Storyland Studios
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Storyland Studios is a design and production firm with offices in the US and Europe. We imagine, design and create immersive experiences and environments that lift the Spirit.
Some of Our Clients
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Strategic Planning & Feasibility
Brand and Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy. Feasibility Studies. Master Planning.

Storytelling is the creative combination of art and science, where form follows fiction and story shapes space. This is the storyteller’s perspective we apply to the unique combination of Brand and IP Strategy, Master Planning and Feasibility Studies that we call Strategic Storytelling. This approach ensures that all creative efforts are aligned to business goals and requirements, so the right decisions are made at the right time.

Our uniquely diverse team strikes the balance between left and right brain, approaching the strategic planning process from spatial, operational and story-development perspectives. We also provide our clients with Guest Experience Audits, Location Assessments, Expert Consultancy, and IP expertise and recommendations.

When we create a Strategic Plan, we not only dream up what your facility could be ten years from now, but generations into the future. We combine psychology, financial modelling and deep operational experience to produce the feasibility studies and marketing strategies that underpin our creative work. This gives our clients the financial underpinning of the creative vision. It's the yin and the yang, the head and heart working in perfect unison.

We approach every project from the storyteller’s perspective: a unique combination of Brand and IP Strategy, Master Planning and Feasibility Studies that we call Strategic Storytelling. Our uniquely diverse team strikes the balance between left and right brain, approaching the strategic planning process from spatial, operational and story-development perspectives.

Feasibility Studies

The feasibility study is an essential part of any plan of work, because it asks the crucial question, “What will it take to make this real?” Our feasibility studies, conducted by highly experienced industry professionals are a progressive and methodical “zero-ing in” on our target, considering every element of a successful location-based entertainment destination or experiential brand activation: demographics, market statistics and economic data, competitor benchmarks, attractiveness and availability of space, investment models, and cost of acquisition of target consumers. We take our combined experience of hundreds of development projects from across the world to give you the confidence that you are making the right investment decisions.

Master Planning

We synthesize the right mix of site, story, and economics into a Master Plan that informs every one of thousands of design and development decisions throughout the life of the project. Whether we are master planning a 1,000 seat venue, a 10 minute attraction, or a 100 acre theme park, our strategic design starts with a “BlueSky” workshop. In this critical step, we work with you and the team of core stakeholders to conceptualize, understand, and articulate the placemaking implications of your unique vision, mission and purpose.

Based on Walt Disney’s “lost weekend” with Imagineering legend Herb Ryman, we develop the master plan, storyboards, and a three-dimensional perspective in an interactive workshop. The work of several months is compressed into several days on site where we “land the plane” before we “get back on the plane.” Design Day, site carrying capacity, throughput, and creative possibilities are explored to challenge, inspire, and transform, while ownership and excitement are garnered among core stakeholders.

Our expertise runs deep in fine tuning and maximizing the synergy of multiple attractions and uses into an integrated destination that maximizes length of stay.

Our AICP, LEED AP, AIA, and NCARB professionals have a track record of delivering a powerful consensus for our extensive client base and their public with a unanimous project approval track record across diverse geographies and jurisdictions.

Feasibility Studies

What will it take to make your project real? Our feasibility studies consider every element of a successful location-based entertainment destination or experiential brand activation. We take our combined experience of hundreds of development projects from across the world to give you the confidence that you are making the right investment decisions.

Master Planning

We synthesize the right mix of site, story, and economics into a Master Plan that informs every one of thousands of design and development decisions throughout the life of the project. We work with you and the team of core stakeholders to conceptualize, understand, and articulate the placemaking implications of your unique vision, mission and purpose. Our AICP, LEED AP, AIA, and NCARB professionals have a track record of delivering a powerful consensus for our extensive client base and their public with a unanimous project approval track record across diverse geographies and jurisdictions.

We are experts in experience design.

From our shared background at Walt Disney Imagineering, we learned the art, craft and science of experience design—of telling stories in space. Our team of over 100 veteran Imagineers, strategists, marketers, artists, animators, designers, and developers craft connected stories and create truly immersive experiences.

