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Themed Entertainment: TEA Hosts 3rd Annual SATE Conference


What do Joe Rohde, David & Linda Smith, Mike West and Phil Hettema have in common? Any well-informed theme park geek can tell you: They’re all rock stars of the themed entertainment industry. They’re also among the presenters’ lineup for the Third Annual SATE Conference, hosted by TEA (Themed Entertainment Association), the global trade organization for the creators of compelling places and experiences. The conference will take place in Orlando, at the Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s Boardwalk on September 24th & 25th. Registration is open on the TEA website, TEA is based in Burbank, Calif.

“The speakers at TEA’s SATE 2009 conference include several living legends of the specialized niche industry we call ‘themed entertainment’ or ‘experience production, ‘” says TEA president Steve Thorburn, of Thorburn Associates. “We’re talking about brilliant creatives: primary forces whose leadership engendered breakthrough properties — Phil Hettema and Universal Islands of Adventure, the Smiths and Discovery Cove, Joe Rohde and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Mike West and The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios. We are looking forward to a stellar gathering in Orlando this September in the company of these and other top innovators.”

The two-day SATE 2009 Conference is designed to provide information, education and networking opportunities for everyone who does business in the world of themed entertainment or experience design, which includes theme parks and attractions, museums, retail, world expos and mega-events, resorts and casinos, corporate visitor centers, and like venues. TEA welcomes attendance from all those who have a hand in the project development process – including owners and operators, developers, architects, systems integrators, designers, master planners, media producers, economic/feasibility analysts, fabricators, engineers and other suppliers or consultants.

More about SATE 2009 and the speakers

Joe Rohde is best known for his groundbreaking work directing the concept, design and production of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He is Executive Designer and Senior Vice-President in the Creative Division at Walt Disney Imagineering, which he joined in 1980. Since 1990, he has directed the conceptualization, design and production of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Rohde is currently leading the creative effort for The Disney Company’s new resort in Hawaii.

David and Linda Smith of Smithink are former executives of Busch Entertainment Corporation. The Smiths played a primary role in rebranding the SeaWorld parks, and conceiving and shaping Discovery Cove. At SATE 2009, their interactive workshop, “The Challenges in Unleashing the Power of Storytelling, ” is intended to inspire audience participation and dialog. It will explore how storytelling can be more effectively applied by thinking beyond pure exhibit/attraction design.

During his 15 years at Universal, Phil Hettema, now creative executive of The Hettema Group, oversaw the development of hundreds of attractions and was the creative force behind five parks: Universal Studios Hollywood, Orlando, Japan, FiestAventura and, most significantly, Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Hettema’s SATE presentation, “Interactivity and Immersion for the i-Phone Generation, ” will demonstrate how to incorporate cutting edge technologies to serve the guest/visitor/buyer/attendee of 2010 and beyond, who is not only ready for, but expecting a totally new level of engagement, participation, and immersion.

Mike West joined Universal Creative Studio in 2006. He was executive producer of The Simpsons Ride at both Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood, an award winning attraction that opened to rave reviews in 2008 and was the fastest attraction in the history of the Universal Orlando Resort to reach the 1, 000, 000 riders milestone. Prior to joining Universal, Mike was president of Innovative West, Inc., a creative design company he founded after a 25-year career with Walt Disney Imagineering.

George Wiktor (senior producer, The Hettema Group) has more than 20 years’ experience navigating the convergence of theater, architecture and media. He has been instrumental in the creation of world class projects for museums, corporate information centers, world’s fair pavilions, and theme parks. His current projects include two major cultural attractions: the Russian Jewish Museum in Moscow and The National World War II Museum Theater presentation in New Orleans.

Steven L. Snyder, Ph.D., joined The Franklin Institute in 2001 as Vice President of Exhibit and Program Development. His responsibilities include leading the design, development and implementation of all exhibit and program offerings as well as providing direction and oversight on the educational and experiential aspects of all exhibits and programs.

SATE Planning Committee: Larry Tuch (Narrative Concepts), George Wiktor (The Hettema Group), Lenny Larsen (Next Generation Creative), Cory Garfin (The Hettema Group), and Carole Mumford (TEA).

About TEA

The TEA is an international nonprofit organization, founded in 1991. TEA represents over 7, 000 creative specialists, from architects to designers, technical specialists to master planners, scenic fabricators to artists, and builders to feasibility analysts working in over 600 firms in 39 different countries. TEA is dedicated to connecting organizations seeking to engage, enchant, educate and entertain their guests and visitors with the creators of compelling places and experiences worldwide. Its members have conceived, designed, fabricated and produced highly successful experience-based exhibits, attractions and interactives for museums, science centers, corporate visitor centers, live events and live performance venues, themed entertainment and retail centers, casinos and resorts, themed restaurants, aquariums, zoos, heritage centers, theme parks and more.

TEA will host the Third Annual SATE Conference (Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience) September 24th & 25th, 2009 in Orlando, Florida USA.

In addition to a year-round calendar of mixers in the US and Europe, TEA fosters dialog through its annual Thea Awards, which recognize and celebrate excellence within the industry, and through its growing output of print and electronic publications that include the TEA  Annual & Directory and the TEA/ERA Global Theme Park Attendance Report. TEA members also convene annually for the TEA Summit. The SATE 2009 Conference is the newest offering from this rapidly growing, dynamic business association. For more information, visit

See also
Theme Park Design and Project Interruptus – David and Linda Smith of Smithink, former Busch Entertainment execs, carry on

Branded Attractions: Visitors Experience Beer and Boats at Rotterdam and Heineken Centers

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