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Ken Pellman: TEA Party 2012 Takes over Disneyland Hotel
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by Ken Pellman (archives)
March 22, 2012
Ken reports on last weekend's Themed Entertainment Awards held at the Disneyland Resort featuring personalities and accomplishments from the world of themed entertainment with Disney well represented.

Kenversations™ - TEA Party 2012 Takes over Disneyland Hotel

No, not THAT one, the Themed Entertainment Association party.

It is hard to believe that the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has been around for twenty years, but this year’s celebration included just that – reflecting on two decades of a professional  organization that attempts to unfiy the diverse bunch of wild, untamed creatives who bring us themed rides, restaurants, shops, exhibits, and theatrical shows both grand, spectacular & live and intimate, modest, & recorded - for hotels, casinos, theme parks, museums, science centers, zoos, aquariums, historic monuments, and public venues.

Even the most casual of Disney enthusiasts knows of Walt Disney Imagineering, but there are many design houses, both independent and integrated into corporate umbrellas, that have been doing projects both big and small for Disney parks and so many other places, for many years now. It is especially those independent design houses that needed an association, which began as an effort to standardize contracts between design firms and venue owners, which already had their own established association: IAAPA. The result has been positive for both the designers and the venues, and is becoming helpful for students interested in pursuing careers in themed entertainment design.

TEA’s annual event is a sight to behold, an experience that any theme park nerd worth his or her churro dust would enjoy almost as much as free annual passes.

The Thea Awards is to the themed entertainment industry what the Oscars are to movies and the Emmys are to television. It's a black-tie TEA event with live entertainment, celebrity presenters, and even a red carpet. Thankfully, Joan Rivers was nowhere to be seen. Awards this year were for projects from July 2009 through June 2011.

Since WED created Disneyland with ABC as a major investor, the themed entertainment industry has been wedded to the movie and TV industries, and that was strongly underscored throughout the Thea Awards Gala as video messages were delivered from Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Matt Groening, and James L. Brooks.

Something else evident without anyone pointing it out was that this is truly an international organization for a global industry. My coverage focuses mostly on Disney, but many worthy projects and design teams from around the world were honored and presented as examples of excellence. There in the original Disneyland Hotel in the USA, projects from all over the world were being honored, many of them designed by people from still other countries. An example that struck me was that there was a French team behind "Yo México”, Celebration of the Century of the Mexican Revolution. This was a breathtaking presentation and celebration of the history of Mexico, put together by a French company. Anyone who knows the real history behind Cinco de Mayo, celebrated with enthusiasm in California by the way, might get a chuckle out of that one.

The show won an Outstanding Achievement award for Live Show Event Spectacular. It was a 90-minute live multimedia show with live performers and ran from November 10th to 14th, 2010 in El Zocalo, Mexico City's main square. The Thea Awards Committee noted that the show surrounded the audience and used five main stages connected by walkways and used the technique of architectural texture mapping on the surrounding buildings to support the narrative rather than just to make pretty images.

The Thea Award nomination and selection process is flexible enough that no outstanding, innovative project need go unrecognized. This includes considering projects produced with smaller budgets and for smaller venues based on their own goals, rather than comparing them to the biggest new attractions at the biggest resorts. The recipients are announced in advance of the festivities, which allows for the people behind the winning projects to plan to be there and do a presentation during the seminar about their projects and the processes involved in bringing those projects to life. It also makes it more likely their employer (which may be themselves), will be able and willing to support their participation in the Summit and Gala.

Although he passed on decades before the TEA was even formed, Walt Disney's influence continues two decades into the organization. Some speakers quoted Walt, and many creatives who didn't directly quote him in their presentation apply principles instituted by Disney Imagineers under Walt's direction.

This year, three Disney projects received awards, and distinctly recognizable bundle-of-energy-and-philosophizin’ Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde was presented with a Buzz Price Lifetime Achievement Award.

The event is up to three days now, and events were all at the Disneyland Resort, with all of the formal events at the Disneyland Hotel. If someone is interested in a career in themed entertainment design, is considering developing a project, or is just a really big fan of theme parks and themed entertainment, it is worth it to buy tickets and attend at least one year. The people you rub elbows with are some of the most accomplished in the industry, and the Summit presentations are most valuable in their educational content.



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