Whether you’re dreaming of expanding an existing facility or creating something new, we’re here to help breathe life into your ideas. Our team of artists, architects, artisans, planners, and strategists will take you through the design process and beyond, creating a visceral story experience that your guests can immerse themselves in.

We are experts in experience design.

From our shared background at Walt Disney Imagineering, we learned the art, craft and science of experience design—of telling stories in space. Our team of over 100 veteran Imagineers, strategists, marketers, artists, animators, designers, and developers craft connected stories and create truly immersive experiences.

Strategic Leadership

Storyland Studios’ experienced strategy experts will take your project to the next level
Matt Ferguson
Chief Innovation Officer
Head of Storymaking
Mel McGowan
Chief Creative Officer
Founder
Peter McGowan
Chief Experience Officer
Founder
Shawn Stewart
Strategic Storytelling Studio
Director
Jason Surrell
Executive Creative Director
Ben Thompson
Chief Strategy Officer
Head of International
Jeffrey Wyatt
Director of Spatial
Storytelling
Ben Thompson headshot

Ben Thompson

Chief Strategy Officer
Head of International

Ben is an experienced marketer and strategist with 20 years’ experience in the top-flight. He spent 11 years at Mars Incorporated before moving to the Walt Disney Company, where he served as Marketing Director for the UK and EMEA region. Ben moved from Disney to Merlin Entertainments, where, as Global Marketing Director, he was responsible for the opening of 4 LEGOLAND®️ Parks and 40 Midway sites across the world. He joined Storyland Studios in the summer of 2020 as Chief Strategy Officer.

Jeffrey Wyatt headshot

Jeff Wyatt

Director of Spatial

Jeff started his career at Iwerks Entertainment as a theatre designer and has been a leader in the themed entertainment field for over 30 years. He spent 15 years in executive positions at Universal Studios Hollywood and Clear Channel Entertainment (now Live Nation), AEG Live, and GES. He’s created multiple record-breaking touring exhibitions, including Titanic, Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, and Harry Potter: The Exhibition. Jeff leads the Spatial Storytelling team at Storyland Studios.

Mel McGowan headshot

Mel McGowan

Chief Creative Officer

Mel is a film-school graduate, author, speaker, and creative director who spent a decade at the Walt Disney Company, where his portfolio included the renewal of the Disneyland Resort. Post-Disney, he co-founded Visioneering and Storyland Studios, where he led multi-award-winning architectural teams and was named one of the top 25 influencers by OC Metro Magazine. He now creatively leads the multi-disciplinary Spatial Storytelling team at Storyland Studios in the creation of compelling experiences and environments around the world.

Matt Ferguson headshot

Matt Ferguson

Chief Innovation Officer

Matt’s career began at the Walt Disney Company, where he led national brand and marketing programs for the Walt Disney World destination, Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, Golf and Dining, and ESPN Wide World of Sports. Over the course of his career, Matt has worked with dozens of multi-national companies, including Cedar Fair Entertainment, the Biltmore Estate, Chiquita, and Habitat for Humanity. He joined Storyland Studios in 2020 to serve as the Chief Innovation Officer.

Shawn Stewart headshot

Shawn Stewart

Strategic Storytelling Studio

Shawn has 20 plus years of brand-building experience with deep subject matter expertise in brand strategy, brand identity, branded service, and employee brand experience design. He spent seven years working as the national brand strategy lead at Kaiser Permanente, a health care system serving 12 million+ members in the US. He has worked for a wide range of clientele, from multi-national brands like M&M’s to charitable nonprofits like Children’s Hunger Fund. Shawn serves as Director of Strategic Storytelling at Storyland.

Peter McGowan headshot

Peter McGowan

Chief Experience Officer

Peter McGowan is one of the founders of PlainJoe and Storyland Studios. He is a champion of bringing clients’ unique stories to life by broadening their visual vocabulary beyond words and helping shape the cultural influence of their organizations.

