If you could take a Class about Disney....What Topics would you want it to include?

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If you could take a Class about Disney....What Topics would you want it to include?

Hi all,
While I've posted to a handful of threads on the forum, this is the first time that I've tried to start one... so I hope I'm going about this correctly. mickey

As a precursor to this discussion, I should reveal that I'm a college professor teaching at a small state college .... and the idea of creating a "special topics" course on Disney has been bouncing around underneath my Mouse Ears for a while... So I figure who better to ask, but some of the biggest Disney Fans I know?

So... To clarify ....
--- This cannot be a "film" or animation course (because a colleague already teaches a broad history of animation)
--- While some history would probably make its way into the course, it would not be solely a history course.
--- The focus would probably be communication or persuasion related topics.

SO.. I ask:
If you could take a college class on Disney, what would you want it to include?

-- Also, as a caveat, a "special topics" course is just that - a course that chooses a unique or interesting topic, and is only offered on occasion (once every few years)

Thanks in advance... I look forward to your thoughts.
Sorcerer Mickey

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While I find Disney history interesting, I'm more fascinated in their day to day operations.

The main areas of interest for me are:

Customer service - I think most people agree that Disney has this down to a science. I'd like to learn more about this science and how it is applied to their operations in various venues such as parks, transportation, and hotels. Even the simple things like the rule about cast members not pointing at something with a finger vs gesturing towards something with 2 fingers or an open palm.

Crowd management - simply a study of how Disney processes large quantities of people through their system each day. As an example, a cast member once told us that they monitor the crowd levels in different areas of the parks and if they want to alleviate bunching in one area, they will send an impromptu small parade through the crowded area. They have found in doing this, a good portion of people will follow it out of the crowded section to a less busy section. Stuff like this.

Technical operations - this can cover a gamut of topics. Things like ride operations, security, transportation, ticket and admission processing, online reservation system, fastpass system, groundskeeping, maintenance etc. This list is endless.

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KenJ wrote:

Technical operations - this can cover a gamut of topics. Things like ride operations, security, transportation, ticket and admission processing, online reservation system, fastpass system, groundskeeping, maintenance etc. This list is endless.

another area of interest to me would be warehousing , like where do they receive and store all the food and merchandise that comes into WDW in the course of the day. Where do they store and work on all the Christmas decorations over the course of the summer etc.

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I'd really want to know more about designing and planning of attractions. How (and who) decides when a ride or attraction should be retired or refurbished, how do you go about designing and then building a new ride (and how long it takes from concept to an actual ride), etc. That would totally fascinate me. yay clapping clapping

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Vettelover wrote:
KenJ wrote:

Technical operations - this can cover a gamut of topics. Things like ride operations, security, transportation, ticket and admission processing, online reservation system, fastpass system, groundskeeping, maintenance etc. This list is endless.

another area of interest to me would be warehousing , like where do they receive and store all the food and merchandise that comes into WDW in the course of the day. Where do they store and work on all the Christmas decorations over the course of the summer etc.

Holiday D-Lights is a tour that goes to three parks. I enjoyed this in 2013. Part of the tour included the ware house where all the Christmas decorations are stored and renovated. Unlike most tours it is in the evening so no waking up at 6 am for an 8:00 check in!

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I would do a Walts history and vision class, I loved hearing how he wanted the parks to look, feel and how the current execs are trying to adhere to that.

Also I listened to a talk a while ago on how Tesco and Amazon became so successful in marketing, maybe a class on what made Walt and the parks so successful, what did he do to change the face of the marketing and merch industry.

The impact of perceptions of his films and how that translates to the parks and attractions, for example some films have massive followings in one country and not in another, how does a character or film get to be in the park or even get a ride of their own? (I've always wanted more Wall-e presence)

Crowd control and park flow are fascinating too.

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What are you a proff. in? That would make a difference. I would be interested in how the atmospheres are created & the techniques used to evoke certain emotions or feelings. For instance the use of perspective and scale, sounds and music in each area, how they transition from one area to another. Also how odors and lighting is used in & out of attractions, the difference between the day & night experiences.
I would be willing to bet a lot more goes into creating these atmospheres than the average visitor would ever guess.

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I would want the course to start with Walt, because I don't think anyone can get an understanding of what the Disney Company tries to accomplish without looking at its original dreamer. It should cover how he came to believe in the things he did regarding creating the atmospheres and sets of the different lands, what that meant to him, and the standards of look at service that he demanded of his cast members.

