Discipline: Engineer & Control Systems
Company: Birket Engineering, Inc.
Learn more about Glenn
Glenn Birket has contributed to some of the industry’s most influential projects, and today remains at the top of his field. Glenn’s work is the subject of the David Green/Steve Alcorn book, Building A Better Mouse.
He started out as captain of the Nautilus at Walt Disney World’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Graduating cum laude as an Electrical Engineer from University of Central Florida, he joined WED Enterprises (later Walt Disney Imagineering – WDI) for the creation of Epcot. Glenn progressed to electronic engineering ride control section Group Leader, responsible for all control systems at Epcot’s American Adventure Pavilion - then Disney’s most complex implementation of hydraulics, pneumatics, drive systems, show action equipment, stage machinery, animatronics, projection, and theatrical equipment.
In 1984 Glenn founded Birket Engineering (BE), which has provided control systems for every Disney and Universal Studios park since Epcot. In 1987, Glenn was contracted to design, build and commission the ride control system for Maelstrom in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion. Glenn went on to design and implement show control systems for Disney Hollywood Studios’ Epic Stunt Show and Superstar Theater opening attractions. Later Glenn would design and build Universal Studios Florida’s JAWS and Earthquake ride control systems and implement Universal Studios Hollywood’s Riot Act Stunt Show show control software.
1990s: BE designed and commissioned the world’s first and second linear induction motor-launched roller-coasters. 2010-present: BE commissioned 12 attractions at Resorts World Sentosa/Universal Studios Singapore, completed show control design for two Hong Kong Disneyland attractions, commissioned four mainland China rollercoasters, provided design services for 17 Shanghai Disneyland attractions and now holds 23 control systems contracts for upcoming major attractions in China. Glenn has pioneered changes to improve pyrotechnic controls systems safety, and serves on the NFPA Technical Committee for Special Effects.
Today, BE has grown into a company of 100+ employees with offices in Orlando, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and Glenn is a sought-after authority on entertainment control systems, and China’s themed entertainment business.
Discipline: Project Management
Company: Independent Contractor
Learn More About John
Project management is a critical function in the themed entertainment industry, with its unique, one-off projects blending and coordinating many different creative disciplines with sophisticated technology and control, as well as construction and land development. Time and budget are finite; scale and throughput can be massive; robust, year-round operation is essential and there are often multiple stakeholders to satisfy.
John Lindsay is well known within our industry as one of the leading figures in project management, with extensive international experience in the leisure, entertainment, and retail industries, leading multi-disciplinary teams from inception through the completion of construction and turn-over to operations. His unique experience blends roots in entertainment production with negotiations and management of creative content, iconic brands, real estate development, and governments.
In addition to project management of international projects, John lists among his skills: Negotiations and management of intellectual property licensing agreements, negotiations and management of development agreements and entitlements, and management of themed entertainment business units.
John’s prestigious, extensive list of achievements includes projects for: Four Disney theme parks: (EPCOT, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland); three world expos: (Brisbane 1988, Osaka 1990, Taejon 1993); the first Warner Brothers Retail roll-out (21 stores) and much more.
John has been described by colleagues as a tough taskmaster who holds his team members to a high standard of work performance and personal accountability.
He is likewise characterized as a person of great generosity and integrity, always working to raise the bar by freely sharing his knowledge, experience and wisdom with others, to convey personal and professional lessons that have helped many to build their own careers in the industry.
His strengths, achievements and contributions to the industry – meriting the title of “TEA Master” - are, therefore, twofold: John has successfully managed the development of some of the largest projects ever constructed in our industry, and he has fostered the growth and development of people through education and personal example.
John currently works with Nassal, with their project management arm.
Company: BRC Imagination Arts
Learn More About RICH
"Being a writer in this industry,” said Rich Procter, “means I have the astonishing opportunity to engage visitors as they enter a special-built immersive environment designed to tell this one epic story. I can sweep people up in an emotional narrative journey crafted so that they themselves are the heroes - and at the end, I can resolve this story in a way that makes them know something special about themselves: that they have the qualities of great heroes, including courage, compassion, wisdom, perseverance, and love.”
