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(BURBANK, CALIFORNIA)—After reviewing more than 150 projects throughout the world, the Themed Entertainment Association announces the 2001 winners of the prestigious Thea Award for excellence and outstanding achievement in themed entertainment. 

“This is the equivalent of the Oscars for our industry,” said Keith James, president of the Themed Entertainment Association.  “Billions of dollars are spent each year by guests at theme parks, museums, zoos and other attractions, yet the people who create this great entertainment are often not recognized.”   

The Thea Awards were established in 1994.  Past winners include attractions ranging from the NIKETOWN themed-retail stores to The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man at Universal Studio Florida’s Islands of Adventure theme park.   

Themed entertainment is the combination of disciplines required to create theme parks, entertainment attractions, science centers, aquariums, zoos, museums, live shows, corporate brand lands, exhibits, family entertainment centers, huge event spectaculars and themed restaurants and retail stores. 

There are five categories of Thea Awards this year:  Award for Outstanding Achievement, Award for Outstanding Achievement on a Limited Budget, the Thea Lifetime Achievement Award, the Thea Classic Award, and the Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in Breakthrough Innovation.  All of the attractions, events, and technologies recognized by Thea are called, simply, "outstanding achievements."  This allows the awards to be presented to all truly outstanding projects without pitting one attraction against another of a similar style. 

Professionals in themed entertainment include the writers, producers, designers, artists, architects, technicians, engineers, directors, choreographers, educators, operators and economists who invent, create and produce these attractions. 

The black-tie Awards Ceremony will be held the evening of Saturday, September 22, 2001, at the Alex Theater in Glendale, California, to celebrate and honor the following recipients:



Tony Baxter
Walt Disney Imagineering 

Tony Baxter grew up in Orange County near Disneyland, and from an early age dreamed of designing rides and attractions for Walt Disney.  Thirty-five years ago, he started his “career” as an ice cream scooper at Disneyland’s Plaza Gardens…but the dream lived on.  On his own time, he developed a model of an attraction for Disneyland and used it as his calling card to apply for a job at Walt Disney Imagineering.  Tony got the job, and the model became Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, now a mainstay of four Disney parks around the world.

Now Senior Vice President of Creative Development at WDI, Tony’s credits include concept design and show director for such attractions as:  Splash Mountain, Star Tours (with George Lucas and Tom Fitzgerald), Indiana Jones, Epcot’s original Journey Into Imagination, Disneyland’s Toon Town, New Tomorrowland, New Autopia, and Tarzan’s Treehouse.   Disneyland Paris was “his project.”  The designers of each “land” reported to Tony, who was responsible for the park’s layout and design.  Tony also was responsible (with Eddie Sotto) for the concept of the Disneyland Hotel at the park’s entrance.



Silver Dollar City
Folk Craft Village, Branson, Missouri

For 41 years, Silver Dollar City has been a world leader in establishing, exemplifying and perpetuating the core values of all themed entertainment: traditional family values, sincere friendliness, making visitors feel they are unique and special, and providing safe, exciting fun in a highly themed setting.  Silver Dollar City is also dedicated to preserving the crafts of the past for tomorrow’s generation. 

Paid tours of Marvel Cave began in the late 1880’s. In 1950, the Herschend family moved to the Ozarks form Chicago, and began operating the cave. With the desire to entertain guests waiting on cave tours, along with fulfilling the dream of the late Hugo Herschend (Jack & Peter’s dad), mom Mary, along with sons Jack and Peter Herschend opened Silver Dollar City on May 1, 1960 as a re-creation of an Ozarks town of the 1880’s. 


Millennium Village
EPCOT Center
Walt Disney World, Florida 

Millennium Village was the cultural centerpiece of Walt Disney World’s 15-month Millennium Celebration, which ended January 1, 2001.  The 65,000 square-foot pavilion along Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon brought together more than two dozen nations to share stories of peace, progress, hope and triumph as the world entered a new millennium.  Millennium Village was a true global village.  It focused on breaking down barriers between nations, replacing negative stereotypes with positive ones and encouraging the multi-sensory overlap between cultures to create a harmonious world community.   

Millennium Village brought together international students and young people from around the world who acted as ambassadors for their country, hosting each exhibit, telling their stories and sharing their country’s history and gifts with the world.



Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold 
Downtown Disney
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold provides DisneyQuest guests a new twist on a classic Disney story.  Crews of up to four guests (one captain steering, three cannoneers firing cannons) board a ship and “sail” into a 3-D world that features plundered towns, fortress islands and erupting volcanoes.  The crew works together on the five-minute, action-packed voyage, sinking opposing ships and capturing their treasure. 

The first real convergence of movies and interactivity, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold is a team-oriented experience.  It thrusts them into the ultra-realistic interactive pirate adventure by using cutting-edge sight, sound and motion technologies.



Sydney 2000 Olympics—Opening Ceremony
Sydney, Australia

At sunset on Friday September 15, 2000, approximately 100,000 spectators and over 12,000 performers celebrated the opening of the 27th Olympiad in Sydney, Australia.  Four billion television viewers joined them worldwide.

The Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony represents the pinnacle of global live event production.  It was the most complex, the most global and the most viewed event in human history. 

Planned and designed to represent the host city’s culture, social values and creative aspirations, the production used 13,700 performers in three acts and sixteen scenes representing both the newest and the oldest of Australia’s societies.  From the oldest Aboriginal population (dating back 60,000 years) through the wave of immigration that continues to this day, the production celebrated the diverse, multi-cultural society that is Australia.  From a lone rider on a chestnut stallion to 900 indigenous citizens (creating the most haunting segment of the opening ceremony) to fire-breathing performers recreating a bushfire, the audience was treated to a visual tapestry of the continent.   

And who can forget Nikki Webster floating above the stadium as if in an undersea odyssey? 



The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument
Interstate 80
Kearney, Nebraska 

The only historical attraction over an interstate highway, this monument/museum commemorates America’s movement Westward on the pioneer trails.  Visitors get the sense that they are joining up with the wagon train, then they experience the hardships of the trail.  Along the way they experience a pony express rider, a passing stagecoach, a telegraph operator, the pounding of the golden spike and a 50’s style tourist camp.  They can also stop at a drive in movie or ride a 60’s Cadillac to a typical truck stop.  After President Clinton dedicated the monument, organizers had to ask him to give back their collection of antique cookware.



Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator
Paramount’s Carowinds Park
North Carolina

  Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator, an inverted interactive water ride, is the first attraction featuring the experience of a suspended “swing” coaster with the ultimate water-play experience.  The inverted coaster includes spray stations, geysers, water cannons and water curtains throughout the 1,087-foot track.  Guests in the line operate 22 spray stations to soak the riders as they soar overhead.  The riders are not defenseless.  Each controls 4 gallons of water.  By simply pulling the lever, a guest can unleash a flash flood on the “sitting ducks” below.


Men in Black—Alien Attack
Universal Studios Florida
Orlando, Florida

Hardy bands of specially trained guest-trainees take up arms to save the earth from intergalactic terrorists in this, the world’s first life-size, ride-through video game.  Men in Black Alien Attack combines several innovative attraction technologies, including the newest generation of “roving motion platform” housed in a 70,000 square-foot building camouflaged as a retro-modern-style plaza reminiscent of the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  It is the largest dark ride ever built.  The ride immerses guests in the adventure, careening wildly through the streets in government-issue vehicles and encourages them to destroy hordes of aliens in order to earn their stripes as MIB.  The ride culminates in the “belly of the beast,” where the largest animatronic ever built devours the vehicle.  The trainees must shoot their way out of the slimy intestinal cavity, and split-second decisions are crucial as each team determines its fate—a hero’s welcome or a loser’s farewell!



Discovery Cove
Sea World
Orlando, Florida 

Discovery Cove, the newest Anheuser-Busch Adventure Park,” brings people and animals together in the tradition of true interaction entertainment.” 

The experience starts with an extraordinary opportunity to swim and play with Bottlenose dolphins.  In addition, the guest may snorkel through a colorful reef with exotic fish, swim safely by sharks and barracuda, wade with large rays, feed hundreds of tropical birds, float down a river through waterfalls and lush landscaping, and relax on white sand beaches.  No lines, no crowds, admission is by reservations only!



