Inside TEA 2018: The Ultimate Creative Catch Up

The gurus of themed entertainment, creative superstars and hundreds of entertainment professionals got together at the yearly TEA Summit, once again on April 6 and 7 to celebrate the spirit and genius of the attractions industry at the heart of the happiest place on earth, Disneyland. Abounding with eye-opening sessions, some very telling industry insights and case-in-points – the summit showcased some of the most compelling stories that continue to make a difference in the world of themed entertainment.

Turning the tide: Things dreams can do
From insights on ‘design thinking’ connecting the dots between experiential marketing and themed entertainment to taking the ‘blinders off’ to create a culture of inclusivity, openness and diversity – day one of the TEA Summit included top-level peer discussion and exploration of current issues, industry trends and business needs; while day two pulled back the curtain for revelatory, behind-the-scenes discussions around how some of the top-honored, successful projects of 2017 came to be.

The range of the projects showcased were not just inspiring, but uplifting as well. Whether it was Ghost Town Alive, Knott’s Berry Farm leveraging interactive role-playing to create connected immersive guest experiences or Symbolica: The Palace of Fantasy deploying multi-sensory experiences for active guest participation and involvement; and the epic creation of Pandora – The World of Avatar, the case-studies showed brilliant examples of how attractions can take us out of our everyday reality and create memorable experiences that connect us one-to-one.

The TEA Summit and Awards continued its annual representation of all that is new and extraordinary in our industry. Engaging speakers taught us leadership lessons that encouraged an environment of sharing as long as it was honest and respectful. Others showcased tremendous achievements that that were accomplished by the disciplined focus on producing the best experience for their guests.– Nathan A. Jones, President, Park Attractions Division, WhiteWater West Industries Ltd.

No better feeling than seeing a loyal customer win
With Chimelong Ocean Kingdom’s Journey of Lights Parade, winning the THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement, it was great to see the Chimelong Group Chairman, Su Zhigang raise the glass for the champagne toast that kicked off the 2018 TEA Thea Awards Gala. Combining the highest level of visual imagination and design with theatrical flair and showmanship, the attraction not just stood out for the celebration of the park’s themes and characters, but for the way it brought them to life live in front of the guests.

Taking stock: Some ideas that stood out

  • Technology is great as a tool, but technological innovation cannot surpass the relevance of creating connected immersive experiences. If there was a secret sauce, as Phil Hettema, 2018 Buzz Price Thea lifetime honoree said it, it’s the feeling of being alive and connected with other people.
  • Design thinking, a way of thinking about the future and realising the future as we live it and ‘the medium of live’ – will drive businesses forward by helping you create spaces and experiences that impact you from brain to behaviour.
  • Business excellence might not be ignored, but to be able to turn the tide, we need to focus on building a culture of inclusivity, openness and diversity where the little things are as important as the big things like bottom line and ROI.
  • Amidst the proliferation of revolutionary and advanced product innovations, it is the ability of create universal and human guest experiences that help communities come together that will prevail and enable businesses to make a difference.
  • Sustainability is no longer just a way to gain competitive advantage, it’s the right thing to do.
  • Ultimately, stories are not about characters, they are about ‘guests’ and it’s this invisible aspect of the guest journey wherein lies the key to creative and business excellence.

As it was rightly proclaimed in one of the sessions, sometimes more than individuals, it really does ‘take an industry to create something magical,’ and the TEA Summit 2018 proved it, yet again. It’s such moments of revelation that trigger the biggest transformations.