Saturday, June 15, 2024

2024 Storyland Studios Design Challenge judging panel revealed

Storyland Studios, the global experience design and strategy firm, revealed the full judging panel of industry expert for its 2024 Design Challenge.

Announced in April, the second iteration of the Storyland Studios Design Challenge gives independent designers and architects the opportunity to establish themselves in the themed entertainment sector by submitting design proposals for immersive, story-driven location-based entertainment (LBE) experiences.

The full judging panel has been revealed before entry sign-ups for the competition close later this week on May 24.

Storyland presents its 2024 challenge in partnership with Gensler, the international architecture, design and planning firm. The multi-award-winning firm employs over 6,000 professionals and has 53 offices worldwide, with locations in Europe, the Americas, Greater China, and Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

Meet the judges
Mel McGowan

Mel McGowan, Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Storyland Studios, was revealed as the first judge on the panel. McGowan creatively leads Storyland Studios’s unique, multidisciplinary Spatial Storytelling practice. The multidisciplinary practice integrates master planning, conceptual development, architecture, interior and production design, graphics and wayfinding, and dimensional fabrication and installation oversight.

McGowan combines his background in film and design with a decade-long stint at the Walt Disney Company to create a team synergy inspired by Disney’s original Imagineers, designers, and fabricators.

“I’m thrilled to be returning as a judge for our second Design Challenge,” McGowan says. “There’s something exciting and inspiring about offering a place for the next wave of dreamers and designers to share their themed entertainment concepts. These up-and-coming creators are paving the way forward for future generations.”

Lexi Barry

Lexi Barry is Gensler’s Global Entertainment Leader and Principal. Barry is passionate about redefining the future of entertainment. She combines strategic thinking and ingenuity to create authentic, meaningful experiences that bring people together and inspire joy.

With a professional background in research-driven design strategy, Barry combines user insights with the drive for impact and innovation. She is an idea-driven leader with a talent for building unique teams of multidisciplinary experts and creative thinkers who collaborate to turn visions into reality.

Barry’s nearly two decades of experience have been focused on understanding business drivers and market trends, cross-functional creative collaboration, and social and emotional engagement.

Bob Weis

Bob Weis, former President at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), serves as Global Co-Leader and Founder of Gensler’s Entertainment Practice. Weis works alongside Gensler’s global leadership to bring unique experiences to life for clients across 33 areas of practice, including entertainment, hospitality, sports, lifestyle and more.

As a Design Challenge judge, Weis brings nearly 30 years of leadership experience at WDI to the table. Weis led more than 200 major Disney projects worldwide, with a combined capital value of over $30 billion. His innovation and design fingerprint is on theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, and attractions worldwide, in locations such as the U.S., Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai.

As a consultant, Weis has also worked alongside major clients such as NASA, Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic, the United States Navy, and more.

Weis has received multiple honors from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), including the Buzz Price Lifetime Achievement Award and Best New Theme Park for Shanghai Disney Resort.

Theron Skees

Theron Skees is a former Walt Disney Imagineer and founder of The Designer’s Creative Studio. With a three-decade career in themed entertainment under his belt, Skees has led a diverse range of design, concept, and construction projects worldwide. He has spent his career infusing narrative, brand story, and experience into attractions, theme parks, cruise ships, and destination resort developments. He’s a member of Storyland Studios’s Creative Collective.

Morgane Keesling

Morgane Keesling is the Senior Manager of Creative Development for Disneyland Paris. With 15 years of experience in the themed entertainment space, Keesling began as an illustrator and concept designer. This creative work ignited her passion for creating magical worlds.

A two-time member of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Board of Directors, Keesling oversees Creative Development at Disneyland Paris Live Entertainment, working alongside a team of gifted designers, directors, and musicians. Her areas of expertise include attractions, immersive technologies, animatronic design, and more.

“I’m excited to take part in this year’s Design Challenge as a judge, and looking forward to meeting all the talented folks who join in,” says Keesling.

Fabien Manuel

Fabien Manuel, Creative Director for Compagnie Des Alpes, has been involved in creating numerous themed visitor experiences in Europe.

Manuel has more than a decade of experience bringing concepts to life in the themed entertainment space. Notable attractions include Walibi Holland, Walibi Belgium, Walibi Sud Ouest, Parc Asterix, Bellewaerde and Futuroscope.

Kelly Timmins

Kelly Timmins, Director of Marine Animal Operations & Sustainability at Atlantis Dubai, has more than 13 years of experience in zoology and sustainability. Timmins has worked in the U.K., Singapore, and Dubai in the fields of conservation, animal husbandry, events, education and sustainability.

She led the charge to achieve AZA Accreditation for Atlantis Dubai, the world’s gold standard for animal welfare and care. Timmins also aided in helping the resort achieve Bronze and Silver EarthCheck statuses, respectively. She has both developed and strengthened Atlantis Dubai’s educational programs for guests and professionals, plus established a funding process to support sustainability and conservation projects.

Timmins has acted as the driving force behind the Atlantis Atlas Project, a major sustainability initiative.

Timothy Sau Kin Ng

Timothy Sau Kin Ng is Senior Vice President Operations at Miral Experiences. He has been part of the themed entertainment industry for more than three decades.

Ng oversees the operations of all Miral attraction assets, including Sea World Abu Dhabi, Warner Brothers Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, CLYME, Qsar Al Watan and Yas Water World Abu Dhabi.

Design Challenge presents an open door to industry hopefuls

For professionals hoping to break into the themed entertainment industry, the Storyland Studios Design Challenge presents a unique opportunity.

“The Design Challenge is an important avenue for us to introduce talented and creative
individuals to the remarkable industry we work in,” says Ben Thompson, Partner and Chief Strategy Officer for Storyland Studios.

“In 2021, we saw a fantastic range of concepts brought to the table which were hugely
inspiring, and helped many of the entrants have the confidence and ability to step into the industry, including through internships here at Storyland Studios.

“This is a really special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the winning entry to not only
receive recognition for their work and a $25,000 cash prize, but also to have their work judged by our wonderful cast on the judging panel, to then present their concept at IAAPA Expo 2024 in Orlando, and of course, work with us to further develop their concept into a tangible, marketable location-based entertainment product.”

Entries to the Storyland Design Challenge close at 23:59:59 PST on Friday, May 24, with the full brief to then be distributed to participants on Monday, May 27. Participants will then have the summer months to develop their concept before the submission deadline closes on Friday, August 30, before the judging phase takes place shortly after.

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