Monday, March 31, 2014

Top Entertainment Designers Come Together for ACS Benefit, Plus ZOMBIES!

As part of a two-event fund raiser for the American Cancer Society, volunteers have organized a Relay for Life in Celebration, FL this Friday, April 4th.  Additionally, last month at The Rep Theatre in Orlando, FL, an Entertainment Designers Forum event was held to raise additional donations.  I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend the Designers Forum last month with some of the most talented and kind artists in the industry.  The Forum is a MUST-DO Event for any artist or theme park enthusiast!  If you missed it, be certain to look for it early next year!!

This Friday, April 4th is the start date for the Relay for Life walk/run.  This year's theme is "Once Upon A Time There was a Disease Called Cancer." All of the booths will be fairy tale themed, according to the March 2014 issue of Celebration News.

To Register, Volunteer, or Donate Contact: or Dawn Mague 407-460-9024

Relay for Life, Celebration Florida
Date: April 4-5, 2014, 6:00 PM
Location: Lakeside Park, 631 Sycamore St Celebration FL 34747
April 4, 6:00 PM Opening Ceremony
6:00 PM Survivor Lap, and Caretaker Lap
9:00 PM Luminaria Ceremony of Remembrance
TBD: Fight Back Ceremony
April 5, 7:00 AM Closing Ceremony

As a preliminary fundraiser, on March 7, 2014, 15 ENTERTAINMENT DESIGNERS from Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, and more came together for the 5th Annual Entertainment Designers Forum Fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

The Panel Designers
Kim Gromoll
Kim Gromoll-Chair Host/Moderator
Art Director Walt Disney World, Designer at Universal Studios Orlando and Event Chair of the Celebration Relay for Life, Organized the Forum in Memory of His Dear Friend and Colleague, Stephanie Girard* Who Passed Away After a Six-Year Fight with Colon Cancer

Mike Aiello
Mike Aiello-Moderator
Director of Entertainment Creative Development at Universal Orlando, Development Team Lead in Projects for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley and Content for Halloween Horror Nights 24

Rick Spencer-Host
Creative Manager, Art and Design Universal Studios, Chairman of the U.C.F. Theater Department's Professional Advisory Board, Founder of The Spencer Library, an Award-Winning Audio Publishing Company, Author of Five Novels, Writer/Producer/Director PBS TV Series Shining Time Station 'starring' Thomas the Tank Engine

Session 1
Session 1 Panel
 Gene Columbus
Executive Director, Orlando Repertory Theater (Forum Event Location), Actor/Dancer, 38 Years as a Sr. Producer and Manager of Entertainment Staffing at The Walt Disney Company

Laura Tyler
Make-up Artist, Winner Face Off Season 5, Ripley's Sculptor, Universal Halloween Horror Nights Make-Up Artist

Eric Baker
Sr. Prop Master, Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley, Universal, Decorator Walt Disney Imagineering, Prop Fabricator Nickelodeon

Nick Collins
Scenic Designer, Universal Studios Nickelodeon, Creative Consultant Universal Art and Design Department, Prop Designer and Set Decorator Walt Disney Imagineering

Cindy White
Designer, Illustrator, Art Director for Multiple Super Bowl Half-Time Shows, Parade/Show/Attraction/Set Design, Designer for the Orlando Rep Set for Busytown (Backdrop for this Forum)
Set Backdrop by Cindy White

Brian Morrow
Sr. Director, Attraction Development and Design, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Director Design and Engineering SeaWorld Orlando

Session 2
Session 2 Panel

Bryn Court
Lead Sculptor for the Harry Potter Movies and the new Potter Expansion-Diagon Alley, at Universal Studios, sculptor on The Dark Knight Rises, War Horse, Gladiator, and more (see IMDB)
Me, Bryn Court

Robbi Lepre'
Director of Theatrical Services, Busch Gardens, All-Around Show Management of Audio, Lighting, FX, Pyro, Scenery and Props for Howl-O-Scream, Christmas Town and more

Charles Gray
Assistant Show Director Halloween Horror Nights Houses, Universal Studios, over 20 years with Universal Studios as an actor at Nickelodeon Game Labs, Beetlejuice's Graveyard Review, and Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure

J. Michael Roddy
Sr. Show Writer/Show Director for Creative Entertainment Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Creative Director for over 100 live shows and events for Universal Orlando's Entertainment Division and Halloween Horror Nights, Producer of the Documentary "The Shark is Still Working", you may also know him as a Zombie on The Walking Dead

