Friday, September 22, 2023

TEA names its 2021 lineup of TEA Masters

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) — the global, nonprofit membership association for the creators of compelling places and experiences — has announced the slate of TEA Masters honorees for 2021. The TEA Masters program celebrates Masters of Their Craft in the global visitor attractions industry.

The 2021 TEA Masters will be officially honored and showcased in a special, free online event produced and presented by TEA on November 3, 2021 that will include an educational discussion with the TEA Masters as panelists.

Nathalie Bournillat. Photo courtesy of Themed Entertainment Association.

Discipline: Sculptor

Company: Atelier BOURNILLAT Sculpture

Years of industry Experience: 25

Nathalie Bournillat is an artist/craftsperson in the finest French tradition of the Artisan. As the founder of Atelier BOURNILLAT Sculpture, a sculpture and scenic fabrication studio, Nathalie has brought beautiful craftsmanship to a wide range of clients from Disney to Dior.

Nathalie holds a Sculpture degree (Diplôme National des Métiers d’Art et du Design) from the prestigious Ecole Boulle in Paris. She also has a BTS in Communication de volume (spatial communication). Her studio, founded in 1994, has grown to 1,500 square meters (about 16,000 square feet) near Paris, allowing her to serve an increasing range of projects. With a solid foundation both in the use of industrial techniques and in traditional work, the Atelier brings together a broad set of skills: sculpture, metal, resin, painting, hair and other materials.

Nathalie has an exquisite hand and eye, with a brilliant ability to interpret and build dimensional designs. Her work ranges from sculpting Tinker Bell or Iron Man to the immersive windows at the major Parisian department stores. For the past decade, she has been delighting families from all over the world with her Christmas windows at the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Her animated immersive sculptural displays for Vuitton, Dior and Hermès have been rolled out in cities worldwide. Nathalie is a longtime trusted vendor at Disneyland Paris; she has built dozens of the sets for entertainment at Disney and sculpts many of the characters for the Paris resort. She is a master in resin molding, can mold sculptures to achieve any look, feel or texture. She understands and integrates lighting, structure, and animation.

Nathalie is wildly creative, always proposing ways to make everything she does even better than it was at the start. She is generous with her knowledge and shares her expertise with those who come to her. She always goes above and beyond the call of duty. Her dedication to each project is unfailing; she works day and night to complete her projects.

France has no schools teaching the art of themed decors. Nathalie has trained a generation of painters and sculptors in the art of themed entertainment. She takes apprentices and trains them in her techniques. She recognizes and grows talent in her shop. She provides regular employment to a community of fine artists. For the past 30 years, Nathalie has consistently provided high-quality, exceptional work for the world stage from her shop in the Paris area.

With consummate skill and professionalism, Nathalie Bournillat brings creations to life.

Catherynne Jean. Photo courtesy of Themed Entertainment Association.

Discipline: Art and Creative Direction, Color Specialist

Company: Universal Creative

Years of industry experience: 41

Catherynne Jean is an innovative Director, Creative, Art Director, Creative Director and Designer with over 35 years of experience in show design, storytelling, production and fabrication.

Originally trained in illustration and animation, Catherynne was introduced to the themed entertainment industry during the production of Japan’s Sanrio Puroland. Young colleagues on the project like Luc Mayrand and Scott Trowbridge noticed Catherynne’s elegant sense of color and meticulous attention to detail.

Working for years as a project-based designer and art director, Jean played key roles in projects for Landmark Entertainment, Paramount Parks and Universal Creative. For the latter she provided art direction on lands and attractions for Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Japan, Universal Singapore and Universal’s Porto Europa Theme Park in Japan. Along the way she has learned conversational French, Japanese, Chinese and “a bit” of Spanish, endearing her to the local vendors.

Coming to Disney in 2011, Catherynne served as the Art Director for Shanghai Disneyland’s Treasure Cove land, for the spectacular and Thea Award winning, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure attraction. From there she provided in-field art direction for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World Resort, and contributed to new E-Ticket attractions coming soon to Tokyo Disney Resort.

One of Catherynne’s greatest passions is color. Color is an incredibly subtle art, and she handles it without hesitation, making sophisticated and complex harmonies, that all flow effortlessly, and set the emotional landscape of all the environments in her projects.

Over the last ten years, Catherynne has been even more focused on helping the younger members of her various teams understand the why’s and how’s of their individual crafts and also learn to find their own voice. She works with them to further develop their skills to understand how their design choices are realized and how each choice impacts the overall quality of the project. She also mentors them to be proactive, and to keep their skills sharp so they will be able to continue working as the industry advances with new digital tools etc.

Catherynne Jean is a consummate creative leader and master of her craft.

Dale Mason. Photo courtesy of Themed Entertainment Association.

