Ever notice in the Disney In Depth banner how “life” is inscribed on the far right? One of the main purposes of the column has been to show how Disney is – and can be – integrated into all of our lives. Until now, though, I have not really detailed in what ways I incorporate Disney into my life. This edition of Disney In Depth focuses on how the Disney theme parks recently came into play during my academic experience.
Were you one of those kids who attempted to show your love for “geeky stuff” whenever the opportunity presented itself? Or maybe even if it wasn’t the most relevant, you tried to throw in that Batman or Star Trek reference to demonstrate your passion for the brand? For me, Disney has always filled that role, and most everyone who know me well personally is fully-aware of the steadfast Disney fervor I possess.
I have built in Disney allusions and major themes into both my college assignments and major presentations, at appropriate moments, of course. Take, for instance, some articles I wrote during my role as editor of Scottsdale Community College’s (SCC) newspaper. I wrote many opinion pieces, with topics as diverse as news bias and social media impacting friendship, and in both I managed to fittingly insert references to “it’s a small world” and Toy Story, respectively.
In leadership roles in various organizations, such as the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, I threw in Disney references at our induction ceremonies. I even had a picture of Mickey Mouse displayed on a PowerPoint slide, alongside my name, as I was “the leader of the club,” so to speak. When I graduated from SCC and was selected as its commencement speaker, I felt it was essential to tie in an inspiring Walt Disney quote into my speech. I did, and thankfully, the audience responded to this quite well.
But the important thing about having enthusiasm toward a certain theme, such as Disney, is how to know how to bring it into the educational (or professional) experience at proper moments. I have always aimed to be sensible and sharp in when Disney serves its purpose in a certain situation. Last year I transferred to Arizona State University’s (ASU) Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and also Barrett, The Honors College. Luckily, during my first semester at this institution, I was able to assimilate Disney into a major class project.
In my Barrett Honors “Happiness in Society” class, my fellow students and I learned about the role communities, nations, and even the entire globe plays into our levels of happiness. Many factors account for this intangible, yet fundamental part of life, and that topic would warrant an entire research paper. For the purposes of this edition, I will share with you how I brought Disney into the class. We students had to write thorough research papers – or creative approaches that carried the same information – as well as develop poster presentations that would tie into a community well-being fair. The topic was in our hands, and I knew I had to include Disney somehow. But what was the connection between Disney and community?
Aha! “One little spark” later and I had my issue. I would analyze the “joyful communities behind Disney parks,” or in other words, explore how the Disney theme park destinations (most specifically Disneyland and Magic Kingdom) encourage feelings of community. This research-filled adventure would figuratively-transport me to fascinating journals and scholarly articles on this subject matter. I learned about several factors that work in a collaborative manner to create the most peaceful and happy community-like experience. Who would have guessed that environment, photography and controlled autonomy could work hand-in-hand to facilitate a joyous theme park experience? Before studying this content, I was not nearly as familiar with the minor tactics Disney throws into the theme parks to promote happiness. Now I hold a much more thorough appreciation for Disney’s capabilities, even if some problems do exist, like any other community.
Over the semester I embarked on developing a nearly twenty-page research paper on the topic, entitled “Happy Kingdoms: An Analysis into the Joyful Communities Behind Disney Parks.” A most ambitious project, yes. A most gratifying project, too. I also created a poster presentation, to complement my topic, for that aforementioned fair held in downtown Phoenix. I drew from my library of Disney photography and design knowledge to develop this fun visual, as well as some of the content found in the actual paper. There was only so much material from my paper that I could fit into this 3′ X 4′ poster. Here is where you can find a PDF of my poster. My classmates and I demonstrated our posters on our respective topics at the event, and spoke with various community leaders on these subjects. Our experiences were quite productive and informative, and I definitely enjoyed learning about my classmates’ topics as well.
My semesters to come at ASU, Cronkite and Barrett will hopefully hold even more chances to hold Disney-related themes, and I look forward to each one that may come my way.
The influence of Disney, or any other passion for that matter, need not stay limited to one’s academic experiences, though. I highly encourage individuals, like you self-proclaimed entertainment geeks, to show your zeal within other parts of your lives – assuming the situation is warranted. Whether you’re hosting a presentation on some topic and need to add a dose of superhero-themed humor, or may be crafting a campaign and feel you can subtly include a line from a favorite film, these little nods help bring us a smile. Of course, not all professions or workplaces lend themselves to sharing creativity. But I truly believe that even something small – like the energies or smart tactics implemented by influential characters – can positively and non-intrusively seep into our lives.
Have ideas on how to slip in references or themes of pieces of entertainment into the academic, organizational or professional worlds? Share your comments and Tweets.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Return to Disney In Depth on Thursdays on Geeks of Doom, and be sure to follow me on Twitter for updates of upcoming editions.