May 17, 2012
By Johanna Becerra
Today we went to Disney’s Imagineering office in Glendale and then we went to Disneyland. At the Imagineering office, we had a presentation about the Disney resort in Tokyo. We learned that the Disney Resort in Tokyo is the only resort that is not owned by Disney but is instead owned by the Oriental Land Company, while Disney guides it. The Imagineering office has 140 different disciplines that people can work in, ranging from artist to engineers. The environment in this office was amazing! I would love to be an engineer for them one day! We learned about their creative process, starting from “blue skies” to what we see on TV. It is a very long process that involves a lot of people.
VP of Park Operations and his assistant, Donna Hicks, very generously arranged a number of associates to speak to students.
At Disneyland we got backstage access to the park, where VP of Park Operations Jon Storbeck happily greeted us. We were then given a presentation about Disney’s new bear Duffy; he was a great success in Japan, and other Asian countries. Overall this Disney experience changed the way I see Disney. Now, every time I see something related to Disney I am inclined to analyze it since I know more about where it came from and what it took to develop it.
By Guadalupe Cardona
Disneyland! We visited the “happiest place on earth” today and spent half the day getting to know what goes on back stage. We started at the Imagineering Studio where essentially all the magic happens. The artists, animators, sculptors, builders, and inventors that have put together the Disney World we all love work there. The sculpture room we visited was thrilling. I have never seen anything like it in my life and it was breathtaking. Then we had presentations from associates at Disneyland in Anaheim. They provided information about how their marketing and sales happen. They really study their locations. Here in California, they make their money in ticket sales while in Tokyo it is in merchandise. Then we learned how high their profits were when presenting Duffy the Disney Bear to Japan. I learned for the first time who this bear was; he turned out to be Mickey’s teddy bear. I’m excited to see if Duffy is big in America and takes over Pooh.
But what I kept hearing is the fact that America is fast and profit-oriented while Japan is patient and oriented towards pleasing its residents. In a sense, America puts products on the shelf and prices them according to how good the quality is. However, Japan makes sure everything it brings to the public is the best quality no matter what price they put on it. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if Disney fit into my research topic. But the pre-conceived notions both cultures have of each other are the basis of my paper and understanding how the cultures come together fits the Disney business well. Their beliefs of how each country works affect the way they do business together. It was interesting to see how they make it work? It all seems to be connecting at some point and it’s very exciting. I can’t wait to visit Disney in Tokyo! As for the rest of the day, shopping on Main Street, being on the rides, and watching the parade was the way to go.
By Rikiesha Pierce
Today we had the longest day of any so far since beginning the program. We headed out at 7:30 and went to the Disney Imagineering lab in Glendale to get a behind the scenes look at how ideas are developed, cultivated, and turned into reality both on the screen and at Disneyland Theme Park. This was an amazing opportunity to peer into the psyche of corporate business, and opened my eyes to the money-making machines that dominate many of the mainstream media platforms that are most pervasive in society today. Listening to the presentations made me become aware of the importance of economic prosperity in the dogma of business. From the opening of new theme parks around the world to the creation of animated films, every aspect of the media was controlled by profitability. This did not shock me in the least; yet, I was disappointed that the social impact of representation on screen as well as the desire to develop progressive representation were not driving factors in the operations at Disney.
Our tour continued to the Disneyland Park where we received countless presentations from Disney executives about the marketing, industrial engineering, design, and merchandizing of Disney brand both domestic and abroad. Disney has a very comprehensive corporate structure superb at turning ideas into profit. The emphasis of economic growth and development throughout each of the presentations given highlighted the importance that profit is in the operating ideology of Disney. Adherence to a corporate model of success designed with the average American Disney consumer in mind may deter the construction of more diverse characters as they may seem less profitable to the Disney market. I asked one of my fellow scholars to try to think of a Disney movie in the present day animated through their partnership with Pixar that featured an African American, Hispanic American, or Asian character. She and I both were unable to. Maybe I am not thinking deeply enough, but to me there is a problem when I have to ransack my brain to remember a character of color but can rattle off the names of 5 White leads featured in Disney using the same criterion.
My passion in life is to create media that counters hegemonic notions of normalcy in society, and I am committed to diversifying representations of people of color as well as increasing their visibility in the media. Disney played such a profound role in my childhood as a force that provided me with a discourse to imagine myself into roles that I could never truly experience in my childhood. I used to pretend that I was Princess Jasmine from Aladdin and would sing my heart out to my make-believe Prince, hoping that someday I could be as beautiful as she was to me. To me, Princess Jasmine was black and someone I wanted to be, because I had never seen anything closer to myself represented in Disney to that point. In fact, by the time there was a black Disney princess, I was already an adult.
After the presentations were finished, we ventured into the park and were able to experience the ‘magic’ of Disney. I must admit that the work in the park was amazing. Every detail had been considered, every nail hammered in, and the imagination of the people at the lab in Glendale sat sprawled in front of me. I had an opportunity to get closer to my Topping family and spent the day taking pictures, riding attractions, and looking in the gift shops at all of the Disney merchandise. We had a great time together and had some very interesting conversations about race, our communities, and our positions in society as first generation college students at a private elite institution compared with those who do not attend a private college. We contrasted these conversations with our observations of the patrons of the park. I felt remis that these memories were insulated within the experiences of those who could afford it, and would never be available to those who could not. As a money-making machine, Disney is definitely a raging success. As an instructor of racial difference, and a media powerhouse, however, I am still waiting to see some more progressive renderings of people of color in their programing, attractions, and management.