Ohio University

Students gain valuable experience in media design and storytelling principles at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios

Students gain valuable experience in media design and storytelling principles at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios

The COMM 4023: Storytelling, Technology and Digital Media in Theme Parks course gives fourth-year students a chance to experience how different theme parks incorporate media design and storytelling principles into the development process.

Ryan Capal, a fourth-year student studying communication studies, said he appreciated being able to learn about how Disney incorporates technology and storytelling into their guests’ experience.

“This class taught me so much about Disney,” Capal said. “I even got the chance to compete in an Imagineering Challenge, which just got us that much more immersed in the world of Disney.”

In addition to weekly class meetings throughout fall semester, the experience includes eight nights at Walt Disney World Resort and one day at Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida, the week before winter break.

The program’s prerequisites include senior standing and 15 hours of Scripps College of Communication credit and requires permission via an application process. It is a Tier III core class and is four credit hours.

Beth Novak, program director, said the level of work in the class is intensive and requires intellectual maturity in its students, which is why it is only a fall semester class for fourth-year students.

“I enjoy, during the Athens-based portion of the course, seeing the students come together to complete a design project as a part of the Disney Imaginations Competition,” Novak, associate professor in the School of Media Arts and Studies, said. “It is gratifying to see them not only applying the skills they have learned in this course, but also learning from each other.”

Capal said other students should take the class because it is an amazing opportunity to not only experience Disney, but to learn about why they incorporated certain designs, transitions, contrast, theming and more.

“I got to see Disney through a lens that most people don't,” Capal said. “It was so interesting to see Disney World and how it was meant to be created and how they continue Walt's legacy.”

Novak said for students who are interested in careers in communication and media, theme parks are the best laboratory to learn.

“Being able to go to all parks with behind the scenes tours and fast passes made the experience that much more special,” Capal said. “We got to experience the happiest place in the world with some of the best people – all representing Ohio University.”