Phil Hettema

President and Creative Executive

Phil Hettema has directed the design and production of numerous theme park rides and shows, cultural attractions and museum exhibits for more than 35 years.  The team at The Hettema Group, led by Phil’s creative vision and extensive experience, is known for creating attractions that focus on maximizing the guest experience through innovative storytelling, compelling technology and a commitment to emotional resonance.  The Hettema Group creates stories you can touch.

Founded in 2002, The Hettema Group (THG) provides full-service design and production capabilities, from initial ‘blue sky’ concept designs through delivery and installation. The highly collaborative team of veteran designers, creative artists and production specialists at THG are constantly striving to create the next great attraction.  

The One World Observatory, currently under construction at the new World Trade Center building in New York City, was designed and produced by the THG team.  An hour long experience including underground exhibits, special effects elevator rides and interactive elements on levels 100, 101 and 102 will provide visitors to the WTC an unparalleled experience.

In 2011, Caesars Entertainment contracted THG to design the guest experience for the High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel, now open in Las Vegas.   Recently completed projects include"Dragons Wild Shooting" at Lotte World in South Korea, an interactive, game-based dark ride with entirely new and funny dragon characters that delight guests of all ages; development of the USA pavilion at Expo 2012 in Korea; and design and master planning of Sanrio’s Hello Kitty theme park in Anji, China.  “Beyond All Boundaries,” a 45-minute, large format, immersive theatrical attraction for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans opened in 2009 and has won numerous awards for its powerful message and impactful delivery.

Prior to forming his own company, Phil Hettema was Senior Vice President, Attraction Development for Universal Studios Theme Parks Worldwide for 14 years. He was responsible for the creative development of all major attractions and shows, including Terminator 2: 3D, Jurassic Park, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Backdraft and many more.  He oversaw master planning for all five Universal parks, including domestic and international expansion for Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s PortAventura (Spain), and Universal Studios Japan, and, most notably, the conception and delivery of Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida.

Phil began his career as a designer at Disneyland and Walt Disney World before going on to play a key role as production supervisor for major worldwide events such as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games and the Liberty Weekend Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration in New York City.

His credits also include projects for Steven Spielberg, the Walt Disney Company, Dreamworks SKG, Sid and Marty Krofft, and David L. Wolper. He has been a guest lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University, USITT, IAAPA, KIN, and SIGGRAPH. Phil holds four patents for entertainment technology solutions and has been honored with numerous Thea awards from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) including Theas for Beyond All Boundaries (2010), FiestAventura (2000), The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (2000), Universal’s Islands of Adventure (2000), and Terminator 2:3D (1997).