From there I would want it to talk about Disneyland and the intimate structures that draw people into the story, how different effects are used to create an experience that is beyond the norm. What the basis of the Lands and the layout of them was designed to do. How that related to the design in Floridas Magic Kingdom and the other WDW Parks. I would like to learn about expansion to France and Japan.

I would want to discuss how the Disney Company relied on corporate partners from the very beginning to serve its guests the best available products and how those relationships shaped the parks. I'd want to hear about how those relationships have changed over the years and how the global economic environment worked on how sponsorships lasted or not. And how people react to new corporate partnerships being formed in the current age.

I'd look at the growth of the Eisner years, the shareholder revolt, and how Bob Iger taking over effected and changed the growth and structure of the company. I'd want to here about the "One Disney" concept and the ways that that really changed how things were done. I'd like to hear about the decline of Disney's customer service due to so many people gaming the system, and how that has effected everything.

I would absolutely want to learn about the ways that the Internet fan community forced Disney to up it's technology game and the way that fan based communications both spawned new communications channels for Disney, and how that type of communications continues to grow and change the way things are done.

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Economics of the World. Pricing, competition, marketing, pricing plans, self perform verse third party suppliers. This would include park admission, tours, food, resorts. Is Disney effected by normal economic conditions of the world? Is it immune to some? Is it more susceptible to some? I believe there is so much to learn from how Disney has price and performed through the years.

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Hi all, I apologize for not replying back sooner... but I was visiting family for a week (and attending a family reunion).

As a result, I was not only visiting my folks, but helping my mom out because we had relatives visiting too. To say the least, it was a very busy week.

I will say this WOW! I am a bit overwhelmed.... these are things that I hadn't even thought of... and certainly could be the basis of --several courses-- I've truly enjoyed reading your thoughts! THANK YOU all.

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wdwizbest wrote:
What are you a prof. in? That would make a difference.

I am a professor of communication. I teach plenty of sections of public speaking, but also teach classes in communication theory, persuasion, and rhetoric, and have taught organizational communication as well.

But, when starting the discussion I didn't want to "taint" the possibilities too much... because there are a lot of possibilities out there, and ways to make certain topics work... The trick with a special topics course, is that I still need to make it somewhat relevant to the students who are taking the class and their program of study.

So, I know that Disney has a book out there called "The Disney Way", not to mention the book about Pixar called, "Creativity, Inc", both of which would easily fit into the realm of "organizational communication" and leadership.

I was also thinking about this literature base called "American Exceptionalism", and how the "Disney Dream" as well as things like "Tomorrow-land" and EPCOT - "Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow" fit within that worldview or mindset.

There is also a "Feminist" criticism of Disney that is pretty prominent... given the traditional Princess/Rescued by Prince format of so many of the films.... I've noticed that Disney has pushed back on this a bit with an advertising campaign on Disney Channel, that "Princesses are Powerful."

In general, there is a lot that could be covered by way of "identity politics" and the Disney Films...not to mention the "marketing of culture" given disney's global expansion and even the structure of Epcot's world showcase and the lands at the animal Kingdom.

Given all of the Disney nature/documentary films, as well as films like Bambi, and the Lion King.... there is plenty that can be discussed by way of Disney's environmentalism or environmental messages (even by way of their own recycling programs and attractions like "The Land").

But I hadn't even thought about the architecture of the parks, which someone already posed as a possibility... there is plenty of research out there on how "space" or architecture communicates. In fact, when they built the new Shanghai park, I remember some of the promotional videos saying how much bigger the park was, in part because they made the streets and sidewalks larger so to accommodate cultural preferences re: space.

These were some of the thoughts dancing around in my head.... but this discussion has given me so much more to think about... Thanks so much to all !!!

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SorcererMickey wrote:

There is also a "Feminist" criticism of Disney that is pretty prominent... given the traditional Princess/Rescued by Prince format of so many of the films.... I've noticed that Disney has pushed back on this a bit with an advertising campaign on Disney Channel, that "Princesses are Powerful."

I actually wrote a paper on this topic in Disney's defense when I was in college, arguing that Disney is (as all companies are) held captive to zeitgeist. They are powerless to shape the culture if the culture is not willing. Can you imagine if Mulan or Brave or Moana had been released in America in 1937? Any one of them would have indeed been Disney's folly. Even the Little Mermaid as it was presented in 1989 wouldn't have played well at that time. There's also the institutional racism angle.

Personally, I would be fascinated to learn about transportation and crowd control strategies, but you may have some challenges coming up with a "textbook" for that material. I would take any of the classes that were suggested in the previous posts!

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