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Phil Hettema

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Known for  The Hettema Group
Name  Phil Hettema
Movies  Beyond All Boundaries

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Occupation  President and Creative Executive
People also search for  David Briggs, Douglas Yellin, Nick Mueller, Chris Ellis

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Philip D. Hettema (born 1955) is the President and Creative Executive of The Hettema Group. Prior to starting his own company in 2002, Hettema worked as the Senior Vice President of Universal Creative and in managerial positions at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. He has also been credited as a production supervisor of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics, and has several patents to his name.


Phil Hettema FSU College of Fine Arts Phil Hettema

Sate 2014 storytelling a conversation with kenneth feld moderated by phil hettema

Early life

Phil Hettema InPark Magazine Phil Hettema and Eddie Newquist Newest Board

Hettema was born in 1955 and grew up in Southern California. As a kid, his family would make an annual trip to Disneyland, which he has described as the "highlight of his life".


By the age of 18, Hettema was studying music at California State University, Long Beach, with weekend employment in the wardrobe department at Disneyland. After a short stint, he was relocated to the character department to work on parade design and costume development. Hettema quit his music degree as he was promoted to managerial positions within Disney. In these roles he oversaw the development of the Main Street Electrical Parade in Florida. Hettema quit Disney and returned to California to study illustration at Art Center College of Design. Before he could finish the degree he was offered a job working with puppets for Sid and Marty Krofft.

Hettema then worked with a number of Walt Disney Imagineering employees to develop attractions for a Beatrix Potter theme park in England. Although this theme park never eventuated, these connections led to him working as one of three production supervisors on the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The production supervisors from the Olympics then worked for Liberty Weekend, a celebration for the centenary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.

Universal Creative

In January 1987, Hettema joined the six-person team at MCA Planning and Development, Universal Parks & Resorts' research and development division that was later renamed Universal Creative. He joined as a line producer for an upcoming show at Universal Studios Hollywood; however, on his first day he was told the existing script was discarded and he would be required to start fresh. During the development of a show themed to the Rambo film series, Hettema was informed the show's theme would be changed to Miami Vice. This left Hettema and his team less than four and a half months to develop the Miami Vice Action Spectacular, prior to opening on July 4, 1987.

Hettema's next project was to help design Back to the Future: The Ride, which was originally set to debut at Universal Studios Hollywood. Steven Spielberg tasked Universal Creative and the Totally Fun Company create a simulator ride concept based around Back to the Future. The project was an attempt to better George Lucas' Star Tours that had recently opened at Disneyland. However, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts were building Disney-MGM Studios, a studio tour-themed park, something Universal had previously envisioned for the Florida area. As a result, plans to develop Universal Studios Florida were revived and Back to the Future: The Ride opened in 1991 at the park.

Not long after the opening, planning began for a second theme park at the Florida site. Hettema worked on the initial concepts of Cartoon World, a park to feature DC Comics, Dr. Seuss and Warner Bros.-themed attractions. With the successful release of Jurassic Park, and unsuccessful negotiations with Warner Bros., the designers had to rethink the concept of the park. Islands of Adventure was subsequently developed featuring the intellectual properties of Dr. Seuss, Jurassic Park, Marvel Comics, Jay Ward Productions and Paramount Pictures. While Hettema oversaw much of the park's design, he is credited with helping to invent the ride systems for The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and The Cat in the Hat.

As the development of Islands of Adventure was wrapping up, Universal Creative employees began developing concepts for Universal Studios Japan and the Men in Black: Alien Attack attraction for Universal Studios Florida. Hettema headed up both projects. The Men in Black design team initially intended to utilise the Spider-Man ride system; however, when shooting tests were performed on the ride, the vast motion of the vehicles made it impossible for riders to achieve a reasonable score. As a result, The Cat in the Hat system was selected for Men in Black: Alien Attack. A patent relevant to the attraction's technology cites Hettema as an inventor.

Before finishing up with Universal Creative, Hettema is credited with working on Backdraft, Jurassic Park: The Ride and T2 3-D: Battle Across Time. He was also part of the team that made the first pitch to Warner Bros. for the rights to Harry Potter in amusement parks. As part of their proposal, a stage show was devised consisting of live actors and a variety of special effects. In other Universal Creative planning meetings, Hettema voted against the company obtaining the theme park rights for The Lord of the Rings. Hettema left Universal Creative in 2001.

The Hettema Group

Before forming his own company in 2002, Hettema was contacted by Abdullah II of Jordan to work on a personal project. After accepting the project, Hettema and a small group of friends, collectively known as Phil Hettema and Associates, flew out to Jordan on one-way tickets. From 2002 through to 2006, the team developed concepts for the Saraya Aqaba development in Aqaba. Phil Hettema and Associates ultimately became The Hettema Group.

The Hettema Group subsequently performed a number of projects for various clients around the world. These have included Dragons Wild Shooting at Lotte World, High Roller in Las Vegas, and the One World Observatory in New York City. Additionally, The Hettema Group has also worked for Universal Creative, reimagining the original Jurassic Park ride for Universal Studios Singapore where Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure was subsequently opened.


With Universal Creative
With The Hettema Group


Phil Hettema Wikipedia