Over his nearly five-decade career, Rich has been a passionate student of the craft, helping conceive and produce innumerable experiences across a wide variety of projects around the world, with inexhaustible enthusiasm, optimism, ideas and heart. “I’ve worked with Native American tribes, Caterpillar Corporation, Kennedy Space Center, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, P.T. Barnum Museum, American Civil War Center, and Ravinia Music Festival. Quite a ride.”
As Senior Writer at BRC Imagination Arts, Rich has contributed to theme parks, world expo pavilions, brand homes, museums and more. His work includes several shows in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a particular point of pride since Rich’s great, great grandfather, Addison G. Procter, was youngest delegate at the 1860 Wigwam Convention that nominated Mr. Lincoln.
Before joining BRC, Rich was an award-winning Creative Director for advertising agency Bert, Barz and Kirby; a prime-time morning comedy disc jockey in San Francisco; a member of the fabled Groundlings Improv group alongside Phil Hartman and Paul Reubens; the entertainment reporter for a Los Angeles television station; an Imagineer for WDI; creator of the National Ketchup Board for Prairie Home Companion; and writer/producer of some 100 hours of television for Discovery Channel, TLC, A&E Network, and PBS. He can still be heard as narrator on the National Geographic television show, Totally Wild!
Honors include 11 Clio Awards, seven Thea honored projects and two LA regional Emmy nominations.
Nina Rae Vaughn
Discipline: Illustrator & Art Director
Learn More About Nina Rae
For more than three decades, Nina Rae Vaughn has been visualizing environments, as a creative designer and art director for theme parks, attractions, fountains, museums and hospitality venues worldwide.
In 20+ years at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), she started as a Special Effects Designer during the development of Epcot, progressing to Director of Design on Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, Tokyo Disneyland.
During her tenure at Disney, Nina had the opportunity to contribute to a vast number of Disney’s project portfolios including but not limited to; Indiana Jones Adventure, Disneyland, Main Street, Disneyland Paris, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney California Adventure, Tokyo Disney Sea and the many park “Fun Maps.”
Early in Nina’s career she was a fountain designer at WET Design, gaining valuable field installation experience. She joined The Hettema Group (THG) in 2013 and contributes to their global projects as Art Director.
Prior to joining THG she contributed to projects including Paramount Park Spain, Harry Potter, Universal Orlando, and Shanghai Disneyland. A special project dear to her heart was creating the design for The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination Model at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
Nina has been a guest speaker for the Disney Cruise Line, and at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where she is an Alumnus. Nina has also been a past contributing artist and guest teacher at the Ryman Foundation Living Master’s Program.
Phil Hettema said, “Nina would be on anyone’s dream team of creative designers. She’s amazingly talented, with an exceptional set of drawing skills and a delightful visual imagination. Thoroughly experienced across a vast array of endeavors; theme park attractions, graphic development and concept art just to name a few, it’s a strong likelihood that you’ve seen her work many times. Beyond all that, however, she’s just a lovely individual. Always helpful, a willing teacher and thoughtful collaborator.”
Discipline: Lighting Designer
Company: Gallegos Lighting Design
Learn More About Joe
Joe Falzetta has had a stellar career in creating the lighting design for some of the most iconic and immersive projects in theme environment design. Joe developed and implemented immersive lighting experiences at the Principal or Lead Lighting Designer level at every Disney theme park, as well as for Disney Cruise Line.
Joe was one of the pioneers in the field who helped define the approach to lighting design in theme parks based on experience in live theater - an approach that remains substantially in effect throughout the themed entertainment industry. Over 38 years with Walt Disney Imagineering Joe was a mentor to every lighting designer who passed through the WDI Show Lighting department.
Before joining Disney, Joe taught set and lighting design, and technical theater, at the university level for eight years. In 2018, Joe joined Gallegos Lighting Design as a Senior Consultant.
The following is an edited excerpt of an article Joe wrote, published in 2003, giving an idea of what is involved in the practice of lighting design for visitor attractions:
“The lighting fixtures for Spaceship Earth were chosen for optical efficiency and the ability to produce a very controllable beam of light in a small physical package. However, the color temperature of the light tended to flatten the texture and overall impression of the faceted sphere. The immediate solution was to introduce color. But what color?
