Yves Pépin, president and creative director of ECA2, is one of the world’s leading creators of multimedia shows and large-scale events. To date, his most mesmerizing spectacle is widely felt to have been the multi-awarded Eiffel Tower Millennium Show. “Paris’s barrage of light and color,” wrote People magazine, “was the jewel in the new Millennium’s birthday crown.” A view underscored by the American author and fireworks expert George Plimpton. “Paris,” he declared, “was literally a spectacle I will remember for the rest of my life.”
On March 18, Pépin will receive the 2005 THEA Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed on him by his peers in the Themed Entertainment Association, the international industry body for creators of compelling places and experiences. Pépin will be the first non-American recipient of the award in its 12-year history.
“Yves Pépin has been a creative leader and innovator throughout his career,” says Phil Hattema, president of the Thea Awards Committee. “He has brought excitement, emotions and entertainment to millions of people through his many shows and spectaculars. He has a special ability to combine technology, pyrotechnics, performance and special effects with compelling imagery and story to create unforgettable larger-than-life experiences, which still retain a personal and human connection with the audience.”
“This award,” says Pépin, “is a mark of recognition for a body of original work created outside of the mainstream and the major institutions. It also recognizes Europe’s creativity and expertise in themed entertainment, a sector in which the Americans are the undisputed masters. I’m very proud to receive it.”
A native of Bordeaux, France, Pépin pursued a specialist music education up to age 16. After working as a French radio and TV producer, in 1974 he founded ECA2, a design and production company, which has been part of Publicis Events Worldwide Group since 2002.
“I was drawn to the themed-entertainment genre by my desire to communicate with a wide and diverse public–to build bridges between cultures, and to conceive languages that reach out and touch each audience’s emotions,” says Pépin.
The company designed, under his direction, the logos for Concorde and Air France, among others, and produced the first interactive visuals for the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre, before shifting its focus to the production of multimedia shows. In 1989 Pépin, a keen innovator, created and developed the process of Cinema on Water Screen (AQUASCAN®), a system subsequently adopted by Disney and Universal Studios, among others.
“The key advance in recent years has been our increasingly sophisticated use of computers,” he explains. “But technologies are moving slower than we think. My colleagues and I primarily seek to harness them in ground-breaking ways and in original contexts – that’s the essence of the constant innovation to which we’re dedicated.”
Yves Pépin has built a worldwide reputation as a designer and producer of ground-breaking multimedia entertainments for one-off, semi-permanent and permanent performance. He has conceived and staged one-off productions for a host of landmark events, including: the EuroDisney Opening Ceremony, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1998 Football World Cup in Paris, and the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.
His most notable semi-permanent shows for major fairs and expos include night-time spectaculars at the Seville Universal Expo in 1992, the Yamaguchi Expo in Japan in 2001; and the tremendous “Opera of the Future”, a blend of robots, dancers and performers which last year attracted 2.5 million spectators to the Aichi World Expo in Japan. Pépin also creates permanent multimedia facilities for theme parks such as Sea World (USA), Planète Futuroscope (France), Sentosa Island (Singapore), and TokyoDisneySea (Japan).
Yves Pépin’s track record is studded with accolades. Prior to his THEA Lifetime Achievement Award, his work had most notably earned three THEA Awards in the Live Event Spectacular category – for “AquaMatrix” at the 1998 Lisbon World Expo, for his globally acclaimed Eiffel Tower Millennium Show in Paris, and for the “El Tajin” history show at the archeological site in Veracruz State, Mexico.
His favorite-ever show? “The next one, of course,” he says, smiling. Forthcoming locations for his work include Lyon in France, Singapore, and Dubai. But while Pépin travels the world conjuring unique and unforgettable entertainments, there is one constant – the moment that thrills him most in the creative process, “when an idea takes shape so compellingly that it seems like the obvious, inevitable answer.”