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18th Annual Thea Awards Recipients Announced by TEA

"The annual Thea Awards, presented by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), recognize and honor excellence in the creation of extraordinary visitor experiences, attractions, exhibits and places," says TEA president Rick Rothschild, of FAR Out! Creative Direction. "As this year we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding of TEA, we can reflect on how much has changed: the tools and techniques our industry employs, the use of digital media and interactivity, the sophistication of themed environments and the international expansion of the business, especially into Asia. At the same time, storytelling and teamwork remain the bedrock of the Experience Design Industry and its projects.

"The Thea Awards honor teamwork at its very best -- the creative handshake between the visionary project owner and the multidisciplinary collective of designers, artisans and technicians who realize the vision. TEA's Thea Awards celebrate storytelling across the globe -- educational and entertaining stories of heritage, history, fiction, fantasy, magic and even hard science -- delivered with artistry and the appropriate use of technology at museums, theme parks, world expos, special events and other settings. TEA looks forward to the next 20 years of leading the visitor attractions industry."

The Thea Awards Nominating Committee recommended the current slate of 16 Thea recipients, with final approval by the TEA International Board of Directors. The Awards will be formally presented March 17, 2012 at the 18th Annual Thea Awards Gala, a black-tie dinner affair, open to the public, at the Disneyland Hotel, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim Calif.

The Buzz Price Thea Award for Lifetime Achievement is going to Joe Rohde. Rohde is a 30-year veteran of The Walt Disney Company, starting his career as a model designer on Epcot, and continuing with projects for Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California.; Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.; and Disneyland Paris. Joe led the team that conceptualized, designed and built Disney's Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort. He continues to oversee new attractions for that park and is also responsible for the creative design and content of Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, at Ko Olina, O'ahu, Hawai'i, which debuted in August 2011.

The challenge of creating Disney's Animal Kingdom, a park with a strong wildlife conservation message, involved years of research and negotiation with constituents from the scientific community, the world of zoos, and representatives of indigenous communities involved in the stories created in the park. In the process of developing the park itself, Rohde was instrumental in the development of the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, which has supported more than 180 nonprofit organizations in 111 countries totaling nearly $18 million.

Rohde speaks regularly about design and narrative and has appeared at NASA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the TED conference, Portland Creative conference, and has been the keynote speaker at SIGGRAPH in Boston and Yokohama, Japan, as well as many other venues. He is also a member of the Explorers Club.

The Thea Classic Award is going to Puy du Foy: Le Grand Parc and Cinéscénie, Vendée, France Technically, Puy du Fou includes two independent attractions: Le Grand Parc is an assembly of picturesque villages based on the history of the region, each with a spectacular live story presentation, each running approximately 30 - 40 minutes:

Cinéscénie is a nighttime spectacular involving over 800 cast members, hundreds of animals, and just about every nighttime special effect known to our industry including, but not limited to, programmable fountains, projections on buildings and on water screens, pyrotechnics, programmed lighting, live fire effects, lighting, moving sets some of which emerge from under water, stunts, horsemanship, fencing, mock battles and more.

Thea Awards for Outstanding Achievement are going to the follow projects:

Space Fantasy The Ride at Universal Studios Japan (Attraction).
Space Fantasy The Ride is an interior spinning roller coaster, featuring 19 solar shuttles that each seat eight. Riders are propelled through colorful vistas and encounters with such fanciful characters as GBOT, your guide, the playful Sun Fairies and The Princess of the solar system; Cosmia. The mission is to gather positive energy and re-energize our sun.

Barnas Brannstasjon (Children's Fire Station) at Kongeparken (Attraction on a Limited Budget)
In this free-standing attraction at Kongeparken, a regional theme park in Stavanger, Norway, children live the fantasy of being a fireman. They receive training as recruit firemen and are then called upon to put on fire fighter jackets, slide down a fire house pole, board a giant toy fire truck, and power the fire truck, making it go faster by pumping as it races to the "fire." The fire is safely created by fog in a giant doll house-like structure. Children then pump and aim water cannons to put out the "fire." At the conclusion, everyone gets a certificate declaring them to be a fire inspector. On the back of the certificate is a list of items to be inspected in their own home. Children come away with new knowledge and a new personal identity linked to fire safety.

