Thursday, January 30, 2014

TEA leadership meets in LA for annual strategic planning

PHOTOS: Graeme Baker, TEA
The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) held its strategic planning meeting for 2014 Jan 23-24 at the Globe Theater, Universal Studios Hollywood. TEA president Christine Kerr of BaAM Productions (above) is now in her second year as TEA president and will finish her term in November. Among the milestones Kerr recounted at the meeting were effecting the transition to a new COO of the association, putting the development of TEA's new website into motion, the growth of the TEA NextGen initiative and enhanced collaborations with IAAPA.
It was the first such meeting for TEA's new COO Jennie Nevin (left), who replaced outgoing executive director Gene Jeffers, who retired at the end of 2013. "Jennie has top financial skills and association experience," said Christine Kerr. "Her joining us is a big win for TEA." January 21, 2014 was Nevin's 90-day benchmark on the job at TEA. In her opening talk to the group, Nevin said that communications and member services are a high priority along with the formation and implementation of effective, standard operating procedures. On the right is director of development Kathy Oliver. Universal Studios and Chip Largman of Universal Creative generously hosted the meeting and took care of all our needs over the two days.

The annual Strategic Planning meeting is a gathering of TEA leadership - president Christine Kerr, COO Jennie Nevin, the International Board, the Division Board presidents (Eastern North America, Western North America, Europe & Middle East, and Asia Pacific), TEA committee chairs, TEA past presidents and TEA staff. Some of the leaders have been with TEA since its founding in 1991 - including people who were active in the founding itself. They have provided valuable continuity as the association has grown and expanded internationally over more than two decades. "One of the most impressive things to me about this organization," said Nevin, "is the immense amount of volunteer contribution and dedication - the personal resources and teamwork that volunteers provide. It's clear that the very existence of TEA is due to its robust international board structure and volunteer culture. So many important things and creative things are done by Board members."
Speaking of TEA members' creative contributions, here is a classic napkin sketch that someone at the meeting was inspired to produce. We haven't yet identified the artist - will he or she please step forward?
Chris Conte of Electrosonic has been active within TEA for many years and is currently Secretary of the International Board. He was a driving force in establishing the new TEA Asia Pacific Division. His call to action at last year's strategic planning meeting led to the formation of an interim Asia Pacific Board and then the transition to the current Board. The Asia Pacific Division has had several successful networking events and expects to grow rapidly in keeping with the rapid expansion of the industry in that part of the world.

Far left: Dale Sprague (Canyon Creative), chair of the TEA Marketing & Communications committee was part of a working subgroup discussing TEA brand capital; they took their huddle into the fresh air outside the Globe Theater. As the meeting was on Universal Studios property, we were able to observe many signs of construction going on as the park adds a new Harry Potter land - in fact, several TEA member companies are currently engaged in the project. In the picture with Sprague (L-R) are David Aion (Weber Group), Louie Allen (Adirondack Studios), Peter Chernack (The Chernack Group) representing the TEA Past Presidents Committee, Klaus Sommer Paulsen (ADVENTURELAB) - leading this particular discussion - and Matthew Maldonado (TEA NextGen), an Associate Member of the Western Division Board.
David Aion of The Weber Group chairs the TEA membership committee and sits on the TEA International Board. The total of TEA member companies is now about 1,000 and, reflecting how projects and business are done today in our industry, a significant portion of those are small companies and individuals. He spoke of improvements being made in the process of recruiting new members and processing their information, and of the possibility of an annual membership drive. Aion has taken pains to recruit international representation on the Committee to help drive global growth. Thanks to its activities, conferences, awards, publications and Internet footprint - and the employee base of its member companies - TEA has a very large total reach beyond its formal membership numbers.
David Willrich of D.J. Willrich Ltd. recently became president of the Europe & Middle East Division, succeeding Philip Hartley in the position. The EME Division is working to build membership numbers in several different countries and has embarked on a promising series of SATE Academy Days events that are based on the "Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience" focus of TEA's annual SATE conference.
In front, L to R: Jordan Coleman (JB Coleman LLC), Lynn Allmandinger (Wells Fargo), Michelle Mace Michelle Mace (student, Art Institute of Los Angeles), Associate Member of the Western Division Board, Ann Hathaway (Mousetrappe), Matthew Maldonado (student, Art Institute of California), Shannon Martin (Color Reflections).
On day two of the meeting, people formed groups to think creatively about specific issues such as mission/vision statements and potential new revenue streams, and then share those ideas back to the full group. Here, blue-skying new strategies to attract TEA global sponsors are (L-R): Judith Rubin (TEA communications & publications), Peter McGrath (WDI), David Willrich (D.J. Willrich Ltd.), Jennie Nevin (TEA COO), Steve Birket (Birket Engineering) and Michelle Mace (TEA NextGen).
Jennie Nevin, TEA COO
Aram Ebben (exp) and Stefan Lawrence (Stefan Rules!) were co-chairs of TEA's successful SATE conference in 2013 and are repeating those roles in 2014. Details of SATE '14 will be announced soon.

