Alumni Stories

Phil Hettema

BFA 81 Illustration

Phil Hettema, the president and creative director of The Hettema Group (THG), creates stories you can touch. Since 2002 THG has been interweaving compelling narratives with technology to create experiences with emotional resonance. Through close collaboration, the designers, artists and production specialists at THG have provided design and production capabilities from concept to delivery.

Hettema, a graduate of ArtCenter’s Illustration Department, has directed the design and production of theme park rides and shows, cultural attractions and museum exhibits for more than 35 years. Leading the THG team, he was responsible for the award-winning One World Observatory at New York City’s new One World Trade Center. The hour-long interactive experience opened in 2015 with underground exhibits and special effects elevator rides. For Caesars Entertainment, THG designed the High Roller experience, half an hour of entertainment which offers the best views of Las Vegas. Other projects include Dragons Wild Shooting at Lotte World in South Korea; the USA pavilion at Expo 2012 in Korea; Sanrio’s Hello Kitty World theme park in Anji, China; and Beyond All Boundaries, a 4D immersive film experience for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

Hettema’s career as a designer began at Disneyland and Walt Disney World before he became a key figure in the production of events on the world stage, such as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and the Liberty Weekend Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration in New York City. During his 14 years with Universal Studios Theme Parks Worldwide, he was senior vice president of attraction development, responsible for the creative development of all major attractions and shows, including Terminator 2: 3-D, Jurassic Park, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Backdraft. He oversaw master planning for all five Universal parks, including domestic and international expansion.

He has also worked on projects for Steven Spielberg, The Walt Disney Company, DreamWorks SKG, Sid & Marty Krofft and David L. Wolper. He has lectured at Carnegie Mellon University, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions and SIGGRAPH. The holder of four entertainment technology patents, Hettema has been honored with numerous Thea Awards from the Themed Entertainment Association.

More Alumni Stories