April 25, 2010

The Entertainment Designer Forum

On the evening of April 23, 2010 I had the honor to be part of a panel composed of top entertainment designers. Our goal was to raise money for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life, taking place in Celebration Florida on May 23rd. My fellow panelists were:

- Alan Gilmore: Art director for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the films Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and The Bourne Ultimatum.

- Stephanie Girard: Set designer for the films Ray, Dreamer, Leatherheads, Dear John and more. Designer for Halloween Horror Nights, Grinchmas and Universal Dubai.

- TJ Mannarino: Director for Universal Studios Entertainment (Halloween Horror Nights, Grinchmas, Mardi Gras), Nickelodeon Studios and Mickey Mouse Club.

- David Hughes: Universal Studios designer. Halloween Horror Nights lead designer for houses, art director for Terminator 3D, art director The Little Mermaid, Disney Studios, and Mickey Mouse Club.

- Ray Keim: Haunted Dimensions, Universal's Halloween Horror Nights

- Kim Gromoll: Designer for Universal Studios (Halloween Horror Nights Streets and Shows), Disney's Animal Kingdom shows

- Rick Spencer: Manager for Universal Studios. Writer for Halloween Horror Nights website, producer of special events, producer/director for Shining Time Station PBS.

- Michael Burnett: Manager of prosthetics for Universal Studios, many feature film and television shows and all prosthetics for Halloween Horror Nights.

- Rich West: Designer for Halloween Horror Nights houses, The Simpson's Ride and Universal Dubai.

- Manuel Cordero: Designer for Halloween Horror Nights houses and Disney parades.

- Nick Farrentello: Designer for Halloween Horror Nights. Set designer for the films Ali and The Trouble with Mary. Designer for the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster.

- J. Michael Roddy: Creative Director/Producer for The Shark is Still Working, MonsterKIDS and Halloween Horror Nights.

- Jason Surrell, Author, screenwriter and Walt Disney Imagineer. Author of Pirates of The Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies and The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak.

- Michael Aiello: Writer and show producer for the Bill & Ted show and houses and streets for Halloween Horror Nights.

Below is Rick Spencer, me, Rich West, Michael Burnett, Alan Gilmore, Mike Aiello, Jason Surrell and TJ Mannarino
(thanks Orlando Attractions Magazine!)
Also thanks to Ricky Brigante for his support and coverage on "Inside The Magic" !

It was a wonderful evening of stories, design philosophies and meeting fellow designers and fans.
All three of my Haunted Dimensions HHN paper models were won by guests in the silent auction!
As of this writing we raised over $5000!

On a personal note as cancer survivor, it was an uplifting, satisfying experience to witness the love and concern of cohorts and fans alike during this event!

Six years ago I was unemployed and dealing with an illness which took several weeks to determine its scope and spread. In that dark time of uncertainty I reevaluated my life and career. My life was unquestionably wonderful but the potential of my career had not been fulfilled to my hopes and I questioned whether I had gone as far as I would ever go. Thankfully, after several surgeries and years of observation, I was given a clean bill of health. On top of that, during my recoveries I had created the projects in Haunted Dimensions which helped me get my first freelance job at Universal Orlando! To go from where I was 6 years ago, to where I found myself Friday evening, sitting on a stage as part of a panel of such an amazing collection of talented people (who are also my friends), was almost unbelievable! Truly a gift!

Many of you will know the name Jason Surrell, who is a Disney Imagineer and author of "The Haunted Mansion - From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies", which helped inspire my creation of Haunted Dimensions. Jason is friends with many of my Universal coworkers but I never had the opportunity to meet him until Friday night when he sat on the Forum panel with me. Yes, I brought my copies of his books (including his "Pirates of the Caribbean - From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies) for autographs! I also gave him my Madame Leota paper model, the original of which Jason helped design for Disney.

Before the show started, I had the opportunity to chat with Harry Potter Art Director, Alan Gilmore, who is a very charming, smart, fun guy! We talked a little about his experiences with the Potter franchise, but mostly we talked about about life and kids.

At left, my wife and I with Alan Gilmore (on left)

I also had the opportunity to meet Leonard Pickel, aka "The Godfather of the Haunted Attraction Industry", who is the creator of Haunted Attractions Magazine and the man behind HAuNTcon. Leonard was in the audience for both panel sessions and WON one of my paper models in the silent auction (Psychoscareapy)!
Turns out Leonard is a Haunted Dimensions fan!