Traci Klainer Polimeni (The Luce Group) is president of the TEA Eastern Division and has worked to broaden the scope and location of her division's events and mixers, pushing beyond Orlando to New York City, Chicago and other places.
Clara Rice (JRA) chairs the TEA NextGen Committee and gave an impressive report on the committee's dynamic growth and extensive activities, which include targeted gatherings at the TEA Summit and Thea Awards Gala, and efforts to help identify internship opportunities with TEA member companies.
Jordan Coleman (JB Coleman LLC) is a member of the TEA Western Division Board.
Klaus Sommer Paulsen (ADVENTURELAB) is a Denmark-based Experience Economy expert and consultant who moves in business and academic circles. He is a member of the Europe & Middle East Division Board. He has been active with TEA for several years on a number of committees, including Membership and Marketing & Communications, and helped to plan and promote the SATE conference when it was held in Europe.
Liz Terry of Leisure Media joined the TEA International Board several years ago and has been working with the TEA Marketing & Communications Committee (headed by Dale Sprague of Canyon Creative) to create a new TEA website, which is now in the building stages and is set to be unveiled later in 2014. The website will have an updated professional look for the association, and help to deliver a higher level of member benefits while also facilitating improved communications and data management. Terry's extensive experience leading publishing and media endeavors of all kinds, and her relationships with trade associations in a range of leisure markets have been extremely helpful to our organization. 
Louie Allen is VP Creative of Adirondack Studios, is a member of the TEA International  Board. The company's Asian branch is Adirondack Asia PTE Ltd. 
Michael Mercadante (Main Street Design) is on the TEA International Board.
Michelle Mace, a student at the Art Institute of Los Angeles, is an Associate Member Representative on the TEA Western Division Board, and a TEA NextGen member.
Monty Lunde (Technifex) is not only a past president of TEA, he is the founder of the organization and still in a very hands-on role more than 20 years later. Before the formation of TEA, there was no generally accepted descriptor for this multifaceted industry - with the creation of the Themed Entertainment Association, came the phrase "themed entertainment."
Monty Lunde
TEA past president Peter Chernack (The Chernack Group) is seen here wearing his TEA-branded jacket. The Past Presidents Committee has helped preserve the institutional memory of the organization, and spearheaded significant initiatives such as TEA NextGen, and the TEA20 celebrations. Looking ahead, the PPC slate includes the creation of a TEA Hall of Fame. Chernack commended the TEA20 rebranding effort that has resulted in a new logo and series of branding directives and guidelines - developed by Dale Sprague and Canyon Creative working closely with TEA leadership. It will help visually unite the various TEA Divisions, conferences and initiatives such as NextGen. The new graphic identity was enthusiastically received in Sprague's presentation and the group burst into applause. Chernack commented, “The new look honors our past but celebrates our future. You have done an extraordinary job that will take all of us well into the 21st century."
L-R: Rick Rothschild (FAR Out! Creative Direction), immediate past president of TEA, confers with Jason McManus (Lightning in a Bottle) and Paul Kent (Electrosonic).

