Top theme park designers help raise more than $5,000 for cancer research

Many of the top theme park designers got together last night at the Mad Cow Theatre in downtown Orlando for the Entertainment Designer’s Forum. In addition to some great talks and stories, everyone in attendance helped raise money for a great cause.

Most of the panel members were from Universal, but Disney was also represented. Some of the creative guys from SeaWorld and Busch Gardens were also on hand to speak with attendees.

The main topic of discussion was Halloween Horror Nights, but many other things were discussed. When asked if there was any animosity between Disney and Universal and if they discuss what the other is doing, Disney Imagineer Jason Surrell said most of them have worked with each other at one point or another and many are friends. He said he was recently at Islands of Adventure with his wife as guests and he was peeking through the construction wall cracks to get a better look at the Wizarding World just as the other fans were. He said he loves it when one company raises the bar because it brings them all to the top and makes them better. Unfortunately, recording asn’t allowed during the two panel discussions.

A silent auction was also held for many exclusive items such as drawings and signs designed by some members on the panel. The whole night’s proceeds went to benefit the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in honor of Stephanie Girard (right). She has worked as an art director and set designer for many films and was also a designer for Halloween Horror Nights, Grinchmas and Universal Dubai. Girard has colon cancer and has been given a grim prognosis by her doctors.

One of the items on Girard’s bucket list was to raise $25,000 this year for the American Cancer Society. She’s already raised more than $30,000 and the event last night raised another $5,000.

Some of the items that were on display, but not for sale.

A drawing from Universal’s Grinchmas that was on the auction block.

Some of the signs and props used for Halloween Horror Nights were also up for bids.

Stephanie Girard tells her story to guests during the second panel discussion of the night.

A look at the members of the second panel discussion. Members of the first panel are in the photo at the top.

Alan Gilmore, art director for two Harry Potter films and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando was a special guest during both sessions. Be sure to watch our exclusive interview with him.


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  1. Matt, I’d like to thank you and Orlando Attractions Magazine for your support of our event. Your reporting and participation certainly contributed to making the event such a success! Thanks!
    Ray Keim