The 2013 SATE Conference: Discovering “What’s Next” for Themed Entertainment

September 23, 2013

All images courtesy TEA

All images courtesy TEA

Next week, the doors of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) will open not just to its students, but also to the 200 attendees of the 9th Annual SATE Conference, produced by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). According to TEA President, Christine Kerr, the original intent of SATE was to create a forum for dialogue on the four fundamentals of themed entertainment – Storytelling, Architecture, Technology and Experience – and how they interact to forge compelling themed entertainment. Kerr attended the initial SATE brainstorming session in Orlando 9 years ago and is thrilled to see it become an annual and international tradition for the TEA.

Savannah College of Art and Design

The theme of this year’s SATE is “What’s Next”, and it arose from a series of discussions between Kerr, TEA NextGen Committee Chair, Kile Ozier and TEA Past President, Rick Rothschild. They felt that the conference’s focus on the future coincided nicely with locale – the first school in the world to offer an MFA in themed entertainment design. “We wanted to leverage the inspiring setting - an academic institution dedicated to training the next generation of creative talent for our industry – while retaining our focus on this being a business conference,” said Kerr. NextGen members – defined as students and recent graduates – are the fastest growing segment of TEA’s membership, and these young leaders will participate at SATE along with the more seasoned veterans. According to TEA Signature Event Producer, Kathy Oliver, students will not only sit in the audience, they will also have the opportunity to work with her on the production of the event in such capacities as greeters, photographers and technical managers. Because of the locale, student registration is higher than previous years, and Kerr looks forward to the new energy they will bring to the proceedings.

Co-chairing this year’s SATE at SCAD are Aram Ebben, Principal in charge of lighting design at exp, Inc., and graphic designer/show writer Stefan Lawrence of Stefan Rules! Kerr hand picked them as chairs because she felt that they had a perfect blend of passion and experience for the job and knowledge of the TEA and its mission. Ebben has been on the planning committee for the International Alliance of Lighting Designer’s Light Fair for the past two years and currently serves on the TEA International Board. Lawrence has worked for such TEA members as Disney Imagineering, the Hettema Group and Rethink Attractions. Kerr wasted no time in recruiting these industry leaders: “often the primary reason that people don’t get involved is because they are not asked!”

Ebben and Lawrence gladly accepted Kerr’s call. “SATE is THE creative conference for our industry,” said Ebben. “Nowhere else will you be able to see and hear Don Marinelli (founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Design Center), Chuck Hoberman (Hoberman Associates), Liz Gazzano and Roger Gould (Pixar) all on the same stage.” Lawrence got the call after casually offering his help at last Spring’s TEA Summit: “I was obviously interested. Who wouldn’t be? It’s an amazing opportunity to hear about new ideas, processes and technologies that will be shaping all of our professional lives.”

SATE’s two MCs have recruited dynamic segment leaders to propel discussions on S, A, T and E. They are Adam Bezark of The Bezark Company (Storytelling), Al Cross of PGAV (Architecture), Mk Haley of Disney Research (Technology) and Phil Hettema of The Hettema Group (Experience). The segment chairs have in turn selected industry professionals to speak on such topics as “The Now and Next in Interactive Technology”, “Cosplay Colonists” and “Creating Meaning Together”. “Each of our segment chairs are rockstars in their own right,” said Ebben. They are creative visionaries leading the way in our industry.” Lawrence agreed: “Adam, Al, Mk and Phil have all brought their passion and love for this industry. They’re bringing their natural curiosity and putting it on display. Honestly, working with them felt like play.”

As to what attendees can expect at SATE 2013, Ebben and Lawrence said they should expect to be challenged, to share new ideas and to network with their peers. In addition to the more structured informational exchanges during the main program, “they should expect some really interesting conversations at the parties afterward,” said Lawrence. When asked what aspects of the conference Kerr was particularly excited about, she replied that there are often “gems” of ideas that surprise the entire group – little nuggets of thought that seem to appear out of nowhere. “Often they apply to life as well as work,” said Kerr. “That is one of the best things about SATE. There are definitely more of those ‘aha’ moments.”

Ebben and Lawrence would like the conference attendees to walk away with a few key messages and marching orders. “I would like people to come away feeling totally psyched about what’s new in the business and continue to blow the world’s mind by creating the best entertainment experiences to be found anywhere,” said Ebben. “Our world is changing. Working together we can embrace those changes and collectively guide our industry, and to some degree our culture, the way we want it to go.” Lawrence wants attendees to walk away with the confidence to create “the next big thing” and to feel empowered to shape the industry’s future. “Our bag of tricks is ever-expanding, as is the arena for using those tricks,” said Lawrence. “It’s no longer about the latest simulator or the highest drop. People are enjoying themed entertainment techniques to explore the deepest human emotions and biggest human events. It’s an exciting time for the industry, and we’d like attendees to come away feeling like they have something new to take with them.”

