year in naming a posthumous recipient.



More information about the new slate of Thea Awards recipients

Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa was designed by
Jeremy Railton, the new Buzz Price Thea honoree

The Buzz Price Thea Award –  Recognizing a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements

Jeremy Railton, Founder/Chairman, Entertainment Design Corp.

Jeremy Railton is one of the most versatile and prolific designers in entertainment. He is a celebrated, creative force within multiple industries, including themed entertainment, immersive experience, gaming, television and stage shows. Railton projects have been recognized with Thea Awards, Emmys and Art Directors Guild Awards. His work is often on the leading or cutting edge. TEA founder Monty Lunde said, “Jeremy is individually imaginative while also being uniquely inclusive, supportive and mentoring to all who help make his creative visions real. He is constantly testing the boundaries of how to create ‘wow,’ but is conscious of real-world budgets and schedules. Jeremy represents the best of what our industry stands for and has elevated many others through his efforts and support."

2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City - Jeremy Railton's design
for the opening ceremonies

Jeremy Railton and his team designed or contributed to the design of the following projects (this is a short list from a long and varied career):

  • MOTIONGATE and Bollywood Parks Dubai at Dubai Parks & Resorts, now in incremental openings
  • 1984 Olympics, Los Angeles
  • Opening and closing ceremonies, 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City
  • Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas 
  • Crane Dance, Resorts World Sentosa
  • Fortune Diamond, Galaxy Macau
  • Panasonic Pavilion, Universal City Walk at Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Barbra Streisand World Tour 


Thea Classic Award

WaterWorld: A Live Sea War Spectacular - Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City, California             

When it opened in 1995, WaterWorld set a new standard for live stunt shows, notable for its design, scale, staging and showmanship, and the following year TEA recognized it with a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement. In the ensuing 21 years, Universal Studios has continually kept the show up to date with changes in production technology. WaterWorld: A Live Sea War Spectacular has stood the test of time, entertaining hundreds of millions of guests at tens of thousands of performances, and now merits a Thea Classic designation.



Slideboarding - Technology 

Slideboarding, developed by WhiteWater, is a pioneering adaptation of video gaming to the world of waterparks. It amps up audience engagement, bringing in-park interactivity together with an extended-experience, smart app that remembers guests’ in-home practice sessions and drives repeat park visitation. Slideboarding is an outstanding new technology and an affordable game-changer that will benefit waterparks and the industry as a whole.


Mack Rides' Inverted Powered Coaster

Mack Rides’ Inverted Powered Coaster - Innovative Ride System

The Inverted Powered Coaster system was developed by Mack and first tested and installed at Europa-Park (Rust, Germany) as part of the attraction, Arthur in the Kingdom of the Minimoys. The Inverted Powered Coaster combines dark-ride, 360-degree spins, variable speeds with gravity, plus power-fed coaster sections and on-board audio that support any number of configurations. It combines the showmanship of a sophisticated dark ride vehicle with the visceral thrills of a roller coaster. It dissolves the boundaries of traditional ride and attraction categories and offers designers unprecedented flexibility to create new types of guest experiences, and new genres in storytelling thrill rides.


5D Castle Theater, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom

5D Castle Theater, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Hengqin Island, Zhuhai, China - Attraction

High-quality, high-capacity, high-impact! The scale of this attraction is huge, its ambitions audacious. The 5D Castle Theater at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, ranked the largest “5D” theater in the world is a successful, high capacity, popular attraction, technologically excellent, with local story content. Media, theater planning and construction, motion seats, and in-theater effects are all excellent and expertly integrated. and add up to a truly world class attraction that further distinguishes Chimelong and raises the industry bar in China. This is a shining example of what the global themed entertainment industry is capable.