Matthew Maldonado (TEA NextGen) and Peter Chernack (The Chernack Group)
Nancy Emerson (Wyatt Design), president of the TEA Western Division makes a point. To her left is Ann Hathaway (Mousetrappe) of the TEA International Board.

TEA president Christine Kerr (BaAM Productions) in the foreground with Chris Conte (Electrosonic) and Ann Hathaway (Mousetrappe) seated in the background.

The assembled group poses for a "TEA family photo" at the close of the meeting.

Also present at the meeting, but not previously named here: Tommy Bridges (ATI) of the TEA International Board, Pat Gallegos (Gallegos Lighting), TEA past president, David Price (DAPA Leisure Group) of the Western Division Board and Tricia Rodriguez (Mad Systems), also of the Western Division Board. Thanks to everyone who attended and worked so hard to make the Themed Entertainment Association the great organization that it is!

Malaysia, March 5-6: Behind the Scenes tours of LEGOLAND and Puteri Harbour parks

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the Malaysian Association of Amusement, Themepark & Family Attractions (MAATFA) are jointly offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of several Malaysian theme parks and attractions. This industry gathering is for networking and to share best practices.

Wednesday, March 5: LEGOLAND Malaysia (dinner included)
Thursday, March 6: Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park (lunch included)

Pre-registration required. Space is limited.
Fee: $60 for TEA or MAATFA members, $120 for non-members.
To register, send email to

Los Angeles, Feb 13: TEA Western Division Mixer at the iconic Roosevelt Hotel

Join the Western North America Division of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) for a no-host mixer, open to all industry members.

Thurs, Feb 13, 2014, 6:00-9:00 pm
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (main lobby)
7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles
No-host bar

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

TEA panel discussion at China Theme Park summit in Shanghai, Feb 27-29

The Asia Pacific Division of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has organized a panel discussion that will be part of the 4th Annual Theme Park and Resort Summit in Shanghai 27-28 February.

"Implementing Successful Theme Park Projects" will be moderated by Christian Aaen of Economic + Culture Advisors (ECA), of the TEA Asia Pacific Division Board. He will be joined by Jill Woo of Yao X5D Group, and May Kan of Adirondack Studios. The Panel will explore best practices in building new attractions from a operator, design, vendor and feasibility perspective.

Feb 20, New York City: TEA Eastern Division Mixer

(Themed Entertainment Association) 
welcomes you to a mixer in Manhattan!

Gansevoort Park Rooftop, Gansevoort Hotel
420 Park Ave South - New York, NY 10016

Join your colleagues for the first NYC TEA event of 2014.
Open to TEA members and non-members alike.
Free event - Cash Bar.

Please click here to RSVP by Feb 17

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Another great Shanghai mixer! -- TEA Asia Pacific Division

Evan Ricks of Big American Films (right) re-connects with the team
from Adirondack Studios
Only one month removed from its inaugural social event, the new Asia Pacific Division of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is already showing great momentum with its second well-received Shanghai Mixer event, held on December 12, 2013. 

The December Mixer was again attended by a wide variety of our industry’s professionals—many Christie Digital, one of TEA’s longest-standing and most enthusiastic supporters. So thanks from all of us to Christie for helping to make our December event such a success.
Thank you for sponsoring, Christie!
based in China and many lucky enough to be in town at the time. And everyone attending was fortunate enough to enjoy the generous sponsorship of
May Wang of Oh Culture (left) chats with
Joey Zhang of MR ProFun (right)
As was the case with the inaugural Shanghai Social Mixer, the attendees were able to enjoy a great break in the workweek, reconnecting with friends and colleagues. And after only two get-togethers, it seems clear that the cast of “regulars” has begun to emerge. Adirondack Studios, Disney, and WhiteWater were all again very well-represented. And companies represented on the TEA Asia Board again turned out, including AECOM, MR ProFun, and YAOX5D.