TEA President, Christine Kerr

So, “what’s next” for TEA and the SATE conference? In the wake of Gene Jeffers retirement, the search for TEA’s new Executive Director is in “full force”. Kerr hopes to introduce the association’s new leader to the group in Savannah, launching the TEA into an exciting period of transition. As for SATE: “next year will be our tenth year,” said Kerr. “I would like to see us build on the content we develop for the main SATE conference and make it ‘portable’, so we can curate and present variations on the theme in locations around the world with less effort. This is especially important to us – to truly be more global.”

For more information on SATE, visit and follow the Twitter hashtag #SATE2013.

Tags: Guest Blog , Outside the Studio

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!

Conference World Tour 2013 - Euro Attractions Show

September 17, 2013

Paris' Porte de Versailles Conference Centre - Home of EAS 2013 (All images courtesy IAAPA Europe)

Paris' Porte de Versailles Conference Centre - Home of EAS 2013 (All images courtesy IAAPA Europe)

The leaves turn deep shades of crimson, yellow and rust. The air becomes crisp, and beachwear and sandals defer to light jackets and leather boots. Meanwhile, thousands of eager industry professionals flock to the City of Lights…

Tomorrow through Friday, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) hosts the Euro Attractions Show (EAS), welcoming 8,000 attendees and 380 exhibitors to the Porte de Versailles Convention Centre in Paris, France. In preparation for the three-day show, JRA asked Jakob Wahl, Programme Manager for IAAPA Europe, what attendees and exhibitors can expect, how EAS has evolved in its first decade and its plans for the future.

JRA: How has EAS changed over the years?

JW: First of all, EAS is still a very young show, with only its tenth edition this year. We have significantly grown the quality and the size of the show over the last years. This year’s EAS will host the largest exhibit floor ever, with over 9,800 net square meters. We see that there are many more companies interested in our market, which provide services to all kinds of attractions. While we were very ride- and attraction- based in the first years, we now notice an increased interest in "side-products" appealing to all kinds of attractions. We therefore try to develop a conference programme with greater content so that our seminars cater not only to classic amusement parks, but present subjects and discussions that can also be of interest for resorts, zoos, water parks, family entertainment centers, and many more. The attractions industry is such a diverse market, and we hope to offer something for everyone.

JRA: What can visitors expect at this year's EAS? Why is Paris the perfect venue for EAS this year?

JW: I don’t think that we need to highlight the magnificence of Paris; obviously, it’s one of the world's most beautiful cities.

But recently, France has been a very interesting market for the attractions industry. Compared to countries like Germany or the UK, the French market is rather young, but it has grown significantly in recent years. There are many innovative operators and attractions such as for example Puy du Fou, Futuroscope with Compagnie des Alpes as the managing company. Obviously Disneyland Paris is known worldwide. And the fairly new "Looping Group" is expanding through Europe. We have also many innovative suppliers from France.

We think the city and the French attractions industry will be perfect hosts. And it's to be expected that EAS has a strong French touch. The Opening Reception will take place in the stunning Musée des Arts Forains, a museum dedicated to the history of the fairground in France with many historic rides and games in operation. The event will have typical (delicious) French food and drinks as well.

The Leadership Breakfast will welcome Philippe Gas, CEO of Disneyland Paris: a French manager operating the largest amusement park in Europe. The conference programme will also include many speakers from various attractions from all across France.

Tours to the famous attractions Parc Asterix, Disneyland Paris, Puy du Fou, Futuroscope, and the unique Machines de l'ile in Nantes will give attendees the opportunity to learn more about many of the fantastic attractions in France.

Last but not least, we have agreed with our members Disneyland Paris and the observation attraction Montparnasse 56 to offer special discounts for EAS attendees so that they can explore two major attractions in Paris on their own time.

JRA: How do you ensure that each of the yearly IAAPA shows (Asia, Europe, Orlando) is distinct enough that they aren't competing with each other for attendance? Are the differences in location enough, or is there more of a targeted effort to make each one unique?

JW: EAS’s uniqueness comes from strong European and regional character. EAS offers the European attractions community a regional gathering place being by cost-effective, innovative and yet still intimate at the same time for the European community. EAS welcomes many regional suppliers, who have very innovative products developed especially for regional attractions. EAS also offers attendees a glimpse into French attractions, and all seminar programmes at EAS will be translated into French to provide the smaller local attractions the opportunity to participate.