Having worked with large-scale corporate clients such as Infinity, Nissan, IBM and Johnson & Johnson, as well as creative pioneers including Disney, Universal and Lego – Peter has a robust background in technology, art, and architecture which has equipped him to skillfully integrate these fields of design to tell immersive stories on the graphic and environmental stages. He is especially passionate about partnering with non-profit and cause-based organizations to reflect their missions with excellence and heart.

At the end of the day, he loves spending time with his wife, Jennifer, and their three kids making memories that usually involve Lego sets, Star Wars, Disney, or all three.

Jason Surrell headshot

Jason Surrell

Executive Creative Director

Jason Surrell is an author and screenwriter with over twenty-five years of experience in the themed entertainment industry. He is a former Senior Creative Director for Universal Creative, where he served as the Senior Creative Director of Universal Studios Beijing and Universal’s Epic Universe, and a multitude of other projects.

For fifteen years, Jason was a Senior Show Writer for Walt Disney Imagineering, where his extensive list of credits includes such beloved attractions as the reimagined Star Tours, New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, and the recent enhancements to Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

He joined Storyland Studios in 2020 to serve as the studio’s Executive Creative Director.

Concept & Story Development
The Big Idea. Concept Visualisation. 3D Modelling and Videography. Schematic Design. Design Development. Technical, AV & Lighting Design.

Great projects are anchored by engaging, connected stories, and the best stories have multiple dimensions: Plot, Setting, and Character. Though our three-dimensional storytelling process, our team will unearth these story layers—all of which come together to form your Big Idea.

At Storyland, everything we do starts and ends with the story. The clue’s kind of in the name…

For us, story isn’t a marketing buzzword, it’s a set of strongly-held beliefs about how we humans understand ourselves, connect with others, and forge our way in the world. We believe story forms culture, and that the world will always be in need of better, deeper and richer stories. You could say “stories that lift the spirit”...

From concept to completion, our team of innovative artisans will imagine and design how your story can come to life in space. Using cutting-edge visualisation technology and techniques, we’ll capture the look and feel of your concept; from simple visual cues to nuanced, detailed integrations of texture, smell, and sound, we’ll layer in every aspect of the sensory experience to paint a vivid picture of what it will be like to step into your concept as a guest.

Storyland’s background in themed entertainment, our passion for immersive storytelling, and our diverse, highly experienced team make us ideal partners to engage, inspire, and educate your guests through story. Our three interconnected disciplines make us the ideal partners for clients who want to deliver consistent, engaging storytelling across every element of a complex business—what we call Connected Storytelling.

Great projects are anchored by engaging, connected stories, and the best stories have multiple dimensions: Plot, Setting, and Character. Though our three-dimensional storytelling process, our team will unearth these story layers—all of which come together to form your Big Idea.

AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N.
Architecture & Production Design
Full-Service, Licensed Architecture. Wayfinding and Graphics. Interior Design. Show Set Design. Landscape Architecture. Attraction Design. Technical, AV & Lighting Design.

When you’re ready to take the next step to bring your concept to life, our internationally licensed architects go to work for you. With over 40 years of combined experience, Storyland Studios has been part of place-making for themed entertainment, hospitality, non-profit, and so much more.*

Our creative design teams are led by multi-state licensed NCARB, AIA, and LEED AP professionals and seasoned veteran Imagineers. Just as Walt Disney carefully integrated the work of dozens of disciplines in order to allow guests to step into stories, our Spatial Storytellers include a diverse array of artists, architects and artisans. In this unique blend of art and science, “form follows fiction”. It’s a multi-disciplinary alchemy which allows visitors to not only experience the story in five senses, but to feel it in their heart, mind, and spirit.

Our ability to represent and simulate reality with colored renderings, sketches, multimedia presentations, and 3D modeling takes the guesswork out and shortens the distance in the visualization, design, and documentation processes. In addition, the products of this phase prove to be invaluable to the approvals, funding, and construction permitting phases of the project.

