Mel McGowan

Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer

Mel McGowan

Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer

Mel McGowan, AICP, DBIA, LEED AP creatively leads Storyland Studios’s unique, multidisciplinary Spatial Storytelling℠ practice, which integrates master planning, conceptual development, architecture, interior and production design, graphics and wayfinding, and dimensional fabrication and installation. He combines his background in film and design with a decade-long stint at the Walt Disney Company to create a team synergy inspired by Disney’s original Imagineers, designers, and fabricators.

Mel is passionate about creating compelling experiences and immersive environments around the world. Post-Disney, he co-founded Visioneering and PlainJoe Studios, where he led multi-award-winning architectural teams and was named one of the top 25 influencers by OC Metro Magazine. Mel is the author of Design Intervention and an adjunct professor at CBU’s College of Architecture, Visual Arts & Design. Mel is the host of The Themed Attraction Podcast, a show featuring interviews with themed entertainment innovators past and present.

Mel’s experience and portfolio includes the renewal of the Disneyland Resort, Morongo Casino, new urbanist towns, and museum and theme park work in the US, China, and Korea, as well as non-profit cause-oriented projects in the Americas, Africa, Australia, Europe and Asia.

Mel currently sits on the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA)’s Western Board Of Directors, and is a host of the TEA Masters, speaking with legendary industry masters of their craft. In 2021, he was ranked in The Blooloop 50 Theme Park Influencer List.


Mel’s Projects

Poverty Encounter


GIVING VISITORS AN IMMERSIVE, FIRST-HAND GLIMPSE AT THE REALITY OF POVERTY

California nonprofit Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF) wanted to build an immersive and dimensional attraction experience that would introduce visitors to the sad realities of childhood poverty – Poverty Encounter.

Rejecting the predictably common charity video, they wanted to surprise volunteers with an eye-opening journey of insight, empathy, and action.

By telling the true stories of the suffering children through a realistic, walk-through attraction, CHF’s Poverty Encounter recreates the experience of visiting impoverished communities around the world.

Mel worked with the Storyland team to bring these stories and spaces to life, in a close to our hearts project that culminated in the winning of a THEA Award.


Libertyland USA

The Pete Lien & Sons mining company has been a fixture in western South Dakota since 1944. Over the decades, the Liens have made significant contributions to their community. Founder Pete Lien’s nine children wanted to honor their father’s legacy by creating a live-work-play destination that would welcome both residents and visitors to their beloved Black Hills.

The Lien family turned to Mel and the Storyland Studios to master plan and design LIBERTYLAND USA, an all-American theme park, residential and entertainment destination that honors a wide variety of American Journeys (our Big Idea!) that anchors a broader mixed-use destination for travelers and residents to enjoy.

Tap here to learn more!


Storyville Gardens

DESIGNING AN IMMERSIVE, INTERACTIVE THEME PARK FEATURING BELOVED STORIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

DeLisa and Elde Guerrier of Nashville, creators of the Storyville Gardens concept, are partnering with Storyland Studios to bring their dream to life. Storyville’s mission is to draw on stories from cultures worldwide, inspiring children, their families, and visitors of all ages through the profound power of storytelling. The project aims to rekindle a deep love for reading that transcends the basic requirements of formal education and reaches the heart.

Mel and the Storyland team set to create a world inspired by timeless stories from the four corners of the world: Africa, America, Asia, and Europe. Visitors can choose their own adventure, crossing the “Seven Seas” toward the corner of the world that sparks their imagination first. The park’s eclectic combination of classic and folk tales, cutting-edge innovations, culinary delights, and live entertainment will create unforgettable edutainment experiences for visitors.

Tap here to learn more!