The IAAPA Attractions Expo (IAE) is the world's largest show for this industry, with massive exhibit floor size and impressive attendance. For those Europeans who wish to see the worldwide attractions community in action (coupled with all of the Orlando attractions), the two shows are a perfect compliment to each other.

JRA: Attendance at EAS has increased over the years. What do you think this says about the global economic recovery and the health of the themed entertainment industry in particular?

JW: Europe is often seen as a mature market with not many new parks being built; Europe is simply not exploding as the Asian market for example. But the European attractions industry has been very creative, steadily growing and resilient to the economic crisis, as parks provide a great getaway for families. While not many new parks have been built in central Europe, existing parks have been very innovative by offering a holistic experience, adding theming, accommodation, new rides, and sometimes even second gates. In addition, EAS awareness has grown, and we see this through increased participation by other constituencies, including zoos, resorts, cultural attractions – even shopping centers and cinemas. And then there are those emerging markets such as Eastern Europe and Turkey, where we see a massive interest and growth potential.

For up-to-the-minute coverage of EAS 2013, please follow the Twitter handle @IAAPAEurope and the hashtag #EAS13. IAAPA Europe is also offering its very first app with information on the show and other details. And, of course, please visit JRA at Booth 1705!

Next week, JRA+blog contributor Colin Cronin will share his insights on museum design, and for the next stop on our World Tour, we'll preview the Themed Entertainment Association's Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience (SATE) in Savannah, Georgia.

Tags: Outside the Studio

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!

Jim Beam American Stillhouse Strikes Gold on the Bourbon Trail

September 11, 2013

Jim Beam American Stillhouse has earned Gold LEED® certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

Jim Beam American Stillhouse earned Gold LEED certification for reduced energy, lighting, water and material use as well as by incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

JRA worked with the Lexington, Kentucky firm of Barnette Bagley Architects PSC to bring the Jim Beam American Stillhouse to life. This welcome center for the overall Jim Beam Distillery Experience is a recreation of a period stillhouse building, complete with a 40-foot-tall copper columnar still that houses the facility’s main elevator. Within the Stillhouse, guests can view a variety of exhibits, including a media scrapbook that introduces them to the heritage of the Beam family, the distillery and the brand. This family history is also told through static and rolling graphics, as well as a media piece shown on a 103” monitor. An additional video illustrates Jim Beam’s role in popular culture. Visitors can limit their journey to just the Stillhouse or buy a ticket at the counter and meet their guide for an expanded tour. “Gold certification was a goal from the outset of this project in 2005,” said Lee Rambo Bagley, Principal at Barnette Bagley Architects. “At that time, we had just completed our Platinum certification process for the Bernheim Arboretum Visitors Center across the street from Jim Beam’s facilities, so we were on a LEED roll.”

“With each new LEED-certified building, we get one step closer to USGBC’s vision of a sustainable built environment within a generation,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “As the newest member of the LEED family of green buildings, the Jim Beam American Stillhouse is an important addition to the growing strength of the green building movement.”

LEED certification of Jim Beam American Stillhouse was based on a number of green design and construction features that positively impact the project itself and the broader community. These features include:
• Strict pollution controls
• A previously developed site (saving undeveloped land for natural habitat, etc.)
• Preferred parking places for fuel efficient vehicles and carpool vehicles
• Efficient stormwater management
• Careful selection of materials to minimize the “heat island” effect
• Design and selection of “dark sky” light fixtures to reduce light pollution
• Reduction of energy use to 42% less than a conventional building of the same size
• Dedicated recycling containers for glass, cardboard, plastics and metals
• 24% of construction material was recycled, and 26% was sourced within 500 miles of the site

“LEED Gold Certification is the well-earned acknowledgement of the hard work that many team members have invested in this project,” said Bagley. “From the initial decision to pursue Gold certification, made in 2005, through the design and construction processes, we have all learned a great deal about sustainability and its vital necessity in our construction industry.”

Congratulations to the entire Barnette Bagley Architects PSC team!


U.S. Green Building Council
The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.
With a community comprising 80 local affiliates, more than 18,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 167,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to contribute $554 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product from 2009-2013. USGBC leads an unlikely diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students.

Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% water consumption and 15% of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs.