* Architectural design services, whether or not requiring architectural licensing, will be provided under PlainJoe Studios Architecture, Inc., or Molsberry & Associates, P.C..

When you’re ready to take the next step to bring your concept to life, our internationally licensed architects go to work for you. With over 40 years of combined experience, Storyland Studios has been part of place-making for themed entertainment, hospitality, non-profit, and so much more.*

* Architectural design services, whether or not requiring architectural licensing, will be provided under PlainJoe Studios Architecture, Inc., or Molsberry & Associates, P.C..

Wayfinding and Graphics

It takes more than just good design to create effective wayfinding and graphics. Placement, size, and materials all play a critical role in creating a comfortable, immersive space.

Placemaking and identity graphics are more than just “art on the wall”—they tell a story to every person who interacts with them. It’s vital that what they communicate is clear, understandable, and united with your brand story. Storyland Studios will work with you to ensure that each graphic is uniquely yours, of the highest design quality, and placed to achieve maximum impact in your space.

Nothing frustrates a guest more than not being able to locate their destination. Successful wayfinding ensures that guests never find themselves without a clear indication of where to head next. If you have an existing facility, we’ll start by carrying out an audit of existing wayfinding positions, locations, and sizes. Our spatial experts will review your existing or new facility to generate traffic flow diagrams so we can pinpoint the most effective locations for signage. We’ll then develop designs that tie into your brand story and review layouts to ensure that sightlines are clear and all signage is readable from all distances. The result is a signage program that creates a user-friendly experience for all guests.

Wayfinding and Graphics

It takes more than just good design to create effective wayfinding and graphics. Placemaking and identity graphics are more than just “art on the wall”—they tell a story to every person who interacts with them. Storyland Studios will work with you to ensure that each graphic is uniquely yours, of the highest design quality, and placed to achieve maximum impact.

Brand & Guest Experience
Brand Experience. Guest & Employee Experience. Marketing Strategy.

How do you want people to experience your brand? We love to take the strategic story of a brand and shape it into something people can walk into, interact with, and inhabit. Whether you’re developing a new brand from the ground up or building on an existing one, our team can help you define and create experiences that bring your brand to life in ways that propel your strategy and keep your guests engaged, immersed, and coming back for more.

When we work with brands to shape immersive experiences and activations, we leverage our three-dimensional storytelling approach to add layers of meaning and connection for guests and employees alike. From concepting and executing the experience, our team of digital marketing strategists and designers are able to build an executable marketing strategy to promote your brand and experience in the world.

How do you want people to experience your brand? We love to take the strategic story of a brand and shape it into something people can walk into, interact with, and inhabit. Whether you’re developing a new brand from the ground up or building on an existing one, our team can help you define and create experiences that bring your brand to life in ways that propel your strategy and keep your guests engaged, immersed, and coming back for more.

Anime Expo

Storyland’s digital storytelling team of developers, systems designers, animators, graphic designers, and videographers bring an innovative layer of digital storytelling to physical and digital environments. We connect the physical and virtual worlds through custom UI & UX design, website and mobile app development, APIs, database integrations, virtual and augmented reality, character design, animation, and new media.

Web, Apps, Augmented & Virtual Reality

Working alongside Industry leaders, we script and produce transformational experiences. Whether the project is an E-Commerce Website, or a IOS Application, we pull off excellence, intentionality, and connection regardless of budget or scope parameters. Our multi-disciplinary approach allows us to go beyond design and to provide turn-key solutions that effectively reach targeted audiences. Our detailed concept/schematic process ensures that we're always thinking about the user experience in relation to the big picture story.

Storyland’s digital storytelling team of developers, systems designers, animators, graphic designers, and videographers bring an innovative layer of digital storytelling to physical and digital environments. We connect the physical and virtual worlds through custom UI & UX design, website and mobile app development, APIs, database integrations, virtual and augmented reality, character design, animation, and new media.