Ken Wheatley, Christie Digital’s Director of Sales for Asia-Pacific—and a member of the newly established TEA Asia-Pacific Board—expressed a sentiment shared by many in attendance, “The day-to-day presence of the TEA in Asia is such a welcome development for so many of us in the industry.  As the market matures across Asia, the TEA has an opportunity to play a pivotal role in promoting high-quality themed entertainment and helping shape the industry during this crucial time.”
Christie Digital’s Hans Pan (center), flanked by Wincomm’s Xu Bin (right) and event organizer Ron Merriman (right)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Some NextGen scholarships for 2014 TEA Summit, Thea Awards Gala available

Thanks to support from Walt Disney Imagineering, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is pleased to offer scholarships for TEA NextGen members to attend the 2014 TEA Summit & Thea Awards Gala in April. There is a limited number of these scholarships available.

Read on for details:

The TEA Summit and Thea Awards Gala are among the foremost gatherings of the attractions industry.  In order to encourage participation among NextGen members, TEA is offering a total of twenty (20) scholarship packages.

The scholarships cover:
  • Registration fees for Summit Day Two - Thea Case Studies (April 4)
  • Admission to the Thea Awards Gala (April 5) 
  • Bonus NextGen-only "Breakfast with TEA Champions"
Note: Scholarship does NOT include accommodations or travel

In exchange for their scholarships, all recipients must be willing and available to aid TEA staff with Summit/Thea Awards production on Friday (April 4) and Saturday (April 5) helping perform tasks in connection with setup and teardown.

More info:
  • The 2014 TEA Summit and Thea Awards Gala will take place at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California USA. 
  • Only current TEA NextGen members in good standing are eligible to apply. Want to join? See membership information here.
  • To apply for a 2014 TEA Summit Day Two/Thea Awards Gala Scholarship, please email a
    resume accompanied by a cover letter explaining why you should be selected to Clara Rice, NextGen Chair, at
  • Application deadline: February 15, 2014  
  • Scholarship applicants will be notified by March 1 whether or not they have been selected.

Many thanks to Walt Disney Imagineering for making these scholarships possible through generous support.

Note: Discounted ticket prices for both events are available to all TEA NextGen members at the TEA Box Office.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Orlando, Jan 30: TEA Eastern Division Presents: "NextGen PechaKucha Night"

Join your TEA colleagues for a unique East Coast mixer! Meet some of TEA's up-and-coming NextGen Members as they present at “Half PechaKucha” hosted by TEA's NextGen group based at the Rosen School of Hospitality Management. Presenters will share their unique perspective on the current state of the industry and what’s next! Following the PechaKucha, there will be a catered cocktail hour.

Thursday, January 30th, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
Rosen College of Hospitality Management
9907 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819

FREE TEA members and non-members alike are welcome

RSVP to Erik Essig:

Many thanks to this event's sponsors!
Event and catering sponsored by SeaWorld
Cocktails sponsored by Luce Group

Monday, January 6, 2014

Shanghai, Jan 15: TEA holds Asia Pacific Division mixer

This greeting and invitation are from Ron Merriman:

Happy New Year! 大家新年好!

On behalf of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Asia-Pacific Division, I want to invite you to our next after-work get-together on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 in Shanghai. If you missed our events in 2013, more than 60 local industry professionals got together for a great, casual night on the town. But you’ll have another chance to join us in the new year!


As part of the TEA’s on-going efforts to expand our visibility in this exciting part of the world, we will be hosting these Mixer events monthly in Shanghai. And if you don’t call Shanghai “home”, we will be working to introduce similar events in other major East Asian cities over the coming months.


