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Amusement Parks: Merlin Entertainments Support Young Artists


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In a partnership with one of the UK’s leading art schools – Wimbledon College of Art –   global visitor attraction operator Merlin Entertainments has created an important new arts award, in recognition of an outstanding graduating student from the college’s BA (Hons) Theatre Technical Arts and Special Effects Course.    

The Award will be named after Merlin’s premier attraction – Madame Tussauds – which has a long history of support for arts students, and whose sculptors are acclaimed worldwide for the quality and creativity of the wax figures they produce.  The first Madame Tussauds Award, sponsored by Merlin Entertainments, which includes a prize of £1, 000, was presented at Wimbledon’s Theatre Industry Night reception on Friday 18th June 2010 to Eun Jung Ha (photo of winning entry below).  Additionally, the judges awarded an ‘honourable mention to Margot Roulleau-Gallais.

The Award supports another Merlin scheme which offers a number of fixed term contracts for one year to post-graduate students, at Merlin’s London Studios – potentially leading to full time jobs.   This is where the figures for the Group’s 9 global Madame Tussauds sites are developed; as well as theming for Merlin theme parks like Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, and other attractions; and designs for models for the company’s four LEGOLAND Parks.     The Award and placements, together with other planned sponsorships of course modules, add up to a substantial package in excess of £75, 000 a year; and underline the company’s support and appreciation of the quality of the work done on the Wimbledon course, particularly in teaching anatomy, sculptural and moulding techniques.

The Madame Tussauds Award will be given annually to a third year student who has produced a significant piece, or pieces of figurative work for their final degree exam. Thorough documentation of the processes used during the final year is a pre-requisite for any student wishing to be considered for the Award by the panel of judges which included Tim Burnell, Production Director for Merlin Entertainments and George Blacklock, Dean of Wimbledon College of Art.

Commenting Tim Burnell said: “All of the judges were incredibly impressed with the standard of entry for the Award.  Both of these works presented were very strong and showed a high degree of talent and it was hard to choose between them.  In the end we went for Eun’s work because we could see people having fun and interacting with it straight away which is what a Madame Tussauds figure is all about."

“As one of the premier practical employers of arts graduates certainly in the UK, but increasingly worldwide, Merlin Entertainments believes it is imperative that we pro-actively support and encourage arts education.  We have been particularly impressed by the work done at Wimbledon by Allan Sly and his team; and we have a number of ex-Wimbledon graduates on our team”

Number 1 in Europe and 2 in the world, Merlin Entertainments has grown very rapidly over the last five years and is perceived to be one of the most dynamic operators in the leisure sector with a number of iconic local and global brands in its portfolio.  The Merlin Studios and their creative team have played a key role in this and are unique in the industry.  They are responsible for the exacting and precise sculpting of wax figures for the 9 (soon to be 12) Madame Tussauds attractions around the world, flying worldwide to do sittings with some of the most famous, and infamous, celebrities from the world of politics, entertainment, sport, science and others.  Each figure costs £150, 000 to produce and is based on over 200 measurements and hours of research.

The Merlin Studios are also responsible for the creative theming of new rides and attractions at Merlin’s other 60+ attractions worldwide.  Rides like the awesome Th13teen at Alton Towers or SAW – The Ride at Thorpe Park.  This also includes theming new attractions – Merlin are opening 3 / 4 new sites a year – most recently a SEA LIFE aquarium in Phoenix Arizona, on which the Studios team worked with their SEA LIFE marine biology colleagues.  The final and fastest growing area of their work is to recruit and train model makers to design and make the intricate models at Merlin’s LEGOLAND Parks and LEGOLAND Discovery Centres.

“Over the next two years we are opening two new LEGOLAND theme parks in Florida (2011), and Malaysia (2012); as well as several indoor LEGOLAND Discovery Centres; and that is in addition to developing new attractions for our existing four parks; that’s 2000+ LEGO models which need to be made over the next 12 months alone”  says Burnell.  “To do this we are recruiting hundreds of model makers worldwide – opening up new creative careers for many people. .These are very exciting times for Merlin!”

Allan Sly,   Senior Lecturer, Technical Arts & Special Effects  concluded: “The partnership with Merlin Entertainments is a testament to just how successfully the world of academia and commerce can work together.  Our students have gained enormously from their exposure to the Merlin/Madame Tussauds business – in fact we  have truly learnt from one another.”

For further information: 

Merlin Entertainments –
Sally Ann Wilkinson, 020 8948 6110/ 07774 415372,
Zoe Ellsmore, Press Officer, University of the Arts London, or tel. 020 7 514 6094

About  Merlin Entertainments Group

The MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP is the leading name in location based, family entertainment, which has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in the sector over the last five years.   Europe’s number one, and the world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin has 62 attractions and 6 hotels in 12 countries, across 3 continents.   The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its 38.5 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and more than 14, 000 employees.   Merlin Entertainments operates the following attractions – SEA LIFE – the world’s No 1 aquarium brand, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, The Merlin Entertainments London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, THORPE PARK, Chessington World of Adventures, Heide Park, Underwater Adventures, and Earth Explorer.

About University of the Arts London

University of the Arts London is the first dedicated arts institution in the UK to achieve university status. Based at 17 sites across London, from Oxford Street, to the Archway, to Hackney, Wimbledon and Southwark, the University brings together six of the world’s most famous art and design colleges. They are:
·         Camberwell College of Arts
·         Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design  (incorporating Drama Centre and Byam Shaw School of Art)
·         Chelsea College of Art and Design
·         London College of Communication (formerly London College of Printing)
·         London College of Fashion (incorporating Cordwainers).
·         Wimbledon College of Art (formerly Wimbledon School of Art)

The Colleges have produced many of the greatest names in art, design, communications, fashion and performing arts, including: Anish Kapoor, Sir Terence Conran, John Galliano, Ralph Fiennes, Sarah Lucas, Gavin Turk, Stella McCartney, Gilbert and George, Antony Gormley, Pierce Brosnan, Rankin, Jefferson Hack, Mike Leigh, Malcolm McLaren, Colin Firth, Jane Root, Rebekah Wade, John Hegarty, Peter Kindersley, Tom Hunter and Harold Tillman.

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