“We had been getting some spectacular Florida sunsets. The satin aluminum facets of the sphere reflected yellow, gold, lavender and blue. It became a conscious decision to attempt to replicate them: yellow at the bottom, blending up to gold, then a blend to lavender, continuing to pale blue and finally into deep blue at the top. The result was an atmospheric mantle of color wrapped around the geometric, solid sphere: an absorbed sunset that lasted the entire night for the guests of Epcot.”
Discipline: Master Craftsman & Product Production
Company: Independent Contractor
Learn More About Ralph
Ralph Nielsen might be summed up as a themed entertainment Renaissance man. He is known as a creative problem solver; a versatile, all-hands, all-mediums craftsman and artisan, an extraordinary manager and a fiscally responsible team member. He has a solid background in planning, estimating, design, production and production installation with small and large crews.
Ralph has hands-on experience in most scenic production trades and encyclopedic knowledge of techniques and materials: plastics, coatings, fire retarding and concrete, practical effects and robotics, and more. He is also an accomplished audio/video and film producer.
For Ralph, it’s all about the team. He is a skilled crew motivator, an inspiring people person. “I have a strong sense of team work,” said Ralph. “I truly feel that the team will do great things even if I am not there, but without a team I firmly believe I can’t do great things.”
Ralph is an endlessly creative, endlessly curious person who has studied and dabbled in just about everything. His enthusiasm and spirit (and his many published “how-to” articles) are an inspiration to others and have stood him in good stead on a multitude of projects over several decades in themed entertainment.
He said, “I have worked on hundreds of projects and have wonderful memories. I was a wildlife cameraman, a wilderness guide, a sailboat captain, a museum exhibit builder, a builder of practical effects and props for feature films and commercials, a filmmaker, a college film instructor, a sculptor/model & moldmaker/production designer and field art director for major theme parks around the world. I have just begun making video documentaries of ‘Japanese National Treasures’ who are experts in their field of arts, crafts or philosophy.”
He has contributed to many outstanding attractions at Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tokyo Disney Sea, Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Singapore, Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Dollywood and more.
Philipp van Stratum
Discipline: Creative Director
Company: P&P Projects BV
Learn More About Philipp
Philipp is head of design and creative lead at P&P Projects, founded almost 30 years ago and based in The Netherlands. He is known as a creative and passionate CEO with a high focus on quality.
Philipp’s profession grew out of his hobby, modelmaking. As a child, he was fascinated by the American space program, and collected photographs and model kits. After he built all the models available on the market, he started to build models from scratch. He decided to become a professional modelmaker, embarked on an education in Arts and Crafts and began visiting space conferences.
His passion led to unique opportunities. “I got my models in the picture in 1985 by offering them for national TV coverage of the first Dutch astronaut, with a model nobody had in the world,” he said. Subsequently, the Amsterdam Planetarium brought him in to work on their new exhibits, putting 19-year-old Philipp temporarily in charge for three weeks while the director went into the field.
From there, Philipp expanded into theme park projects, beginning with Tivoli Gardens and Disneyland Paris, and moved his operation out of the garage into a real workshop. His skillset and job scope grew into the realm of shows, attractions and dark rides including interactives, animated characters and storytelling, and involving specialized R&D and engineering. P&P Projects has grown to be a design/build firm, highly involved in design, development and production and working on many IP-based attractions. “We sometimes suggest that we should change our name to IP&P,” joked Philipp.
He has created projects for Sealife Centres, LEGO Discovery Centers, Walt Disney Imagineering Paris, Walt Disney Imagineering Hong Kong, Efteling, Europa-Park, Ferrari World, Dubai Parks & Resorts; Motiongate and Universal Parks & Resorts. The prestigious client list also includes Alton Towers, Amsterdam Dungeon, Aquapark Oberhausen, Attractiepark Toverland, Bobbejaanland, Children’s City Dubai, Dickens World, Duisburg Zoo, Flamingo Land Resort, Glasgow Science Centre, Fries Nature Museum, Grévin Praha and more.