Thea Blog

22 November 2020

Thea Awards Digital Case Studies report - Session 7: Theme parks

The Nov 5, 2020 session of Thea Awards Digital Case Studies, spotlighting theme parks, explored three Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Thea Award recipients for Outstanding Achievement: Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, and Disneyland Resort's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. The session moderator was Brian Morrow of BMorrow Productions. #TEAtheas #TEAdigital

Presenters for WBWAD were Dave Cobb (on behalf of Thinkwell Group) and Glenn Davidson, Director of Theme Parks Development, Miral Asset Management.

Presenters from Walt Disney Imagineering were Asa Kalama, Executive Creative Director; Jackie King, Producer; Scott Trowbridge, Park Creative Executive and Robin Reardon, Portfolio Executive Producer.

This was the seventh and final block of the 2020 Thea Awards Digital Case Studies, presented by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), the global nonprofit membership association for the creators of compelling experiences and places. The case studies sessions explored and celebrate the recipients of TEA's prestigious, annual Thea Awards.

See all speakers, sponsors and production credits for the 2020 (26th annual) TEA Thea Awards Case Studies   PHOTO GALLERY  

A new slate of Thea Awards recipients has been announced

On Nov 19, 2020, two weeks after the Nov 5 session concluded the 26th annual Thea Awards Case Studies, TEA announced the new slate of honorees - the 27th annual TEA Thea Awards recipients. They will be showcased next year (2021) in a new series of TEA Thea Awards Digital Case Studies. Details TBA. 

"This was a 10-year labor of love for everyone involved
and we couldn’t be more proud of it as a team" - Dave Cobb

Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi


The first-ever Warner Bros. branded indoor theme park brings together more than 50 branded characters of Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, letting guests enter the worlds and meet the characters of Looney Tunes, DC Super Heroes and more under one roof.

"A key component of the design was to create a space where the guest
was part of the experience, not just observing." -- Glenn Davidson, Miral

Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi is divided into six lands, with 29 rides, interactive attractions, themed dining, live entertainment and retail.

All the elements work together to deliver a unique experience for a broad theme park audience of all ages. Sets and area theming are exceptionally well done, down to the finest details.

Offerings include exceptional multimedia experiences, such as dark rides Batman: Knight Flight (using robotic arm technology) and Ani-Mayhem (using a trackless vehicle system) - both standout attractions among a host of highly themed and story-driven dark rides, theater shows and other family-oriented experiences.

In its official comments, the TEA Thea Awards Committee wrote, “This park represents what we in the themed entertainment industry all strive for in terms of excellence in design.”

Four composers were enlisted to create over 10 hours of original scores for attractions and environments, all recorded by the Seattle Symphony.

"Every time you enter a new indoor space it isn't just entering a room, it's discovering a world; the spaces are theatrical as well as functional," said Dave Cobb.

Glenn Davidson related that Miral chairman H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak is a lifelong comics enthusiast, self-described as 'an extreme fanboy.'

See all speakers, sponsors and production credits for the 2020 (26th annual) TEA Thea Awards Case Studies   


"Everything that happens inside Galaxy's Edge needs to be true in the world of Star Wars,
no matter when or what you bring to it." -- Scott Trowbridge 
"It's all about the lightsaber." -- Scott Trowbridge

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Disneyland Resort, CA, USA


The TEA Thea Awards Committee considers Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge to be the most ambitious addition to Disneyland in more than 60 years; a groundbreaking new land that invites guests into a new chapter of the Star Wars saga - and in which the guest is the star.

"The placemaking was really key to the story. Blackspire Outpost
at Batuu was a planet we hadn’t yet been to [when concept design began]
and the project happened to step into a perfect window
between production of Episode 7 and Episode 8." - Robin Reardon

We’ve never seen a theme park land like this before, and it just might change how we create them in the future.

Introducing an entirely new planet within the Star Wars canon, this multifaceted experience combines epic and detailed placemaking, themed retail and dining, immersive theatrical techniques and interactive attractions into an audacious, genre-redefining, 14-acre adventure that lets park guests live their own Star Wars story in ways never before possible within the boundaries of a conventional theme park.

