Sitting in COMM 4023: Storytelling, Technology, and Digital Media in Theme Parks, or as students call it “the Disney class,” four alumni had no idea the 2019 course would have such an impact on their lives. But on Jan. 15, 2020, Olivia Ujlaki, BSJ ’20, Megan Bomar, BSVC ’20, Samantha Pauley, BSJ ’20, and Nicole Dinan, BSVC ’20, launched their blog Wishes and Wayfinding.
The blog and newsletter focus on telling stories about the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney World. From recipes to attractions and insider secrets, the site is made for Disney adults.
“Wishes and Wayfinding is a community of young adults who ignore the haters and share their love of all things Disney. We’re here to spill the tea on the teacups, obsess over seasonal snack offerings, and sprinkle a little magic into your inbox,” the site reads.
Where did the idea for Wishes and Wayfinding come from?
Olivia Ujlaki [OU]: It was really out of quarantine boredom, but also wanting to write in a non-academic setting. I had realized that while the Disney community is really big, there wasn't a niche for people like us. It's mostly families that have younger kids, the moms and dads, but there wasn't really this Disney adult category. I wanted it to be different, where we could focus on more long-form pieces and put a lot of effort into the content that we were making. We really wanted to make the content Scripps-worthy.
I also looked it up, and there was not a Disney newsletter, there were just these websites. So combining that all together with the target audience of people like us who love Disney, know a lot about it, and want to read about it in their spare time.
How did the four of you meet?
OU: I met Sam in class freshman year. And then I met Megan and Nicole in the Disney class because Sam was sitting next to Megan, and Megan knew Nicole. So then I sat with them because those were the people I knew in the class, and now they're stuck with me.
Megan Bomar [MB]: Nicole and I went to the same high school, middle school, and elementary school, but we just didn't cross paths. I saw Nicole in a class once, and I lost my textbook, and I emailed her to send me textbook pages. Then we ended up having the same major, and then working together, and then also were in the Disney class together. It was just meant to be. I met Sam freshman year of college, and we hit it off immediately. We've been hanging out since then and we lived together sophomore, junior, and senior year after that. Then I met Olivia in the Disney class because she knew Sam.
Samantha Pauley [SP]: Olivia is one grade below us, so it would have been my sophomore year when we met. We had classes throughout the years together and then I knew we were both applying for the Disney class. I had heard Megan talk about Nicole because she's like, “I know this girl from high school and she's also applying for the Disney class.” We all grouped together in the back of the classroom on the first day of class, and then we just stayed there the rest of the semester.
Nicole Dinan [ND]: I did know Megan since kindergarten, vaguely. We weren't really that close or anything, but we did know of each other. I did know of Sam just vaguely through Megan, but I hadn't really met her until the Disney class. The Disney class was the first time that I met Olivia and we became roommates [in Disney] and had a great time. We're great friends now, so I couldn't picture doing this with anyone else.
Why did you want to start a blog for Disney adults?
MB: Partly for fun, but otherwise there's kind of a need for it. Also, it's a nice thing to always have as friends. [We] get to continue to collaborate together, even though we're not in school anymore, and just have something fun.
SP: It's definitely a great way to have that creative outlet and it's nice to have something that you have a responsibility in and something I have to keep accountable for. Being able to still produce work that I went to school for, and continue using those skills, I know it's going to help me in the long run. It’s like if you have any other hobby or passion you want to use it and you want to do things with it, and it doesn't feel like work because it is fun.
ND: I was interested in doing it because since we did our storytelling and technology in theme parks class we found a community there with everybody. I wanted to continue that type of community feeling and create a space where people can experience that with us.
What are your roles at Wishes and Wayfinding?
OU: I will say right away, I'm not the CEO. It was my idea, but we truly split the work equally. We split into a design team and writing team. Sam and I write all of the pieces, and then Megan and Nicole do the illustrations. They totally did the website design, which is something I did not have experience in, which is also why I went to these very talented individuals that I know. I had the vision, but I knew that I couldn't solely execute it, so I needed help from other people.
SP: Olivia came to us probably mid-quarantine in the spring about wanting to do some sort of blog newsletter, something Disney-related. Obviously, we were like, “okay, when do we start?” We're like, “no, actually, we're serious. When do we start?” There was no convincing of any kind. Our strengths and weaknesses work together very well, but we always come back together to make sure everything's cohesive. I think this is where Scripps has really [helped] us because Olivia and I are the same major and Megan and Nicole are the same major, but we all can do a little bit of everything.