Décrocher la Lune VI - Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement -
Live Event Spectacular on a Limited Budget

Décrocher la Lune VI, La Louviere, Belgium - Live Event Spectacular on a Limited Budget

This large-scale, live, city-wide theatrical celebration was conceived as a thank-you to the community of La Louviere, where Franco Dragone has located his studio and production facilities. It is urban opera and immersive storytelling on a grand scale - a collaboration of Dragone and Luc Petit Creation with 650 citizen volunteers, 200 technicians, and 35,000 spectators - bringing together an entire community for a one-night production that is expanded and re-staged anew every three years.


Ghost Post, The Haunted Mansion – Disneyland - Connected Immersion 

Ghost Post, The Haunted Mansion - Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Connected Immersion - Photo ©Disney

Ghost Post, The Haunted Mansion, Disneyland extended visitor engagement and created an entire new dimension to the classic Disney Haunted Mansion attraction. It was a retail service, an ARG (augmented reality game), and a clever new storytelling mechanism - and it was more than all those things. Ghost Post introduced a new type of interactive experience with multiple touchpoints that engaged guests with an attraction in new ways. A three-month subscription delivered authentic Haunted Mansion packages of trinkets, ephemera and magic to guests’ homes. Additional elements such as puzzles, audio plays and clues led to a scavenger hunt at Disneyland Park. The payoff was a ride in the Doom Buggy at the Haunted Mansion…with a customized soundtrack! This innovative extension of the guest experience suggests a model for future attractions.


House of Eternal Return by Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, NM USA - Connected Immersion on a Limited Budget

The House of Eternal Return is a unique, connected immersion experience that reinvents location-based attractions through non-linear storytelling, technology-infused interactivity and a multimedia hands-on art exhibition. A combination of jungle gym, haunted house, children’s museum and immersive art exhibit, House of Eternal Return is a fusion of art, 21st century technology and themed entertainment. This non-linear experience allows the audience to build their own stories. It takes the ideas of theme and immersion to new levels by creating a multi-media attraction that transports audiences through art, mystery, and interactivity.


Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience, developed by the Van Gogh Museum - Immersive Museum Exhibit: Touring

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which holds the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings, drawings and letters, developed the Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience as a response to many of the works being too delicate to travel, as well as the desire to introduce Van Gogh to a new audience. The exhibit elevates the museum experience from a passive gallery to an immersive experience that allows all visitors to see and encounter these great works of art, and to know the artist, in new ways. It is currently traveling through China on a multi-year booking through 30 cities.


Photo courtesy Universal Studios Hollywood

Springfield, USA at Universal Studios Hollywood - Universal City, CA USA - Themed Food and Beverage Experience                    

Homer Simpson is always eating – and his outlandish food palate and eating habits are part of the appeal that has given The Simpsons animated series its longevity (28 seasons). Springfield USA at Universal Studios Hollywood is an outstanding example of how a theme park can successfully incorporate food into the theming to enhance the guest experience. Springfield USA offers a menu designed, developed and taste-tested that brings to life The Simpsons foods and flavors in real life. This is not your standard food & beverage offering. The attention to detail that conveys deep authenticity and adds a significant level of guest immersion. Universal Studios Hollywood has raised the bar by recreating tastes and themes that previously existed only within an animated world.

TRANSFORMATIONS - Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA USA - Museum Exhibit on a Limited Budget

TRANSFORMATIONS tells the stories of five Long Beach community members. Riveting videos tell of personal transformation in the face of complex experiences that include cancer, prison and gang violence. Displayed on the walls are items from MOLAA’s collection curated by each storyteller to represent the before and after of their story. The common thread is the support received from family and friends that led to the transformation of each participant, and the importance of their connection to art. This exhibit touches visitors on a deeply personal level and speaks to the entire socio-economic spectrum.