Robin Reardon: "We have parks around the world, so we used
and leveraged our vendor base around the world.
We often said the sun never set on production."

The intricate layout, sophisticated use of scale, extension of character details and high quality of execution combine to make this an outstanding example of story-driven, experiential design blurring the line between guest and experience, making every detail “in-world” authentic.

Every facet of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge offers a high level of guest agency.

Traditional character meet-and-greets become story-driven, chance encounters throughout the land. Retail experiences such as Savi’s Workshop become emotional and heroic calls to action, allowing guests to feel the Force for themselves as they engage in activities such as crafting their own Lightsaber.

Cast member interactions evoke a wholly-created, local lexicon and slang. Rides and attractions become fully participatory and encourage group collaboration.


See all speakers, sponsors and production credits for the 2020 (26th annual) TEA Thea Awards Case Studies   


"A good producer in this industry is partnered with creative. All have this goal of telling a story and are part
of the creative process" -- Scott Trowbridge


Asa Kalama of WDI: "We had to deliver on what makes the Millennium Falcon the Millennium Falcon and
"this was the first time the Millennium Falcon was ever rendered in its entirety anywhere."

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Disneyland Resort, CA, USA 


Bringing to life one of the most iconic experiences in pop culture, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run immerses guests into an intimate, story-driven, guest-driven adventure unique in theme park history.

The experience combines numerous bleeding-edge technologies seamlessly and invisibly, from the innovative “multi-carousel” loading system that provides an individualized experience while supporting throughput of 1,800 guests per hour; to interactive controls and interfaces that stimulate repeat ridership; to spatial audio and in-cabin lighting effects; to the bespoke, ultra-high-resolution game engine.

All work together to complete the illusion of piloting one of the most famous spaceships in all of movie history.

The vehicle is screen-accurate in every detail inside and out, and the view from the cockpit presents cinema-quality, real-time visuals. The Thea Awards Committee commends Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run as a crowning Disney achievement. 

Jackie King of WDI spoke of "unparalleled construction challenges; truly building a ship in a bottle; the amount of coordination between Show and Ride was truly amazing. We had to figure out, while maintaining the illusion of only one Millennium Falcon, how to get you and your five closest friends into a cockpit without seeing a guest or somebody else entering another cockpit next door. Ultimately, we landed on what we have today - having those cabins spin around on a turntable."

Asa Kalama - "This is not an industry for auteurs; you literally have to make group decisions every day."

Media coverage by Theme Park Insider - Many thanks to Robert Niles of Theme Park Insider for attending and reporting on all the 2020 TEA Thea Awards Digital Case Studies. Here are his reports on Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi and on the Disney Star Wars projects.

The presentations were followed by a live Q&A. Many thanks to moderator Brian Morrow of BMorrow Productios
and to all participants, attendees, sponsors and the production team.


See all speakers, sponsors and production credits for TEA Thea Awards Digital Case Studies


Production Credits for TEA Corporate Sponsors

  • Joe Fox, Alcorn McBride - Technical Manager
  • Ian McDaniel, Good Theory Studios - Associate Technical Manager
  • Dave Martin, DemoDave Production - Sponsorship Video Production
  • Chris Crowe, VCI Event Technology - Producer
  • Jeff Killian, VCI Event Technology - Editor
  • Nick Davies, VCI Event Technology - Editor
  • Dave DaCosta, VCI Event Technology - Technical Director
  • Jack Byers, VCI Event Technology - Event Technology Engineer
  • Becky Moore, VCI Event Technology - Event Technology Engineer

TEA Production Staff

  • Jennie Nevin - COO & Executive Producer
  • Tammie Richards - Director of Events
  • Erica Schwehr - Director of Operations, Art Direction
  • Judy Rubin - PR, Publications & Social Media
  • Christine Mack - Associate Event Producer, Help Desk
  • Christy Nakada - Marketing Associate, Help Desk
  • Alexa Esparza - Member Services, Help Desk
  • Sarah Barges - Member Services, Help Desk

Posted by Judith Rubin



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