Discipline: Creative Direction & Design

Company: Universal Creative

Years of Industry Experience: 32

Dale Mason is a themed entertainment industry legend, respected and admired for creating some of Universal Parks and Resorts’ most memorable, immersive and engaging guest experiences worldwide. Currently Vice President and Executive Art Director, Dale has been with Universal Creative for over three decades and his fingerprints can be experienced throughout, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, with plenty more ahead. Mason’s projects incorporate many storytelling elements and mediums, paying special attention to the smallest details to ensure the guest experience is genuine and authentic. Dale immerses guests completely into the story through meticulous attention to space, pattern, texture, color, themed, finishes, themed lighting, interior, scenic design and material choices.

Dale is a consummate designer of the built environment: entire parks, complex lands, individual attractions, themed restaurants, retail spaces, carts and kiosks, area development and iconic features are his areas of expertise. He empowers teams to rise to the highest bar and cheers them at every step towards opening day.

Mason has played creative leadership roles on many of Universal’s biggest projects, including leading the creative team for Volcano Bay, Universal Studios Singapore and numerous projects in Japan and the US. Dale is listed on numerous patents, including the “Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man” Ride Vehicle and the Water Vortex in “Poseidon’s Fury” at Islands of Adventure, and the Illuminated Mat Racer for Volcano Bay.

Extending his themed entertainment experience, Dale worked closely with Steven Spielberg to concept and design his restaurant, Dive! based in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Longtime colleague Bob Shreve has said, “Dale Mason is the greatest unsung hero of theme park design. As a conceptual designer, he has few peers. His ability to shape space, theme and timing to create truly unique guest experiences has played a significant role in Universal’s success. He is without a doubt Universal’s secret weapon in forging new and exciting attractions.”

Thea Awards:

  • Volcano Bay Water Theme Park
  • Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Diagon Alley, Retail/Dining, Hogwarts Express (Thea Paragon Award)
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Revenge of The Mummy, Orlando
  • Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

Discipline: Producer / Director / Creative Director

Company: FAR Out! Creative Direction

Years of Industry Experience: 50+

Rick Rothschild is a producer, director and filmmaker, blending a unique set of entertainment skills developed in the world of theater, media, Disney theme parks and museums. With over 50 years of experience, Rothschild brings strong creative perspective together with deep technical knowledge to provide both vision and direction.

Along with the responsibility of creatively directing and producing over 25 separate Disney attractions during a 30-plus year tenure as a creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, Rick led and participated in a variety of concept development teams that have created special venue film based attractions, along with theme parks and other resort, recreation and immersive experience related business lines.

Rothschild’s first directorial role with Disney was leading the creation of The American Adventure for EPCOT Center in 1982. In 1987, Rick was named Executive Producer, Entertainment Center Projects, responsible for helping guide the planning of several Disney entertainment/retail centers, including Pleasure Island, which opened at Walt Disney World Resort in 1989. Other theme park projects have included three original attractions for Tokyo DisneySea, Alien Encounter and a new Hall of Presidents edition. During the 1990s, Rick headed the design team that developed Golden State land, the central third of Disney’s California Adventure theme park, and was the film writer/director for Soarin’ over California, a thrilling and unique IMAX-scale flying ride experience where guests “hang glide” over dramatic Golden State scenery projected in high-definition on an 80 foot dome. He led teams that brought other popular 3D experiences to Disney theme parks, including It’s Tough to be a Bug!, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience and Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

After retiring from Walt Disney Imagineering, Rothschild founded FAR Out! Creative Direction to offer his creative and producing services. Through FAR Out! Rick returned to WDI to help bring additional attractions to Disney theme parks around the world, including Star Tours – The Adventures Continue and Nemo and Friends – SeaRider at Tokyo DisneySea, In the twenty-eight years since the Theme Entertainment Association (TEA) was established, 8 projects that Rick directed have been recognized with the Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement.

FlyOver Canada, a next generation “flying ride” large format film attraction that opened in Vancouver, BC, in June 2013, engaged Rick’s directorial film talents as well as overall Creative Director. FlyOver America opened in summer of 2015 at Mall of America; followed by FlyOver Iceland in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2019; and FlyOver Las Vegas in September 2021.

As overall creative director/producer, Rick opened Kaka’s Ocean Adventure, a state of the art 1,000 motion seat 5D immersive 180-degree ride theater attraction at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, in Hengqin, China, in June 2015. This attraction was honored with a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2017.

In November 2012, Rick completed a 2-year term as President of the TEA and continues as an active member of the association’s Past Presidents Committee. Rick is also an active member of the Producers Guild of America, the Visual Effects Society and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Rick received his degree with honors in Theater Design from Lawrence University in Wisconsin and attended the MFA Theater Arts program at UCLA. He worked in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Spokane and Ohio area on over 100 productions as both a scenic and lighting designer prior to joining Disney in 1978.

Frank Weigand. Photo courtesy of Themed Entertainment Association.

Discipline: Ride and Mechanical Engineer

Company: TWT, Inc.

