Driving Question

“How do Disney theme parks shape and influence the cultural, economic, psychological, and social experiences of visitors?“

Like most children in the western world, I grew up watching Disney.

Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Atlantis, Tangled… I’d watched them all. I made it my personal mission to become a fairy princess palaeontologist chemist geologist when I grew up, because dinosaurs and Disney princesses go perfectly together when you’re 4 years old. 

“I made my own signature in my Disney autograph book, very committed. I would probably be the prencess of dinosaurs and pretty rocks. Not to be confused with the princess of spelling.)


What do my childhood obsessions have to do with this project? Well. You could say that the Disney Company had a huge influence on my life, right from the beginning.

There, that word right there… “influence.”

Disney is a highly successful company… and a cultural, generational phenomena that continues to influence the lives of millions. But how? 

We’ve had the opportunity to travel to Disney World on our very first international field study to Florida! During this trip, we experienced, first hand, the history of this company, and how it’s shaped a pop culture view of America. I wouldn’t even know where to start to describe how amazing this trip has been. I’m very thankful to have gone on such an incredible experience.

Let’s get down to business!

It’s rewind time.  

Before we could go to Disney World, we needed to know Disney… Understand Disney… Breathe Disney… LIVE DISNEY. 

Luckily for me, I’ve been preparing for this moment ever since 9 year old me decided to watch literally every documentary about the Disney company. HAH, TAKE THAT WORLD, I knew one of my random obsessions would prove to be useful one day. 

(Now, I’m just patiently waiting for a Star Wars project… p a t i e n t l y  w a i t i n g…)

Anyways, in order to understand the history of the Disney company and its connection to the creation of Americana, we had to analyze a couple of articles. However, we needed a place to create and keep track of these notes… turns out, the answer was just beneath our noses. We learned how capture our knowledge in a system we created in Craft called our “PKMs” (Personal Knowledge Manager.)

Before we went into Disney, we tested the PKM system for a speech about “the Happiness Advantage.” I mentioned this in my Atomic Habits blog post. At first, I didn’t really understand the purpose of a PKM, because I already liked to write my notes in pages… BUT I’VE NEVER BEEN SO WRONG. The PKM system isn’t just about jotting down notes, I also summarize and add my own thoughts.  Through Craft, I can add photos, and send them to anyone as a website. 

Now I can create notes. Beautiful notes. Perfection. I think I’m over-exaggerating, but aesthetic notes improves my learning and happiness by 1000000000000000.   

(Click to View)

The first article we read was about the Disney company as a whole and their influence on American culture. I found this article very interesting, because 9 year old me didn’t associate the connection between the Disney company and Americana. It’s surprising to realize how much influence Disney has. I mean, it’s the power of storytelling at its finest. 

It took a couple of revisions to write my summary of this article, but through this process, I remembered how to write one properly again. I also learned some new techniques, like working backwards to find my topic sentence, which was helpful for the next steps. 

(Click to View)

We also read a book review for a biography on the life of Walt Disney. It had a bunch of fancy words in it (almost like the author swallowed a dictionary and then proceeded to regurgitate it on the page.) Normally, I’m not against the use of long, fancy words… BUT WOW THIS WRITER WAS EXCESSIVE, I’M GENUINELY IMPRESSED.  Ok, I’m probably over-exaggerating again. After decoding the article, the writer’s take was actually interesting though. 

After getting some knowledge, it was time to get more specific. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but the final product of this group project was a documentary filmed in Disney World. We were assigned our groups and topics. I was with Sabrina, Dana, Zach, Landon, and Cole.  Our essential question was: “How have Disney Imagineers woven together creativity and innovative technology to bring art and storytelling to life?”

From the beginning, we began to focus on the animatronic portion of the topic. What better way to weave creativity and technology than with themed robots? (Also I really, really, really wanted to have an excuse to listen to the tiki bird song on repeat.) 

Anyways, we decided to split up the different attractions. I obviously chose the Tiki Room, because only I have the power to listen to it on repeat and not go insane. Honestly, I knew very little about it, which is strange, because its one of my favourite attractions.  This soon expanded into the World’s Fair, an Interview with an Imagineer, Avatar, and Pirates of the Caribbean. 

We took notes from various sources to put into our PKM’s… and you know what that means. Lots and lots of aesthetic notes, because I like it, ok. It’s a good problem to have. 