Senate Immersion Module, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate - Boston, MA, USA - Connected Immersion in Education

This role-playing experience at the Edward M. Kennedy (EMK) Institute, a non-profit educational destination on the campus of the University of Massachusetts, uniquely and interactively demonstrates the power of democracy in action. The Senate Immersion Module (SIM) unfolds within a full-scale model of the Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C. Students are sworn in as senators for the day, learn about an issue, debate it and vote on it. The SIM is facilitated by live actors and a tablet app. This real-world and digital blend seems like a model example of an educational connected immersion experience. It brings learning to life, impacting student behavior and retention. It shows what is possible in engaging and educating students born under the digital umbrella.

Video: Senate Immersion Module, Edward M Kennedy Institute - Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement, Connected Immersion in Education


Le Dernier Panache, Puy Du Fou, Les Epesses, France - Live Show

The 7500 sq. meter, 2500-seat Theatre des Geants includes a 60x18 meter pool and houses the historical pageant, Le Dernier Panache, at Puy du Fou. The seating area rotates on a huge turntable as it follows the performers from scene to scene around a 360-degree stage. Each scene emerges from a seamlessly projected tapestry that circles the audience, opening at key moments to reveal one setting after another. The story follows the career of a young naval officer from his apprenticeship during the American Revolutionary War through the final days of the French Revolution. With an original musical score, dynamic sets, mapped projection, ornate costuming and exciting stunts, the 34-minute show features 40 performers in multiple roles, plus a number of live animals onstage. It is theatrical storytelling on a grand scale, with a high level of technical sophistication, and has earned Puy du Fou its third Thea Award.


A TEA delegation toured
Center Parcs Le Domaine du Bois Aux Daims 
in June 2016. Click for additional photos.
This project will receive a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement -
in the category of Eco-Friendly Destination

Center Parcs Le Domaine du Bois Aux Daims, Les Trois-Moutiers, France - Eco-Friendly Destination

Center Parcs has integrated nature, animals, placemaking, storytelling to create a sustainable, eco-friendly destination. Set in a pleasant woodland destination, Le Domaine du Bois Aux Daims combines challenging design, rich leisure opportunities, great comfort and good food with dynamic props, authenticity and storytelling. On the 264 hectare property are 800 wooden cottages and 11 themed “Tree Houses.” No individual cars. Only walking and cycling to circulate in the property, or boating in the lake, and zip-lining. Wild and tame animals are among the main features, and Center Parcs partnered with Jacques Perrin (producer of Microcosmos) to create an ambitious program of animal-related activities and observation opportunities. Elsewhere on the property are a spa, retail and dining, and entertainment.


Shanghai Disneyland - Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement -
Theme Park - Photo ©Disney

Shanghai Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort - Theme Park

The 12th Disney park, sixth Magic Kingdom and largest of the Disney castle parks is excellence on an international scale. Shanghai Disneyland, which opened June 16, preserves the best of Walt Disney’s original vision, while pioneering a host of dazzling new creations.

It is a massive and successful, state-of-the-art world-class achievement with groundbreaking technology and creative design, production and execution.

Shanghai Disneyland photo ©Disney

Within its six themed lands (Mickey Avenue, Gardens of Imagination, Fantasyland, Treasure Cove, Adventure Isle and Tomorrowland) are elements both classic and new, with many first and new attractions specifically tailored to the Chinese audience.

Disney, one of the world’s biggest entertainment companies, took time to rethink its core brands in the context of the host country. Culture, technology and creative are seamlessly integrated to deliver a guest experience that is, in the words of Bob Iger, “authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese.”