The flyer provides all the information regarding the event. For convenience, we will continue to meet at Irish Pub No.9 in People’s Square. If you work in Shanghai—or just happen to be in town that night—we would love to see you there!

附件为您提供了有关此次聚会更为详细的介绍内容。为了方便大家的出行,我们这次仍将聚会地点定在人民广场旁的Irish Pub No. 9。如果您目前在上海工作——或者正巧那晚身在上海——我们真心希望并期待您能够到场!

Let’s start off the New Year with a wonderful celebration! If you are not able to join us on the 15th – we wish you a prosperous 2014 and hope to see you soon at one of our many gatherings this year!


If you have any questions about the event or about TEA in general, do not hesitate to reach out. I, and the whole TEA Asia-Pacific Board, really hope to see you on the 15th!


Ron Merriman (
Managing Director, Planning & Advisory Services, MR ProFun
VP—East Asia / 东亚地区副总裁 TEA Asia-Pacific Division Board / TEA亚太分部董事会

This event is open to TEA members and non-members alike
This is a "no-host" event.
RSVP to Ron Merriman:

Friday, January 3, 2014

First TEA Asia-Pacific mixer is a big success

Attractions industry professionals at TEA Asia-Pacific mixer in Shanghai
The newly formed Asia-Pacific Division of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) hosted its inaugural social event on November 14, 2013 with a local mixer in Shanghai, China.

Zhuyeshan Wuhan Group’s Victor Chi and MR ProFun’s Ron Merriman

The event was deemed a resounding success, with more than 60 industry professionals from all over the region coming together to make new friends, re-connect with old ones, and generally enjoy a fun, relaxing get-together.

The casual, after-work event was hosted by the centrally located Irish Pub No. 9, near the city’s famed People’s Square.

AECOM’s Chris Yoshii, President of TEA’s Asia-Pacific Division Board, made the trip up from Hong Kong to attend the event and was very pleased with the turn-out.

“The enthusiasm for this first event among Shanghai’s local industry professionals was really exciting to see,” Yoshii said. “It clearly demonstrated that the TEA’s decision to expand into Asia-Pacific was the right one. We look forward to replicating the success of this event across the entire Asia-Pacific region in the months to come.”

The mixer attendees represented nearly twenty different companies, including a variety of local companies, as well as some long-standing members of TEA’s international family. Among the best-represented were Disney’s Shanghai team, Forrec Ltd., consultants from AECOM, Sanderson Group, and Birket Engineering.

Disney’s John Lindsay chats with TEA Asia Board President Chris Yoshii
Ron Merriman, Managing Director for MR ProFun China and the TEA Asia-Pacific Board VP for East Asia, coordinated the event and expressed satisfaction with the results. “The truth is that we really did not know what to expect when we began planning this first event,” Merriman explained. “So it was really gratifying to see so many professionals in the region excited about the TEA’s new presence here.”

Over the coming months, TEA Asia expects not only to build on this inaugural success with a regular schedule for these events in Shanghai, but also intends to replicate them across the entirety of the Asia-Pacific region. So stay tuned for news of upcoming TEA events across the Asia-Pacific region.

Burbank, Jan 9: First TEA Western Division mixer of the year - meet new Division president Nancy Emerson

Nancy Emerson, the new president of the Western Division of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) invites you to an informal, no-host mixer in Burbank.

Thursday, January 9, 2014
6:00 – 9:00 pm
Daily Grill
2500 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA  91505

Meet in the vicinity of the bar  
Parking: 3 hours free parking
Happy Hour: 6:00 – 7:00 (specials on drinks and appetizers)

This event is open to TEA members and non-members alike
RSVP not necessary - just show up!

Nancy Emerson of Wyatt Design Group (far left) with Lynn Allmandinger of Wells Fargo Insurance Services, Gene Jeffers (TEA executive director, retired) and Jennifer Nevin (TEA COO).