I’m fairly proud of my PKM’s. I managed to find some cool sources (even an old video with Walt Disney talking about the Tiki Room itself!) and I think I summarized the information well. I enjoyed reading about the history of these attractions and audio animatronics. I highly encourage you to check them out! 

With the necessary information, it was time to piece together the plan for our documentaries.

We started with a pitch board, which meant regurgitating information and trying to piece the parts together like a puzzle. It was honestly fun to madly scribble on the white boards. Such an activity is simply my favourite part of high school, and the thing I’ll miss the most in eventual adulthood (I guess I’ll need to buy my own whiteboard.) 

This process was very helpful in the long run. HOWEVER, we did face some problems with our documentary. To help us get on track, we watched a documentary example… BUT IT WAS ON OUR TOPIC AND ABOUT ANIMATRONICS????! We tried our best to run away from this horrendously beautiful documentary. Unfortunately, it haunted our own efforts to stay original. 

Anyways, moving on from that. We then created the basic things needed for a film production: a screenplay, a storyboard, and a call sheet. I worked on the screenplay, and with my experience in past projects (Romeo and Juliet, my First Film) I managed to improve upon those skills. 

With everything prepared, we were ready for Florida. Well. Not exactly. Our flight got cancelled, and we had to reschedule a bit. In the end, it turned out fine though and I’m thankful we didn’t have a direct flight, because I felt horrible on that first plane. 

Eventually, we arrived in Florida and travelled to the “All Stars Sports Hotel” in Disney World. If you couldn’t guess from the name, the whole hotel was sports themed. There were a bunch of dance groups and cheerleaders there too, and they practiced on the field every morning. It was interesting.

If I were to talk about everything about this trip, I think WordPress would literally die (again) and my teachers would have to read a novel. So, I’m going to try to keep this as concise as possible, which is an impossible task, because I often get distracte— OH WAIT, IS THAT A BUTTERFLY?


We started the trip with Magic Kingdom. It was smaller than I remembered, BUT it felt like I was walking into a story, as expected. For our documentary, I had a valid excuse to go into the Enchanted Tiki Room and get the Tiki Room song stuck in my head for days (unfortunately, the song from the Carousel of Progress destroyed my plans and asserted it’s dominance in my brain for the next month.) I took a ton of shots, and it was cool. 

(I went for a Citrus Swirl this time. It was fantastic. I GOT DOLE WHIP LATER, DON’T WORRY)

Speaking of the Carousel of Progress, I found the attraction to be very interesting, and definitely a Walt Disney endeavour. As a history nerd, it was intriguing seeing Disney’s portrayal of the innovations from different decades. However, I found the jump from the 50s to now was a little extreme. 

I also learned that THRILL RIDES ARE ACTUALLY FUN?????? I used to be terrified of them, but now, I’m obsessed. Space Mountain was my favourite ride from this park. Going really fast in the dark is fun. I rode every thrill ride I could on this trip (except for rock n roller coaster, because it was closed for maintenance *sad face*)

I want to talk about haunted mansion so badly, but my word count is getting higher and I’m scared. So, now I’m going to transition to Epcot. 

(It’s a Disney Duck™)

Epcot was far chiller than Magic Kingdom. The layout was also more confusing (there’s stuff like “Living with the Land” – which I have a soft spot for, World Showcase, and then a giant golf ball.) Knowing Walt’s vision for Epcot, and then seeing what it is today, it’s a completely different place. It was interesting comparing it. 

One of the highlights of Epcot day was doing the Imagination Campus, and we got to get a sneak peak of “backstage.” Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, BUT TRUST ME, IT’S SO COOL HOW THEY HIDE ALL THIS STUFF. We learned about teamwork, and the workshop felt exactly like PLP (the team building activities, the mini whiteboards.) I swear, I was prepared for this kind of stuff. 

I also got to ride the new Ratatouille ride, and it was super cool. The theming of the ride was done super well, and the 3D aspects were amazing. 

However, there was one thing that took the cake. You know how I mentioned my sudden thrill ride craving… WELL EPCOT CERTAINLY DELIVERED. We got to ride the new guardian’s of the galaxy attraction: cosmic rewind, and it was single-handedly the best roller coaster I’ve ever ridden. My goodness, peak imagineering right here. WE WERE IN THE VERY BACK AND THEN IT SUDDENLY WENT BACKWARDS. I SCREAMED SO LOUDLY! 

