Storyland Design Challenge announces top 10 entries

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

Storyland Studios, a storytelling and experience design firm with offices in California and London, has named the top 10 entries in its first-ever international Storyland Design Challenge, with one grand prize winner taking home $20,000 later this year. 

Storyland Design Challenge
Images courtesy of Storyland Studios

A total of 79 concepts submitted to the Storyland Design Challenge by freelance entertainment industry creatives and designers were evaluated by a panel of six judges, who narrowed the list down to 10 exceptional concepts.

“We wanted to inspire designers from around the globe to share their creative and storytelling talents,” says Ben Thompson, Storyland Studios’ chief strategy officer and head of global clients. “We’ve always believed that the world needs better stories, and we want to be part of inspiring the storytellers and story-makers of the future.” 

The judges for the 2021 Storyland Design Challenge are Michael Mack (CEO of Europa Park and Mack NeXT), Andreas Andersen (CEO and President of Liseberg Group, Sweden and board member at Lego House Denmark), Doris Hardoon (Executive Creative Director and veteran Disney Imagineer), Laurence Beckers (Creative Director for Alterface and board member of l’Institut des Arts et Diffusion, Louvain-La-Neuve), Rachel Read (Founder and co-CEO of Blooloop), and Mel McGowan (CCO for Storyland Studios and veteran Disney Imagineer).

“These themed attraction designs and immersive concepts really stay with you,” McGowan said. “That’s the magic of multi-dimensional storytelling: immersing the audience in a wholly sensory experience that takes them out of the real world and ushers them into an unforgettable adventure.” 

After evaluating submissions on their depth and richness of storytelling, emotional resonance, design innovation, creative use of materials, executability, and ecological compatibility, the judges selected the top 10 concepts.

Storyland Design Challenge Top Ten (in alphabetical order): 

Blue Oceans Park

Blue Oceans Park

Blue Oceans Park by Nicklas Farrantello, a themed show set designer based in Florida, is a traveling eco-park. It’s a series of varied attractions constructed on barges that can be floated to host cities, focusing on sustainability and the environment. The park aims to reduce the strain of tourist travel by taking entertainment to them via green technologies. It acts as both an environmental and an accessible attraction that can encourage local tourism.

Storyland Design Challenge - Carnival of the Animals

Carnival of the Animals

Carnival of the Animals by Rebecka Fox, a design manager, concept creator, and interior designer from Florida, is an augmented reality experience that brings the Carnival of the Animals, a symphony composed by Camille Saint-Saens, to life in a physical and digital experience to entertain and immerse visitors of all ages. In addition, it features a roster of colorful characters to engage and interact with the audience.

Chaos Institute

Chaos Institute

Chaos Institution by Jakob Fagerstrom, a spatial experience designer, and Anders Liljegren, a motion graphic designer (both based in Sweden), is an immersive thrill ride attraction with a new ride system that incorporates a drop tower, roller coaster, and interactive dark ride mini-game. The ride is competitive and themed as a series of human tests.

Storyland Design Challenge - Gateway Orbital

Gateway Orbital

Gateway Orbital by Ross Ricupero, a creative designer and visualizer from Canada, is a near-future themed land set in Earth’s first permanent space habitat. A space elevator connects Earth to this new settlement in an attraction that encourages exploration and adventure. At first, appearing polished and sophisticated, guests will soon realize that there are more secrets and characters to uncover in this immersive experience.

La Caverne d'Opale

La Caverne d’Opale

La Caverne d’Opale by Irving Sant-Anna, a civil engineer from France who has worked in show-set design, is an interactive ride where guests board a raft fitted with cannons, a projector, a treasure map, and a hurdy-gurdy. Guests direct their vehicle to view show scenes and complete challenges around the attraction, acting independently as the crew of their own adventure as they attempt to solve mysteries introduced in a mobile app hint hunt.

Storyland Design Challenge - L'Opera de L'Opere

L’Opera de L’Opere

L’Opera de L’Opere by Jessica Piatti, an attractions and theme parks designer, and Gerben Pasjes, a concept artist (both based in the Netherlands), is an interactive targeting ride that pays homage to the stories of the opera, using modern technology to connect with a contemporary audience. The ride contains one jewel per room for guests to target with stage lights, unlocking an alternative scene if they find it.

Operation Underground

Operation Underground

Operation Underground by a team from across Europe consisting of Matt Bashford, a concept and graphic designer; Lars van de Crommert, an architecture student; Luke Smith, a model maker; Katie Baker, a sculptor and artist; and Niklas Achauer, a composer; is an interactive, 1960s spy-themed attraction set in the London Underground. It features an interactive queue system and dark ride, as well as a themed café and retail.

Storyland Design Challenge - Storyteller


Storyteller by Kelly Bailey, a designer from Florida, and Henry Duhaime, a UX designer from Seattle, is an augmented reality mobile application that incorporates oral traditions, stories, and music from indigenous cultures and local people from around the globe, as well as acting as a travel tool. Users can experience these stories while moving through the environment or exploring from home. In addition, they can listen to these stories and view media as told and shared by the local people to ensure an authentic experience.

Taste of Europe

Taste of Europe

Tastes of Europe by a team from the Netherlands comprised of designer Nicky De Waal, Ph.D. candidate Wim Strijbosch, graphic designer Tim Beeren, concept developer Mark Van Rooij, and illustrator and designer Vincent Keuchen, is a flavor-based attraction in which guests are sent on a journey across scenes from turn-of-the-century Europe to collect flavors. It features two ride systems (including a unique new side-rail concept) connected with a walk-through. The attraction also boasts a restaurant where guests can taste the results of their travels.

Storyland Design Challenge - The Time Watcher

The Time Watcher

The Time Watcher by Adrian Gutierrez Rojas, a SCAD Masters student studying themed entertainment design, is an immersive rollercoaster in which guests get to experience an adventure to save the fabric of time, guided by the Time Watcher character, featuring a domed track tilt system. It creates a new and intriguing world and inspires guests to consider time from new angles.

Three finalists from the top 10 competitors will be selected to present their concepts during the Storyland Innovation Webinar. Once the grand prize winner is announced, that designer (or designers) will receive an invitation to pitch their concept to industry professionals on Oct. 4-6, 2021at the Blooloop V-Expo, a high-level, content-driven online event that brings together professionals in the visitor attractions industry.

In addition to the winners of the Storyland Design Competition, winners of the 2021 Blooloop 50 museum and theme park influencer lists and the 2021 Blooloop Innovation Awards will also be announced at the event.

Click here to view the full gallery of Storyland Design Challenge entries.


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