Twelve students selected as semifinalists in Disney Imaginations Design Competition

By Julia Brown

ATHENS, Ohio (March 8, 2018)–For students in the Storytelling, Technology and Digital Media in Theme Parks class, the pinnacle of the class is entering the Disney Imaginations Design Competition. The competition, which began in 1991, is created and sponsored by Walt Disney Imagineering to help develop the next generation of Imagineers. The 2018 competition challenged students to revitalize a real-world abandoned ghost town.

This year, out of over 270 entries, three teams from the Scripps College of Communication class were selected as semifinalists, placing them in the top 15 percent of participants. Semifinalists are invited to apply for select Disney internships and have an opportunity to get feedback from Disney Imagineers. First place went to a team from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

For Media Arts & Studies Associate Professor Beth Novak and Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab Director and Instructor John Bowditch, there is hardly a better way to learn about storytelling than to examine the Disney theme parks and the magic that goes into them. Thus, the Storytelling, Technology and Digital Media in Theme Parks class was born.

“While visiting the parks in 2011 with my family, I was struck by the convergence of everything we do in the college into a deep storytelling experience that respects the audience,” Novak explained. “I thought, ‘This is the perfect example to demonstrate to students what we can achieve with our disciplines.’”

“While visiting the parks in 2011 with my family, I was struck by the convergence of everything we do in the college into a deep storytelling experience that respects the audience,” Novak explained. “I thought, ‘This is the perfect example to demonstrate to students what we can achieve with our disciplines.’”

Since its inception in 2013, COMM 4023 has acted as a synthesis class that attracts students from each of the five schools within the Scripps College of Communication. Their fall semester is spent studying the storytelling elements that go into creating the multimedia, immersive environments of theme parks, followed by a weeklong trip to Disney World to see these elements in action. For students like Dani Young, a senior publication design major, this class has been on their radars since freshman year. In her words, “Who wouldn’t want to learn everything about Walt Disney World?”

“This interdisciplinary course and study abroad program is distinctive in how it provides students to see how digital storytelling applies in a world-renowned setting like Disney,” said Dean Scott Titsworth. “Professors Novak and Bowditch have carefully crafted this experience to make it high-impact and exciting. This extra effort on the part of faculty members that results in an experience that students will remember and benefit from for years.”

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