MB: Nicole and I are the design team, as we say. We kind of brainstorm the theming and stuff together, though. Everyone reads everyone's articles or looks over everyone's stuff before we do post it.
ND: We also have our social media, so Olivia, Sam, and I work on social media too. I have done a lot of design stuff, I helped with the website, I did write one food review article, and I've done some illustrations as well.
What are your goals for Wishes and Wayfinding?
OU: Follower-wise on Instagram, we're doing great, we're exceeding expectations. I just want to keep improving every single month, get more subscribers, more followers, more engagement on our accounts, more article views, just to show that we are expanding our reach. Also figuring out more of what our audience wants to see because a lot of this is a reciprocal relationship.
MB: The goal is for us to learn with our skills because this is not something that I'm probably going to do in my real job. The community is more important to me than the number of followers and stuff. I'm going into it with the attitude of “we're going to learn and hopefully our followers will learn.”
SP: The community is what we're striving for the most. It was also really cool because we had a few Disney Imagineers follow us. Those are people that we look up to in this industry, so the fact that they may be noticing us is really exciting. Also, I feel already like my writing has improved from the first newsletter to the second one, and I think that's going to continue. The site will grow with us and mature with us.
ND: The main goal for us right now is just trying to find the people who are like the ones that we're writing for, and get them subscribed, get them involved in our community, and just get them engaged.
Who is the community you’re writing for?
ND: We're looking at mid-20s people who are interested in Disney and they're interested in the behind-the-scenes and inner workings of how they create the experience that you have when you get there.
MB: It’s just like the people in the Disney class. I almost feel like we're trying to replicate that community that we've established with the whole class.
SP: There's a lot of sites that are just for Disney aesthetics, and ours is more of the knowledge and how things are created. Our first newsletter started as that aesthetic and trying to grab people in, but this next one there's sturdier content.
OU: The inspiration came from that New York Post article where they say childless millennials shouldn't go to Disney anymore. It was a very negative article, but it's the same sort of demographic. We don't have kids, but we still like going to Disney and we appreciate the immersion, the magic, the behind-the-scenes, the intricacy, and the detail. Not just going and saying we like going on rides and we like Mickey Mouse. [We] like how the place was made and how they continue to expand it and make it even more magical as the years go on.
What does being a Disney adult mean to you?
OU: It gives me something that makes me happy and that transports me to another world, and also keeps me creative and in touch with my inner child. That's sort of the message that Walt Disney had when he was creating the park. It was a place where you could go and just be a little kid again for the day. For Disney adults while you're standing in line, you look at everything, you look up, you look down, and shout out to Beth Novak because that was her thing. There is so much work put into every single thing that you see and do and you don't have to love and care about that, but that's the differentiating factor.
MB: When you say Disney adult, I think some people definitely have that negative connotation that it's immature or silly, but for us, it's more about being totally obsessed with how they pull people in and make you really live a story. Being okay to be a child because it doesn't mean you're immature that you want to go to Disney, have fun. Life's not this serious. I wouldn't consider myself a Disney adult before [COMM 4023]. I like Disney and my parents like Disney and I'd been there, but I wasn't at the level of nerd that I've achieved. I think [Beth and John] really pushed that, which I am very glad about.
SP: It's something that is so much bigger than yourself that can be broken up into something that can be personal for me. How Disney Imagineers might notice us or something, it's something so big, but we're just this little tiny dot in the Disney universe. So there's a TikTok, and the sound is "So we all know horse girls and we all know car guys, but what if I told you there was something much worse? Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you Disney adults.” Kind of breaking that bad stereotype, it's so much more than that to me. I don't think the average person thinks or even acknowledges all that goes on. There's a reason why there's a chip in that wall and it's blue, people don't realize that the smallest details are there on purpose.
ND: It's really valuable to have a group of people that you can connect with over a shared love of something. It’s wild how much they think about it and everything that goes into it for it to be the happiest place on Earth or for you to have a seamless experience with whatever it is. I find it really cool to see the behind-the-scenes of that and then be able to geek out about it with other people who also think it's really cool.