Years of Industry Experience: 30+

Frank Weigand is a master mechanical engineer who has managed the concept development, design and construction of rides, show action equipment and special effects for clients in the entertainment industry including Universal Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering and Dubai Parks and Resorts for over thirty years. He stands out as a great collaborator, who has participated in a large number of successful projects. At WDI, Frank managed the engineers and designers who successfully applied advanced technology to attractions such as Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Theater, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, Mission: SPACE, Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge, Pirates of the Caribbean and others; for Universal he was instrumental in the ride systems and/or animation for Men in Black, Revenge of the Mummy, Madagascar – A Crate Adventure and Jurassic Park.

Frank received a BSME from Notre Dame and a MSME from Purdue, with highest honors. He worked at Garrett AiResearch (now Honeywell) for 11 years developing ground transportation vehicles and secondary power systems for air vehicles. He managed a group of 20 engineers and was awarded five patents. He then spent eight years as Manager of Ride Mechanical Engineering at Walt Disney Imagineering. At WDI, Frank built a new department of 52 engineers. In 1996, Frank founded the consulting firm that has become TWT, a specialty engineering firm, and has been awarded five more patents.

In addition to his theme park work, Weigand has also brought his expertise to the museum and mixed-use industries, including the Science Storms interactive exhibit (Chicago Museum of Science and Industry), Shuttle Launch Experience (Kennedy Space Center), Endeavour Experience (California Science Center), Las Vegas High Roller Observation Wheel and others.

Throughout his career, Frank has pioneered an enhanced focus on safety in theme park rides and attractions. Frank’s judgement is always flawless; he ensures that the final product is safe for both the operator and for those guests riding on his creations.

Frank is a strong supporter of the industry. As founder of TWT, a group of very talented engineers offering their services to the theme park and museum industries, small and larger companies rely on Frank and his team to provide engineering rigor to their new projects.

Frank is the best engineer to have in the room when developing new ride and experience ideas. He collaborates effortlessly, brings fresh ideas to creative development and supports daring new concept design efforts. He works exceptionally well with creatives, designers, managers and other project team members. An engineer’s engineer, Frank Weigand is the epitome of a TEA Master.

Jill Wu. Photo courtesy of Themed Entertainment Association.

Discipline: Creative Producer

Company: YaoX

Years of Industry Experience: 26

Jill Wu is the president of YaoX Entertainment, a full-service creative company with offices in Taiwan, Beijing and Shanghai. With over 40 years of industry experience, Jill is one of the most influential top women leaders in the greater China region. She and her team have unparalleled cross-sector expertise in all entertainment sector from theme parks, museums to film & TV production, postproduction, IP licensing for Hollywood movies, VR R&D, from master planning to construction. She has received numerous industry awards from China, Taiwan and Asia.

In 2010, Jill and her team were selected as the official Recommended Service Provider for Shanghai World Expo making the team the only Taiwanese company with such recognition. YaoX then has orchestrated the creative direction, co-design and co-construction of China Pavilion of the Shanghai World Expo.

In 2011, Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival, a subproject of China Pavilion of the Shanghai World Expo, Wu was honored with a TEA Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Focusing on the China market for a very long time, Jill is actively involved in creation of many culture- and value-based projects. YaoX and Development Research Think Tank of China, DRTT, a subsidiary of Development and Research Center of China State Council, have joined hands and established Global Themed Entertainment Industry Research Center, in which Jill serves as consultant of international strategic cooperation.

Jill is an active member of the TEA. In April 2018, Jill was invited to speak in 2018 TEA Summit in Los Angeles, USA. During the conference, as an honored speaker and a woman leader, Jill shared her ideas about gender empowerment in Asian entertainment industry & the prospect of Asian market toward 800 plus guests coming from different parts of the world. Jill took up the role as member of APAC Educational Programming Committee, in which she was in charge of NextGen programming.

Jill always believes that talent holds the key to the success of everything else. Therefore, she is proactively involved in educating the next generation of talents for Asia Pacific region by mobilizing her wide connections and resources.

Jill Wu is one of Asia’s most accomplished businesswomen, an active member of the TEA community, and a true multidisciplinary Master.


“Through their vast experience and contributions to the industry, these six individuals have truly become masters at their craft,” says TEA International Board President Chuck Fawcett of Animax Designs. “They are highly respected, dedicated and passionate about their work and foster a culture of collaboration that inspires so many others to follow in their footsteps. We are so honored to have them join our esteemed group of TEA Masters.”

How TEA Masters are nominated and selected

TEA sends an official call for nominations to its worldwide membership and to the themed entertainment industry at large. The TEA Masters Committee reviews the submissions and recommends the slate of honorees for final approval from the TEA International Board of Directors.

To qualify for TEA Masters consideration, nominees must have a substantial number of years as a professional in a discipline associated with the themed entertainment industry; have made significant contributions in that regard; and be currently practicing. Nominees must not be currently serving on the TEA International Board, or the TEA Masters Committee.

Additional details will be shared and announced in coming months when the TEA Masters re-open for 2022 nominations.

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