Lights of Liberty Show
Independence National Historical Park
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

The world’s first, and only, ambulatory sound and light show, this attraction allows the audience to walk in the footsteps of American patriots over five city blocks to experience the dramatic story and events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Wearing headsets synched to five-story-high 70mm film projections on the historic buildings where events took place 225 years ago, the audience participates in a riot at Benjamin Franklin’s house, eavesdrops on the First Continental Congress and is caught in the center of a battle between Colonials and Red Coats.   

Voices of the patriots are portrayed by the likes of Walter Cronkite, Whoopi Goldberg, Charlton Heston and Claire Bloom, supported by an original musical score performed by the famous Philadelphia Orchestra. 

The dramatic historical story recreates the drama, vigor, and passion of the birth of a nation and is narrated through the eyes of James Forten, a legendary free black man, portrayed by Ossie Davis.  In effect, the audience is there, reliving history as it happened and where it happened.  The show is also a technical achievement combining 24 large format projectors, lighting, and special effects all synchronized to the wearer’s 3D sound headset.  All of the equipment is concealed within this World Historical Site’s structures.



Arnhem, Holland 

A huge variety of theater configurations have evolved throughout the centuries of show biz.  HollandRama combines a bit of everything into yet another advance in the art of giving seated theater guests a more engrossing way to tell a tale.

First HollandRama mixes sets, scents and temperature changes with light, sound, film and video.  Then, by adding a very clever theater motion, the guests are “flown” through space into various sets and scenes interspersed with screen projections.  200 guests enter an enclosed, flat-floor, domed theater space to find that the floor tips up into a stadium-like arena while the seats remain level.  While enclosed in a large stage building, the theater rotates and moves laterally and vertically in and out of physical scenes, which are revealed as the projection screen dome opens and closes as a segue between scenes. 

HollandRama demonstrates a very clever and effective way to tell stories by virtually taking the audience to an infinite variety of story locations, each in a different environment.  At the heart of HollandRama is a large, elegantly designed mechanical device that carries the guests, almost in the palm of its hand, in such a smooth action that intrusive motions never disturb the story experience.



Kid City/La Ciudad De Los Ni ños
Mexico City, Mexico 

Kid City is an indoor children’s park unlike any other in the world.  Its 60,000 square-feet offers some 42 pavilions reflecting various aspects of a simulated urban life (grocery store, fire station, hospital, restaurant, public transportation, doctor’s office, courtroom, theater, gas station and auto repair, amusement park, etc.).  The entire park is interactive.  In these centers of activity, the kids spend paper money that is provided at an entry which looks an airline ticket counter.  When funds run out, the visitor must work for money as a waitress, clerk, orderly, ticket taker, etc. in order to get more money to continue participating.   

The pavilions are close together, and capacity is self-governing.  If one place is busy, the visitor quickly moves to an alternative activity.  Capacity utilization is unusually even throughout the year.  The park achieved a visitation of 780,000 in its first year. 

The enthusiastic involvement of the children in these urban roles is intense and active.  It is education come alive and a breakthrough success in this specialized field.  Sponsorship is extensive with more than 50 national and international corporate participants. 



Desert Passage
Aladdin Resort & Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada 

Desert Passage is a 500,000 square-foot retail, entertainment and dining destination within the new Aladdin Resort.  Designed to take the shopping traveler on a journey through the exotic spice routes of Morocco, it utilizes the highest specifications of detail and authenticity.   

The guiding principal is to enable travelers not only to observe, but to hear, taste, touch and even smell the experience.  Here you find the Fragrance Market, full of rich aromas, a desert fortress and its treasure house and a majestic lost city.  The dramatic Sultan’s Palace towers over the courtyard below, its golden dome glistening in the sunlight.  Guests also find the bustling Merchants harbor front with the hull of a 155” steam ship moored at port.  Above, the blue sky fills with clouds, and a rain storm cools the summer heat. 

The only thing missing here are the dust storms, but all you have to do is step outside the mall to experience those. 



Volkswagen Autostadt
Volkswagen Group
Wolfsburg, Germany 

Volkswagen has invested 850 million Marks in a world automobile forum on a 25 hectare site at its headquarters that impressively documents the company’s experience and qualifications as a modern open service provider. 