The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. Over 100,000 projects are currently participating in the LEED rating systems, comprising over 8 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 114 countries.
By using less energy, LEED-certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger

USGBC was co-founded by current President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi, who spent 25 years as a Fortune 500 executive. Under his 15-year leadership, the organization has become the preeminent green building, membership, policy, standards, influential, education and research organization in the nation.

For more information, visit

Tags: Project Spotlight

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!

Voices of Humanity: Celebrating Ten Years of Mapping Our Tears

September 04, 2013

Over 300 guests recently gathered for The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education (CCHE)’s “Voices of Humanity” gala, which commemorated the 10th anniversary of Mapping Our Tears, a permanent, interactive exhibit originally designed and produced by JRA and currently housed at Cincinnati’s Rockwern Academy.

Mapping Our Tears, which opened to the public on September 4, 2003, takes a wholly unique approach to talking about the Holocaust. This environmental theater creatively uses testimonies to “map” the journeys of Holocaust refugees and survivors, liberators and rescuers. The exhibit immerses visitors in an environment designed to resemble an attic from a European home of the 1930s, surrounding guests with artifacts, clothing, memorabilia, and props. Through special lighting effects, sound and visual multimedia elements, the Jewish experience in Nazi-dominated Europe unfolds through taped testimonies, photographs and images. A large multi-function screen includes a map that geographically traces the spread of genocide against the Jews alongside a multi-media series that specifically traces the route of each survivor. In addition to survivor stories, visitors can explore common motifs that run throughout each testimony—motifs such as Love, Courage and Loss.

Survivors featured in the exhibit come from the Cincinnati region, which has a large and diverse population who experienced the Holocaust and World War II. All artifacts and theatrical effects are based on the survivors’ stories. This attention to detail results in an authentic re-telling of each participant’s experiences. In 2009, the exhibit moved from Hebrew Union College to its current location at Rockwern, where the JRA-created “Attic” has been supplemented with additional graphics, artifacts and educational space. CHHE also recently created a program called “Out of the Attic,” which takes the message of Mapping Our Tears into schools. “’Out of the Attic’ was important because so many schools love coming but have cut down on field trips due to budgetary constraints,” said Sarah L. Weiss, CHHE Executive Director. “’Out of the Attic’ keeps the attic feel created by the exhibit but in a way that can be integrated into a school setting.” Between the permanent exhibit and the touring program, Mapping Our Tears has reached over 55,000 people in its first decade.

When asked about the original mission of Mapping Our Tears, Weiss answered, “the original hope was to provide a way of learning the lessons of the Holocaust through the perspective of individuals within our own community. We wanted to not only expose the tragedy and the horror of the Holocaust, but also the ability of survivors to overcome and rebuild their lives in our community.”

As for the future, Weiss has ambitious plans for the CHHE’s work. As CHHE is the only Holocaust education center within a several hundred-mile radius, she wants it to be better known regionally and draw visitors from throughout the greater Cincinnati community and beyond. The Mapping Our Tears collection in particular will continue to grow, and CHHE will soon be integrating new technology into The Attic and adding interactive kiosks to the space, while continuing to focus on how to take Mapping Our Tears into classrooms. These future plans, however, depend largely on the preservation of Holocaust history – its images, artifacts and stories. “We are moving from a generation of survivors to a generation of historians,” explained Sarah. “Whether survivors or their children donate objects to us or somewhere else, it is essential that they be saved and not discarded so that we can keep sharing the lessons of the Holocaust.”

Werner Coppel, who four years after surviving the “death marches” of 1945 emigrated to Cincinnati with his wife and infant son, received one of the evening’s Voices of Humanity awards. Werner, like many Holocaust survivors, kept his experiences in Buna and Auschwitz to himself, until a Cincinnati Enquirer article calling The Diary of Anne Frank a “hoax” and the Holocaust a fiction inspired him to tell his story publicly. For decades, Werner has helped bring the messages of Mapping Our Tears to students – not just the suffering and the horror, but the lessons of courage and tolerance. He closed his acceptance remarks with words that profoundly reflect the message of the CHHE and the Mapping Our Tears exhibit: “The last word cannot be that the world is a lousy place,” he pleaded. “The last word must be that the world can be a much better place.”


CHHE Board President John Neyer, Honoree Werner Coppel, and CHHE Executive Director Sarah Weiss

If you know someone who is a Holocaust and/or WWII survivor who would be willing to donate artifacts to Mapping Our Tears, please contact Sarah L. Weiss at or +1 (513) 487-3055.

Next week, we’ll celebrate the recent “golden moment” of another past JRA project.

Tags: Project Spotlight

Add comment


No comments yet. Be the first!