Digital Interactives & Experiences
Web. Mobile. Apps. Augmented Reality. Video. Character Animation.
Character Animation

For consumers who love your brand, the connection they form with your characters is invaluable. Every interaction they have with your characters needs to feel authentic and consistent to maintain the relationship you’ve worked so hard to build.

Our team of veteran animators and designers from Pixar, Universal Studios, and DreamWorks are expert creators—having brought to life some of the most memorable and engaging characters and stories of our time—and they’ve brought their talents together to create a new, groundbreaking animation technology called OZONE.

The beauty of Ozone is that it allows you to maintain authentic, consistent, high-quality interactions between your audience and your characters on any platform, for a fraction of the cost. Whether your audience engages with your characters on a mobile app, a TV commercial, or an interactive show in-store, they’ll see and interact with your characters at the same high quality, every time.

The team at Storyland Studios sister company Kitestring are veteran animators and expert creators from Pixar, Universal Studios, and DreamWorks - having brought to life some of the most memorable and engaging characters and stories of our time - and they’ve brought their talents together to create a new, groundbreaking animation technology called Ozone.

Character Animation

Our team of veteran animators and designers from Pixar, Universal Studios, and DreamWorks are expert creators—having brought to life some of the most memorable and engaging characters and stories of our time—and they’ve brought their talents together to create a new, groundbreaking animation technology called Ozone. Whether your audience engages with your characters on a mobile app, a TV commercial, or an interactive show in-store, they’ll see and interact with your characters at the same high quality, every time.

Ozone is an order of operations based deformation technology enabling higher quality results in TV, Film and games. Ozone Studio allows for a rig once, animate anywhere approach to asset deployment. Artists can now animate Ozone assets in Modo, Maya, Unreal and many other DCCs as they are supported.

Epic Games, Unreal Engine, Modo, Maya, Epic MegaGrants Recipient
M&M
Production & Fabrication
Scenic Fabrication. Project Management. Field Art Direction. Installation. Show & Media Production

Having a fantastic design is essential, but it won't go any further than your computer screen without someone to build it. Storyland Studios' fabrication team is a unique combination of artists and artisans with decades of experience in bringing creative ideas to life. It doesn't matter if your project is a three-story tall replica of an ancient artifact or a miniaturized model of a future theme park; we can build it. (And we've made both of those.)

Fabrication

Our expert fabrication team takes themed environments to the next level. We have provided the entertainment industry with top-notch, themed fabrications built entirely in our multi-acre magic factory based in sunny Southern California—including work for LEGO, LEGOLAND, Marvel, Universal Studios Florida, Warner Bros., FAO Schwarz, SEGA, and so much more.

From design to delivery, we handle every aspect of fabrication in-house! Our capabilities are nearly endless. We have experience in just about every medium and method you can imagine. Have a 3D model you need printed? Our large format print makes that possible. Need something foam sculpted, hard-coated, and finished, so it’s durable enough to stand up to 100’s of daily climbers? We have experts that can make that happen. What about large-sized CNC routing, hotwire foam cutting, painting (including specialty work like chroming), finishing, fiberglass, vacuforming, sandblasting, or welding? We do all of it and more.

Don’t know what you need? Not a problem. Our team will work with you to find the best solution to bringing your design to life.

Storyland Studios' fabrication and production teams are a unique combination of artists and artisans with decades of experience in bringing creative ideas to life. It doesn't matter if your project is a three-story tall replica of an ancient artifact, a miniaturized model of a future theme park, or a unique VR experience of a lost civilisation; we can build it. (And we've made all of those.)

Fabrication

Our expert fabrication team takes themed environments to the next level. We have provided the entertainment industry with top-notch, themed fabrications built entirely in our multi-acre magic factory based in sunny Southern California—including work for LEGO, LEGOLAND, Marvel, Universal Studios Florida, Warner Bros., FAO Schwarz, SEGA, and so much more. From design to delivery, we handle every aspect of fabrication in-house. Our capabilities are almost endless.