Camp Discovery, Shanghai Disneyland, photo ©Disney

Camp Discovery, Shanghai Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort - Attraction

Camp Discovery is comprised of three major components: Challenge Trails; The Vista Trail; and Excavation Site. All are set at the base of an iconic waterfall mountain. The Excavation Site is a hands-on dig area for younger visitors. The Vista Trail is a walk-through area at ground level that affords views of those on the more daring Challenge Trails. The Challenge Trails proper are the primary attraction of this area and feature three unique, ropes-course options through spectacular settings, integrated into the mountain: Hidden Falls Chamber; Echo Cavern; House of the Ancients. Camp Discovery delivers hands-on, participatory entertainment and a variety of experiences that cater to guests of all ages and appetites for adventure and that will continue to engage over multiple visits. Camp Discovery is ambitious in scale and complexity, rich in story, and big on adventure.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure,
Shanghai Disneyland - Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement -
Attraction - photo ©Disney

Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, Shanghai Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort - Attraction

This attraction at Disney’s newest park embodies excellence in concept; it is a signature next-step achievement that reinvents and reimagines Pirates of the Caribbean. Based upon the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction that first opened at Disneyland in 1967, “Sunken Treasure” is housed in a mammoth 175,000 square foot facility in the park’s Treasure Cove land, and features Captain Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones from the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The ride is an eight-minute adventure that plays out in 10 major scenes, with seamless technology, a new controllable boat ride system, operatic scale scenery, large format projection, special effects, illusions and next-gen Audio-Animatronics technology. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure represents the pinnacle of Disney storytelling, immersive design and advanced technology. 


Peter Chernack

Peter Chernack, 1948-2016 - TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award

Peter Chernack, a past president of TEA, passed away on April 3, 2016. Most recently he headed The Chernack Group; in previous years, his company was Metavision. Peter is survived by his wife, Rebecca, and his daughters, Michelle and Daniella. Peter was instrumental in founding TEA, served a two-year term as TEA International President (1997-1998), helped found and chair the TEA Past Presidents Committee which created the TEA Service Award (now renamed in his honor), and was a strong proponent in creating the TEA NextGen Initiative. TEA Past President Rick Rothschild (FAR Out! Creative Direction) said, “His presence in all we do to make the world a better place, our industry stronger and our association ever more vital is already missed."


Chimelong Group - Thea Awards Gala Presenter

The Themed Entertainment Association is pleased to announce Chimelong Group is returning as Presenting Sponsor for the 23rd Annual Thea Awards Gala. TEA's relationship with Chimelong Group has been growing for several years. When Chimelong Ocean Kingdom (Zhuhai, China) was named to receive a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement – theme park a year ago, the Thea Awards Committee wrote, "Since entering the theme park business in 1997, Chimelong Group has increased the scale and polish of its offerings at a dramatic pace. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom is the fifth theme park to open under the Chimelong group, and their first outside their Guangzhou home base. Each park has been significantly more polished than the one before."

TEA President Steve Birket and COO Jennie Nevin with
Chimelong's Paul Z. P. Su (VP) and Sean Li (Int'l Business Affairs)
at the 2016 TEA Thea Awards Gala

Chimelong Group has been called a game changer, bringing a unique vision to projects but also recognizing and drawing upon the expertise and experience of the global theme park industry, setting an example of international collaboration and bringing something new to the industry. Chimelong makes no secrets about its ambition to be a leading international theme park developer and we’re pleased that includes stepping up to support TEA and the Thea Awards. The support of Chimelong Group is a symbol of the international collaboration that will continue to characterize the themed entertainment industry as it grows globally. As the industry expands and improves in Asia and especially China, as the TEA Asia Pacific Division grows and extends its influence in the region, as TEA members extend their business and craft to serve Asia, Chimelong's contributions will help maintain the industry standards of quality and innovation and help to continue the culture of teamwork, recognition, and shared wisdom.


Phil Hettema at the Thea Awards Gala in 2015

Phil Hettema and The Hettema Group - Thea Awards Gala Producer

TEA extends a very warm welcome to Phil Hettema and The Hettema Group as Producer of the 23rd annual Thea Awards Gala. This will be the third consecutive year that Hettema has lent his vision, talent and experience to make the Thea Awards Gala a superlative event. Phil Hettema is a respected creative leader in themed entertainment with many accolades for himself and his company's projects, including several Thea Award honored projects such as One World Observatory in New York City. 

Posted by Judith Rubin



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