Press Release

Storyland Studios, an experience design firm that helps brands connect their stories in three dimensions, congratulates Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF) for receiving the Themed Entertainment Association’s (TEA) Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement on a Limited Budget for Poverty Encounter, a permanent exhibit, at the non-profit’s Los Angeles headquarters. 

Storyland Studios contributed concept development and design for the project. The annual award brings recognition to achievement, talent and personal excellence within the themed entertainment industry. This is Children’s Hunger Fund’s first such honor.

Credited with Poverty Encounter’s concept development, design development and schematic design, Storyland worked hand-in-hand with the CHF team to create a thought-provoking experience through realistic settings, and an emotionally captivating storyline that would carry throughout the entire exhibit.

“We were humbled at the opportunity to help Children’s Hunger Fund craft their story,” said Mel McGowan, Chief Creative Officer at Storyland Studios, “to develop a place that not only educates and transports guests to a place they’ve never been, but transforms visitors’ hearts through the experience.”

Poverty Encounter is a 90-minute interactive, educational exhibit that transports guests from the comforts of home to witness the reality of extreme poverty as experienced by children around the world. Guests step into a garbage dump village in Central America, a Caribbean town struck by natural disaster, a labor camp in Asia, and an underground children’s colony in Eastern Europe; all modeled after real places around the world where impoverished children suffer.

Storyland’s “Spatial StorytellingSM” team  worked with Children’s Hunger Fund to develop an experiential sequence of encounters around the key objectives that the charity felt were important for telling its story well.

First, CHF wanted to depict situations that truly reflect the heart-wrenching circumstances children face every day, such as the garbage dumps of Guatemala, internally displaced persons camps, or the brickyards of Nepal. Second, they desired to build the highest standard of realism into the scenes with “Disney-level” immersion, including authentic materials to sound effects. Finally, CHF wanted visitors to leave Poverty Encounter with the understanding that food, development and other resources can create opportunities for hope despite dire circumstances.

The experience concludes in CHF’s volunteer warehouse where visitors are invited to take immediate action building food boxes for families in need.

“We’re grateful to join Children’s Hunger Fund in thanking the Themed Entertainment Association for this honor and recognition,” said McGowan.

Other 2020 Thea Award recipients include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run at Disneyland Resort in California, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando, The Hebrew Bible Experience at Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, and Warner Bros. World in Abu Dhabi.

The TEA Thea Award recipients are announced each November and formally awarded the following Spring. However, due to pandemic restrictions in 2020, the Themed Entertainment Association will celebrate and showcase the 26th Annual Thea Awards recipients with a series of digital Thea Case Studies sessions, and in 2021, TEA will resume gathering in person for the TEA Summit and the Thea Awards Gala.

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