Autostadt consists of two glass towers presenting 800 shiny new cars that are picked up by the buyer.  Guests linger to enjoy the Marken-Pavilions (brand pavilions), Kunden Center (Customer Centre), Konzern Forum for cinemas, and ZeitHaus in which visitors are invited to embark on a journey of discovery to the many-faceted world of the automobile.  There are also four areas for children, retail area and six restaurants, one of which features 60 different kinds of bottled water! 

At Autostadt, a vast amount of automotive information is presented in a most entertaining manner, providing an exchange of new ideas between Volkswagen and it brand-loyal customers.  It is a bug lovers heaven.



Exploration In The New Millennium
John F. Kennedy Space Center 

Exploration In The New Millennium at the John F. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a highly engaging and original attraction that conveys the story of NASA’s future within the context of mankind’s eternal quest for new exploration and discovery.  Here, travel beyond Earth is made both personal and visceral for visitors of all ages.   

The guest experience integrates multimedia, murals, large models, sets, exhibits, lighting and hands-on presentations that immerse visitors in the future of space exploration.  The permanent attraction is housed in a 12,000 square-foot building that was completely renovated for the project.



Parc Ast érix, France 

L’Oxygenarium is a fictional reconstruction of an old French Luna Park ride from the nineteenth century that claimed to offer its visitors the uplifting experience of breathing fresh mountain air without all the fuss of having to climb the mountain.  Surrounded by brightly colored machinery that transport newly-arrived Mont Blanc air to the top of the ride, visitors ascend the 16m-high conveyor in carnival-colored round rafts.   

At the top, a blast of this rarified atmosphere is pumped across the visitor’s faces, sending them descending and spinning in random directions.  Guests leave feeling somewhat dizzy – no doubt a result of the absolute purity of the air they just inhaled!



Stealth Roller Coaster
Paramount’s Great America
San Jose, California  

Roller coaster technology has evolved as a “can you top this?” progression of ever-more-daring configurations.  Evolving from the first corkscrew design of the 1970’s up through present inversion features, the basic guest riding positions have thus far been embodied either as seated or standing arrangements.  The Stealth design by Vekoma incorporates the first major change to the guest riding position.  After entering the coaster vehicle in a seated position, the riders are then reclined back into a horizontal placement.  The coaster travels backward with the guests lying on their backs.  As the coaster track rolls the vehicles 180 degrees, the riders find themselves flying headfirst as if they were “Superman.”  While the track course consists of conventional turns, rolls and inversions, the guest riding experience is totally new and novel.  It is unlike any coaster ever conceived.



Disney Parks 

The enjoyment of a visit to a crowded theme park is lessened by the ever-present necessity of waiting in long lines in order to experience a very popular attraction.  This situation has grown more prevalent over recent years.  Both guests and park operators are adversely affected.  A guest will have less chance to enjoy additional attractions, while the operator will have less guest flow through food and merchandise locations. 

Ideally, a guest and an operator would plan a day visit with perfect time efficiency.  Many attempts have been made over the years to provide this kind of planning, but they have been simple and piecemeal in practice.  The multitude of factors involved in such time planning is huge.  Until Fastpass, they have not been approached as a total park-wide flexible solution. 

Fastpass took on the challenge of a totally comprehensive approach to this well-known theme park problem, and Disney is delivering outstanding results for its efforts.  Fastpass encompasses an almost infinite variety of detailed solutions, that can be fine-tuned virtually on the fly as situations change during the day.  Fastpass will benefit everyone in the future as designers, operators and guests become familiar with what is fast becoming a whole new way of providing an enjoyable Theme Park visit.  Surely all parks will be inspired by the success of Fastpass to find their own line-wait solutions. 


  The Themed Entertainment Association is an international alliance of the world's most experienced professionals in the location-based entertainment industry today.  Its members and their companies have played key roles in the development and/or production of the most successful theme parks, entertainment centers, museums and themed hotels, restaurants and retail on the planet.  The TEA currently represents over 550 member companies employing more than 10,000 individuals within the themed entertainment community. TEA member companies are located in over 35 states in the U.S. and in 16 countries around the world.

  The TEA member companies represent thousands of individuals and billions of dollars in annual investments.  Among the TEA’s biggest supporters are major Hollywood studios with interests in location-based entertainment, including The Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios and Twentieth Century Fox.

For further information contact Jim Presnal at (818) 843-8497.