Arthur, L'Aventure 4D at Futuroscope (Attraction)
From the moment after the guests enter Arthur, L'Aventure 4D, they find themselves immersed in the charming underground world of the mythical Minimoy creatures. The stunning two story sets cover all surfaces of the queue area -- walls, floors, and ceilings creating an organic, underground world of soil, tunnels, roots and creatures. From the queue, our quest leads us to the 4D sensory experience aboard a 25-seat, insect-shaped motion base vehicle, which mimics the flight of a ladybug as we fly through the world of the Minimoys. The 3D, the tactile effects, and the story surprises are excellent creating, among other things, the feeling of flying through the threads of a cobweb, being brushed by a frog's wet tongue, or colliding with an angry bee. Arthur, L'Aventure 4D was specifically created for Futuroscope.

Star Tours - The Adventures Continue at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World (Attraction Refresh).
This nomination recognizes the complete reimagining of Star Tours, the first simulator experience installed in a themed environment. The original attraction had been in operation since 1987; new technologies were available that could enhance the experience. At the same time, the Star Wars mythology has remained ever relevant to succeeding generations of fans. The challenge was to remain true to the vivid stories while making use of new technical tools and guest interactive capabilities.

The refreshed attraction has succeeded both operationally and with the extremely loyal Star Wars fan base. For the guests, the most compelling feature is the variable content that affords multiple storylines, locations and characters. This element of surprise is driving multi-generational audiences to return again and again to get a shot at exploring different vistas into many realms of the Star Wars Galaxy.

NatureQuest at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta (Museum Exhibit)
NatureQuest is a new exhibit at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The exhibit recreates various natural environments of Georgia including mountain ranges, forests, swamps, estuaries, caves, and underwater all connected by a virtual river teeming with fish that runs through the entire exhibit, originating at an interactive fog screen waterfall. The various environments contain remnants of scientific field research and interactives for guest "scientists" to continue the research. These include an archaeological dig site, spelunker's tools in an explorable cave and researcher notes in the swamp. The swamp and river have animal habitats that visitors can engage with. The center of the attraction contains a clubhouse with exhibits where objects come to life and kid play features themed to the environment which provide active play experiences.

YOU! The Experience at Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (Museum Exhibit)
This 15,000 sq. ft. exhibit is a celebration of body, mind and spirit which explores many aspects of personal health and well being. It showcases the extraordinary workings of our bodies, the effects of lifestyle choices we make, the impact of the environment in which we live, and the role of medical technology. Over 50 interactive elements, each unique in character, engage the audience across a diverse spectrum of topics, from birth and reproduction and individual organ systems to lifestyle choices, diet, medical innovation and ultimately aging and life expectancy.

The Changing Climate Show at Science North (Science Center Attraction on a Limited Budget)
"The Changing Climate Show" at Science North, a science center in Sudbury, Ontario is a new multimedia presentation that combines media technologies, theatrical effects, and purpose-built environments creating an experience that communicates a difficult topic in a memorable, educational and very entertaining way. This show leads the audience on an exploration of the ongoing effects of climate change on humans and natural habitats and looks for ways humans can meet these challenges with creative and innovative ideas. Drawing on the success of an earlier show, the design intent and execution is whimsical and unexpected. Audiences are greeted by an expanded cast of animated sheep. As the story unfolds on multiple video screens, it is punctuated by creative set elements that are revealed by carefully timed lighting and motion at related moments in the show.

Ghost of the Castle at Louisiana's Old State Capitol (Cultural Heritage Attraction on a Limited Budget)
"Ghost of the Castle" is an experiential, multi-media presentation which brings the colorful history of the Louisiana Old State Capitol building (the "Castle") to life for the audience. The venerable building has been burned, captured in war, abused, looted and repeatedly allowed to fall into disrepair, and yet, each time the building has risen from the ashes and been rejuvenated through the determination and spirit of the Louisiana people.