J. Michael Roddy, Me

Mark Hervat
Manager, Art and Design, Creative Entertainment Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Freelance designer for 20 Years Prior to Disney, Currently Leads a Team in Walt Disney World and Disneyland Creating Stage Shows, Parades, Character Meet-and-Greets, and Press Events

Michael Burnette
Design Special FX & Prosthetic Make-Up Designer at Universal Studios, Star Trek Enterprise, The Forsaken, Universal Soldier, Passions, The Ben Stiller Show, Mad TV, Two Time Emmy Nominee

The event was held at the Orlando Repertory Theatre (The Rep).  It included two open-question style forums. The donation cost was $25 for one session or $45 to attend both sessions. This was an intimate gathering of only a few hundred audience members.  This allowed for a more personal Q&A style format.  It appeared that in addition to those of us who are theme park design fans, a lot of art students attended the event. 


It would be impossible for me to convey all of the fabulous discussions that happened during this event. Please...PLEASE make a point of attending next year's event to enjoy it yourself!  Here are just a few of the questions asked and the responses that they prompted...

In the first session, artists were asked how they became inspired to pursue their career?  Gene Columbus, Executive Director of The Rep and long time professional actor/dancer, talked about one of his very memorable teachers in school.  Her name was Mrs. Fouche (pronounced foo-shay).  Gene said he was a bad student but she encouraged him in drama class.  She told him, "Don't ask me to believe what you are reading unless you believe it.  Don't ask me to believe in you unless you believe in yourself."  Mr. Columbus went on to a professional career including appearing as a dancer in Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand and a list of other impressive credits such as Sr. Manager of Staffing at a little place called Disney (Google him!!).
Session 1 Panel
Another interesting question from the audience asked, how is design different for theme parks versus film-making?  Mike Aiello, a Halloween Horror Nights Designer and Moderator for the Forum talked about how with film, you can create a smaller window of design.  The film can be focused to direct the audience's attention to exactly where they are supposed to look and notice.  In theme parks, designers must create full environments and immerse the guests completely to have the full experience.

One of the most popular questions of the night in both sessions was, how do I (as an artist) break into the entertainment business?  Every designer agreed that you must devote yourself to the work and enjoy it. Be passionate. It takes time. Take every opportunity that comes your  way regardless of how much it pays or how small it seems.  When you aren't working, do things on your own to practice your skills. This was just some of the advice given.  J. Michael Roddy passionately explained, "DO something every day toward your goal. No matter what, just SOMETHING each day."

Session 2 Panel
Needless to say, spending an evening with such talented artists and performers can make any theme park fan a bit star-struck. It is a rare opportunity to have such a group gathered on the same stage.  As J. Michael Roddy said, "Artists support each other in all the parks.  We enjoy going to see each other's things. We admire it, appreciate it, and respect it."  It really was amazing to have them all together on such a special night.

Additionally, a silent auction was held throughout the night with items from Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, and several other donors. Many items were unique, one-of-a-kind find designs from Universal's Halloween Horror Nights.
Auction Item

Auction Item

The Entertainment Designers Forum Event was a night of laughs, education, entertainment, and most notably inspiration.  Inspiration not only for the amazing support for the Cancer Society, but also inspiration for every young designer in the audience, fan of the Arts, or person wanting to pursue their dreams.  So, mark your calendar for early next year to attend this event!  You will walk away INSPIRED!

Contact Info Facebook:
LIKE Entertainment Designer Forum
LIKE 2014 Celebration American Cancer Society Relay for Life

*Stephanie Girard was a film, TV, and theme park industry Art Director and Set Designer. She was a designer for the Academy Award-winning film "Ray", Universal's Islands of Adventure Grinchmas, the film "Dreamer", and the film "Leatherheads."  Prior to her passing, she volunteered at the Give Kids the World Village, toured hospitals with her certified therapy dog, Jack, to lift patient's spirits, and raised $33,000 all by herself for the American Cancer Society.  From talking with Kim Gromoll, and hearing his passion to continue these fundraiser events in her memory, it is obvious that she left more than just a design legacy that will continue on in her honor.

On a more personal note, as a renal cancer "survivor", I would like to thank all the designers and volunteers who make these events possible in the hopes of finding a cure.  Thank You!

Follow Jeanie on Twitter @PrincessPapers
**Entertainment Designers Forum advertising and artwork provided by and printed with permission from Kim Gromoll. 
Logo Design by Melody Matheny.

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