I recall going, as a member of the press, to the opening of a new ridefilm in the 1990s. I had written a story about the ride, and at the opening, found to my surprise that no one from the external creative team was there – not even the director. They had not been invited. Theme parks (and other types of venues) were not in the habit of publicly acknowledging their project teams. Why not? Once the project is done, the PR focus is on getting butts into seats, guests into queues, selling tickets. One might argue that acknowledging the design and production team doesn’t further that goal – but doesn’t it? The TEA has done a great deal to shed light on the complexities of these projects and to distinguish innovative contributors. That breeds respect among colleagues and between operator, supplier and creative – and it also increases public awareness. It puts themed entertainment up there with other forms of entertainment that openly credit their team members and celebrate their accomplishments. And that is a practice that helps to inform and develop audiences, fans and followers while inside the industry it stokes camaraderie, inspiration and discovery. Pull back the curtain – show the world how it was done – and everyone benefits.
Judith Rubin, Editor
Much like peoples and cultures rely on rituals and ceremony to mark special occasions, seasons and accomplishments, the TEA Thea Awards Gala is an annual celebration of excellence in themed entertainment. For me, it is a tradition in the truest form of the word – an opportunity for experience and knowledge to be encapsulated, preserved and shared with future generations of industry professionals. It also happens to be a really fun evening that is an annual highlight on my calendar.
There are no surprise recipients (the list of awardees is announced the prior November at IAAPA Expo), so everyone comes to the gala without bias and in service of recognizing amazing experiences, frequently – though not always – created by TEA members. The annual Thea Awards Program (which I have had the joy of working on with Judith Rubin for many years) is the lasting record of the event, containing both credits lists and insightful information on each of the recipients.
There’s so much to celebrate and learn from the people and projects put in the spotlight each year by the Thea Awards, starting with our cover story on Lifetime Achievement recipient Roland Mack. We hope the additional reporting presented in this special section of InPark adds to your appreciation of the TEA Thea Awards.
Martin Palicki, Publisher
Meet Roland Mack Europa-Park founder is being honored with TEA’s Buzz Price Thea Award
by Becci Knowles
Melissa Ruminot TEA’s new President is proud to usher in change
by Gabrielle Russon
A new heartbeat TEA Summit shifts focus to become TEA INSPIRE
interviews by Judith Rubin and Martin Palicki
Touring the cosmos AV tools play a key role at Thea-honored Shanghai Astronomy Museum
by James Careless
Inside Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Take a spin around the galaxy during a multi-night themed adventure
by Martin Palicki
Shaking things up The Lisbon Earthquake Center’s Quake exhibit earns a Thea Award
by Gene Jeffers
Around the world TEA Service awardee Kevin Murphy of Kraftwerk Living Technologies
interview by Judith Rubin and Martin Palicki
A visionary of formal education in a DIY industry Peter Weishar blends academic and creative communities
interview by Judith Rubin and Martin Palicki
Thea Awards Gala to be produced by RWS Entertainment Group
The TEA has selected Emmy Award-winning experience company RWS Entertainment Group to provide full creative and production services for its 2023 and 2024 Thea Awards Gala. These services include stage design; media, graphic and video elements; entertainment; technical, production and stage management and oversight of AV, lighting, sound, construction, rigging and engineering.
The appointment of RWS as a Producer and Premier Global Partner brings the company’s relationship with the TEA full circle. JRA President Keith James led the TEA International Board of Directors in 2001 and 2002 and currently presides on the Past Presidents Committee. Other JRA team members have served on TEA Divisional boards, the TEA International Board, the Thea Awards Judging Committee and the Executive Committee. In addition, the company has sponsored dozens of regional and international TEA events over the past 30 years.
JRA is the only consulting company with the distinction of two Thea Lifetime Achievement Award recipients – Jack Rouse in 2008 and Keith James in 2016. In total, JRA projects and individuals have received nine Thea Awards. Transitioning now from center stage to backstage, JRA’s parent company, RWS Entertainment Group, looks forward to helping perpetuate the Thea Awards mission of celebrating creative and technical excellence, while helping the TEA to elevate and grow the event’s global brand.
As for what audiences have to look forward to this year, the RWS production team plans to thematically link the Gala to TEA’s new INSPIRE Week of programming. “The myriad sources of inspiration for themed entertainment creators are the theme for this year’s Thea Awards Gala,” said Monica Miklas, RWS Manager, Immersive Creative Content. “Recipients have been invited to reflect on how their own cultures, experiences and imaginations have shaped them – and how they might inspire others. The show itself will feature a sizzling live band and more than a few surprises!”