AAAA time for Animal Kingdom!

This park had much less attractions than its counterparts. However, the latest one was PANDORA! Walking into that section of the park was like coming full circle. Our latest exhibition was Avatar themed, so actually seeing it in real life was cool. Last time I was in Florida, I did manage to go to the Avatar park. However, it just opened and it was super super busy. I went early, and I still waited over an hour to ride flight of passage. This time, we practically walked on! It was just as amazing as I remembered!

The Navi River Journey ride was a different experience. It was themed well… BUT THE REALLY REALLY EXPENSIVE ANIMATRONIC WE NEEDED FOR OUR VIDEO WAS BROKEN AND THEY REPLACED IT WITH A PROJECTION ON A SCREEN. Well, I guess it was a high quality projection, because me without glasses didn’t notice until I was right in front of it.

The animals were also really cute. I REALLY REALLY REALLY liked the bird stunt show we watched. It was a highlight of my trip. I love birds so much.  

Faith, Theryn, Noah, Alicia, and I rode Exhibition Everest 4 times. I have nothing else to add. 

(Canada Arm!)

I’ve never been to Kennedy Space Center, so it was very interesting to visit. It felt like a bridge between a theme park and a museum. I learned a lot about the NASA space missions that I didn’t know before. However, I found it funny that in a video we watched, when the Russians were mentioned, the music got very ominous, while when America was shown, it was heroic. 

I really enjoyed going to NASA, and I wished I could bring my little brothers with me (because they’d love it more than I ever could.)

(I bet you can guess where I went)

Hollywood Studios was my personal favourite, because, well, I guess you know why. I have no words to express the immense joy I felt entering Galaxy’s Edge for the first time. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. My life is complete now. I couldn’t believe how detailed and immersive the park was. I thought I was in Star Wars. The imagineers really outdid themselves. 

The last ride I rode at Disney World was Rise of the Resistance, and it was my favourite part of the trip. I can’t describe how amazing it was. THE WHOLE THING WAS AN INCREDIBLY IMMERSIVE ATTRACTION AND I COULDN’T COMPUTE. 

We also did another workshop. This one was more focused on the work of Imagineers… which means we got a little tour of Galaxy’s Edge. There were so many small details put into it, I was dying. We then got to design our own theme park as a class, and I have no idea what happened there. We tried combining peanut butter jelly and a post apocalyptic world underground, and somehow it created something really strange. It was an interesting experience.

I also finally rode Tower of Terror after years of being terrified of it (haha, funny.) It was not that bad, and I had a lot of fun on it. BUT THE THEMING WAS AMAZING. The atmosphere was incredible, I had no idea how they did it. This trip made me want to be an imagineer, I swear. 

There was so much more that we did. I didn’t even scratch the surface. The restaurants, the experiences, the rides… it was very very busy. I absolutely loved this trip, and I was sad to return home. At least I got a bed to myself again… BUT AT WHAT COST? W H A T  C O S T? 

Since we left a little later than planned, we went straight to Spring Break when we got back. However, when we returned, we went through our footage, and edited our documentary together.

I really wanted to edit the part about the Tiki Room, so I got to do it. I found some vintage footage and posters, which I think adds a lot to the clip. I learned a lot from my past documentary ventures, so I used those skills to edit my part. In the end, we ended up separating our parts and making an individual video out of it. I added a few more things to the tiki room segment and made it my own:

Though I had to revise my part weeks after Florida, I’m happy with the final result. I poured a lot of passion into mine, and I hope it shines through!

How do Disney theme parks shape and influence the cultural, economic, psychological, and social experiences of visitors? At its very heart, no matter how far it may stray from its roots, the Disney company tells stories. Now, I could go on and on about the importance of storytelling throughout human history, but I think it’s easier to say that, if you control the story, you control the people. 

Whether Disney has good or bad intentions, it’s not for me to decide. However, I can say that through its stories, Disney has the power to influence millions of children and adults alike. They have the power to connect us through powerful tales…to make us laugh, even cry for strokes of paint and graphite as Walt intended through his ”Snow White.”

This doesn’t necessarily refer to just movies, but their theme parks as well. Imagineering tells stories through attractions and sets. Their guests can become part of the story, and finally see the stories they’ve grown up with, come to life in front of their eyes. 

Through it all, Disney represents the story of the people, and they will continue to tell that “ever evolving” story for generations to come.