The "ghost" of the title is Sarah Morgan, a former resident of the castle who unexpectedly "appears" to the audience in a large mirror. As a spectral witness to the life of the building, she relates the history of the castle in a deeply moving and motivating way. The show appears as if from nowhere, eventually surrounding the audience completely through the use of three-dimensional effects, hidden projection, sound and lighting, transporting the audience back through time to relive key moments in the life of the castle. The entire production was installed on a limited budget in a heritage building without disturbing or modifying any of the historic elements of the structure.

Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa (Show Spectacular)
What weighs 160 tons stands over 90' tall and is, well, in love? It's the two cranes that perform

Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa every evening at Sentosa Island in Singapore. These mechanical marvels are the largest animatronic creatures in the world. Located on a man-made island in the channel between Resorts World Sentosa and the Singapore mainland, the cranes "dance," flap their watery wings and, via digital screens, bless Resorts World guests with love, long-life and good fortune. Through the use of ultra-sophisticated computer and motion controls, similar to those used on Japanese bullet trains, the cranes are able to move with a grace and precision that is patterned after the mating rituals of real cranes.

The Magic, The Memories, and You! at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (Show Spectacular)
A new nightly show at Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Florida. "The Magic, The Memories and You!" is a 10-minute show presentation. Using classic Disney icons and images, the show uses "mapped projection" to transform the castle into an ever-changing and magical canvas. In preparation for this nightly event, photographers have spent the day out in the park, capturing thousands of images of that day's guests having fun. Five hundred of these images are selected and incorporated into the show that night.

Yo México, Celebration of the Century of the Mexican Revolution, Mexico City (Live Show Event Spectacular)
Yo México was a 90-minute live multimedia show that celebrated the "Century of the Mexican Revolution." At a cost of approximately USD$20,000,000, the show ran from November 10th to 14th, 2010 in El Zocalo, Mexico City's main square and was attended by over 3 million spectators.

The House of Dancing Water at City of Dreams, Macau (Live Show Spectacular)
The combination of Franco Dragone's artistic vision, Lawrence Ho's business acumen, cutting edge technology bring to life a classic Chinese tale of love triumphant over evil with the assistance of 80 performers and 120 support staff in a live show that extends the visitor stay in Macau. House of Dancing Water is all things compelling-on steroids. Spectacular scenes and storms, audio visuals and special effects are set against the backdrop of dramatically innovative water-based staging. Taking their seats the audience is unaware they are suspended on cantilevered seating over the pool. During the show eight principal lifts and three secondary lifts convert the performance area from a 26' deep pool to a solid-floor, dry stage in less than 60 seconds. Overhead, 40 winches and assorted other flying gear enables acrobatic aerial displays. The show is housed in a 2,000 seat purpose-built theatre, designed by Pei Partnership, featuring 3.7 million gallon swimming pool -- if you're wondering, that makes it five times larger than an Olympic pool and the largest commercial pool in the world.

FoodLoop at Europa-Park (Themed Restaurant Experience)
Parents often tell their kids to stopping playing with their food. FoodLoop Restaurant at Europa- Park has created an innovated theme park experience where your food has as much fun as you. This restaurant employs a dual-loop rollercoaster to serve cooking pots and bottles to your table. Guests order their meal from interactive touch screens at their table. When the food is ready for delivery, it is loaded onto the steel coaster track that loops, corkscrews and winds its way from the kitchen on the upper floor through the dining room to your table. The experience is visual entertainment as diners watch their food being served.

Animation Magic in the Animator's Palate Restaurant aboard Disney Cruise Line's Ship - Disney Fantasy (Ingenious use of Technology)
Animator's Palate on the Disney Fantasy brings the visual joy of Disney animation into the dining room with a new show called "Animation Magic." Guests are invited to draw a character of their own using a simple template on their placemat. After dinner, animated curtains are opened on screens and Sorcerer Mickey conjures guests' drawings - now fully animated and brought to life side-by-side with characters such as Mickey Mouse, Jiminy Cricket, Cinderella and Snow White in scenes from beloved Disney movies. At the conclusion of the show, Mickey returns to say "so long" to the guests and, as he does, credits roll onscreen showing each guest's name listed as a guest animator.


(16 November 2011)

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