Michael Jung & Travis Preston
Keynote conversation: CalArts alumnus Michael Jung, (left), Creative Executive of Theatrical Development at Walt Disney Imagineering and Travis Preston, Dean of the CalArts’s School of Theater and Artistic Director of the CalArts Center for New Performance (right). Photo: Rafael Hernandez

CalArts Hosted Themed Entertainment Association’s 2017 Conference

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) partnered with the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) to host the 17th Annual SATE (Storytelling + Art + Technology = Entertainment) conference on October 5th and 6th.

Valencia, CA, October 12, 2017—Since its inception, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has lead innovation at the intersection of arts and entertainment. Highlighting this history, CalArts partnered with the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) to host the 17th Annual SATE (Storytelling + Art + Technology = Entertainment) conference on October 5th and 6th. This year’s theme was Beyond the Screen, the Future of Immersive Realities.

With panels on storytelling, architecture, and technology, the conference highlighted the latest directions in immersive place-making, virtual and augmented reality, and story-based projects for theme parks, museums, entertainment venues and theatrical presentations. The keynote speaker was CalArts alumnus and faculty member Michael Jung. As Executive Creative Director in charge of Theatrical Development for Walt Disney Imagineering, Jung discussed the future of Experience Design with School of Theater Dean Travis Preston

Rafael Hernandez

(left to right) Andrea LeBlanc, Associate Dean of CalArts’s School of Theater, Travis Preston, Dean of CalArts’s School of Theater; Michael Jung, Creative Executive of Theatrical Development at Walt Disney Imagineering; Ravi Rajan, President of CalArts.

Ranked as America’s top college for students in the arts by Newsweek/The Daily Beast, CalArts  has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. In keeping with a school founded by Walt Disney, many leaders in the field attended CalArts. Continuing the legacy, the launch of a new specialization in Experience Design/Themed Entertainment, within the School of Theater’s Design and Production Program, was announced at the conference.

Shih-lien (Eugene) Yen, Jihyun Her, Monique Goeders, Clay Burton, Shan Wu, Manon Manavit, David Connor, Shay Willard, Dan Gower, Gahyae Ryu and Max Keene.

Resonance, Journey to the Blue Temple by Shih-lien (Eugene) Yen, Jihyun Her, Monique Goeders, Clay Burton, Shan Wu, Manon Manavit, David Connor, Shay Willard, Dan Gower, Gahyae Ryu and Max Keene.


“Bringing together industry leaders and visionaries to explore the future of immersive realities, the conference was a perfect match with CalArts's experimental ethos,” says Gary Goddard, CalArts alumnus and founder, director and chairman of Goddard Group, one of the foremost entertainment design firms in the world. “As an alumnus of its School of Theater and a student in the Schools of Film and Dance, I've experienced how the Institute's focus on innovation prepares students to take the lead in the field of Experience Design. By holding the conference on the campus, students and professionals alike were exposed to leading-edge developments in storytelling, architecture, design and more.” 

Rafael Hernandez

Audience for TEA SATE Conference 2017.

CalArts alumni like Goddard and Jung have paved the way in the industry’s development since the school’s inception. Another CalArts alumnus and faculty member, Jason McManus is the Art Director of the Thinkwell Group. His conference presentation, How Millennials Tell Stories, discussed how the evolution of audiences for themed entertainment affects new directions in immersive storytelling.

Helaina Anderson

Conference presenter and CalArts alumnus Jason McManus is the Creative/Art Director of the Thinkwell Group. Jason is teaching the class, The Art of Themed and Immersive Entertainment, in the Experience Design/Themed Entertainment specialization in CalArts’s School of Theater this semester.

CalArts’s central role in the history of themed entertainment provides the ideal backdrop for a discussion of the industry. Walt Disney first had the inspiration for CalArts after gathering a group of artists, writers and skilled workers to design Disneyland, a prototype for today’s themed entertainment environments. Their efforts inspired Disney’s vision to train future artists and innovators in the spirit of collaborative practice. CalArts opened its doors in 1970 and has since upheld its founding mission of both rigorous training and open-ended experimentation—pillars of themed entertainment practice. Prominent “Calartians” in the field include Bob Rogers, founder and CEO of themed entertainment company BRC Imagination Arts; Scott Ault, President and CEO of experience design firm Rethink Leisure & Entertainment; and Jonathan Casson, who sits on the TEA Asia Pacific Division Board of Directors.

“CalArts School of Theater provides students with an ever-expanding set of opportunities in new and future pathways for performance and design. This future-directed vision of entertainment is reflected by the Themed Entertainment Association,” said Dean Preston. “We were thrilled to host the SATE Conference as it explored the newest developments in entertainment and looked ahead to the theater of tomorrow.” 

Helaina Anderson

A presentation by Louis Allen, VP Creative of Adirondack Studios, at the 2017 TEA SATE Conference at CalArts.

Perfect World Education, a China-based leader in the film, television, and gaming, sponsored CalArts for the 2017 SATE Conference. Of the partnership, Preston said, "China is an exciting market for themed entertainment development. We are in active conversation with Perfect World Education to explore future possibilities in this important area." Along with Perfect World Education, the TEA SATE conference at CalArts was made possible by the generous support of sponsors: the Goddard Group and Acomb Ostendorf & Associates (AOA).

Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions. 

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is an international non-profit association representing the world's leading creators, developers, designers and producers of compelling places and experiences. TEA members bring the experience of engaging storytelling and entertainment to a vast number of casinos, restaurants, retail stores, museums, zoos, theme parks and an ever-growing list of destinations that aim to bring a higher level of visitor experiences worldwide.

More Information

Goddard Group

Dream it – Design it – Build it

Since its inception in 2002, Goddard Group has designed over 50 attractions around the world with a total construction value of well over six billion dollars. Goddard Group’s award-winning creative designs have revolutionized the themed entertainment industry.  With an unblemished record of on-time, on-budget performance, Goddard Group offers clients a single, reliable source capable of creating any attraction imaginable. From a single-themed ride to a multi-million dollar theme park, Goddard Group creates the greatest attractions in the world.

Perfect World Education

The business of Perfect World Education covers both kids and youth education. In terms of kid’s education, R&D tailored for digital education is the core competitiveness of Hongen Education of Perfect World Investment & Holding Group. More than 20,000 kindergartens, over 300 training schools and more than 5 million children in China are using Hongen’s books. Meanwhile, Hongen products are so far exported to over 10 countries and regions, including the U.S., Italy, South Korea, Singapore and Indonesia.

Acomb Ostendorf & Associates (AOA)

AOA is comprised of top design-and-build professionals in themed entertainment and hospitality who help owners and developers deliver extraordinary guest experiences.  Starting with a consistent philosophy of “put yourself in the guests’ shoes,” we have distinguished ourselves through a unique combination of creative vision and a practical, down-to-Earth approach to getting things done.  In an industry that values innovation and vision, AOA has cultivated relationships with partners who share their adventurous drive to make the impossible a reality, to see every boundary as a bracing challenge.


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