CalArts reveals new degree specialization in theme park attraction design

An immersive environment created for Fantômas: Revenge of the Image at the CalArts Center for New Performance. Photos by Rafael Hernandez/ Courtesy of CalArts
Combining design with collaborative storytelling and project-based learning, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) launched a new degree program focused on developing new, immersive theme park attractions. The institute announced the new bachelor of fine arts degree in Design and Production that specializes In Experience Design and Themed Entertainment  Thursday during the 17th annual SATE (Science + Art + Technology = Entertainment) conference held at CalArts. This specialization within the School of Theater will be taught by current and former industry professionals and will involve immersive place-making, experience design and the creation of story-based entertainment projects. “CalArts’ School of Theater provides students with an ever-expanding set of opportunities in new and future pathways for performance and design,” said Travis Preston, dean of the CalArts’ School of Theater, in a press release.  “This course of study in Experience Design and Themed Entertainment is part of a continuing commitment to train the creative leaders of the future.” CalArts said this specialization will combine different métiers, encourage collaboration and prepare students for careers in theme parks, exhibitions, museums, theatrical presentations and other environments.
Sarah Merkel (MFA Acting 11) presenting her team’s ideas for a play space built around the character of WALL-E. Courtesy of CalArts
Instructors of the program include Michael Jung, creative executive of Theatrical Development for Walt Disney Imagineering Live Entertainment; Jason McManus, art director at Thinkwell Group; and Jonathan Casson, director for live and location-based entertainment for 20th Century Fox film, television and new media. The program will also rely on professional partnerships with themed entertainment companies including Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), BRC Imagination Arts, Paramount, Universal, The Goddard Group, On Track Themes, Thinkwell, and RGH Entertainment. This specialization follows CalArts’ history and involvement in themed entertainment. According to CalArts, Walt Disney first had the inspiration to create the institute after gathering a group of artists, writers and skilled workers to design Disneyland, a prototype for today’s themed entertainment environments. It also aligns with the two-day SATE Conference, hosted by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), which details upcoming trends in entertainment that include immersive place-making, virtual and augmented reality and new forms of storytelling for experiential environments. “Bringing together industry leaders and visionaries to explore the future of immersive realities, the conference is a perfect match with CalArts’ experimental ethos,” said Gary Goddard, CalArts alumnus and founder, director and chairman of Goddard Group, in a statement. “I’ve experienced how the Institute’s focus on innovation prepares students to take the lead in the field of Experience Design.” [email protected] 661-287-5575 On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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About the author

Christina Cox

Christina Cox

Christina Cox is a multimedia journalist covering education, community and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in August 2016.