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  1. #1

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    Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    Hi everyone, hope this is an appropriate area to post this.

    I am a grad student in Environmental Design at the dissertation topic selection stage. I am having a really tough time choosing a thesis topic and would like to ask for help in the best place I can think of given my interests.
    My program is a bit schizophrenic-students study everything from urban design to ecology to interior design and everything in between.

    With a background in animation and media and a passion for Disney park spatial-experiences I thought my topic selection would be a slam dunk. I would write about Disney parks, in particular how with WED all these creative disciplines converge to create kinetic spaces, (which is the catch all phrase I use for everything from queues to rides to general park dynamic design).

    However this has been a very difficult process for me. First of all the reception of many profs has been icy due to, I suppose, the whole Ivory Tower mentality as Disney being fluff, (what do they know!). But also because a thesis must break new ground so to speak, and this is my failure having been naïve in thinking I could just look at an area of interest and essentially write about it.
    What I need to do is “solve a problem” as is the refrain in class or more accurately I think, come up with something novel about the topic to look at.

    So you can imagine in academia this has generally been lobbied to me as a topic I should look at as a problem, i.e. the undesired themeing of architecture or the “Disney-fication” of America/the world…blah blah.

    I love Disney and hardly want to write some critique. I want to celebrate this design synergy and this is where I need help! Are there any Disney Scholars here who might be willing to guide me with a topic selection?
    One thought I had was looking at how these kinetic spaces are developed. I know they are generally first conceptualized visually with concept art and later built into tangible scale models.

    I was thinking of perhaps looking at designing a model for this development process using dynamic media techniques –kind of like the way an animatic is developed to get the feel/story nailed down for an animated movie. I might even look at using Augmented or Virtual Reality in this way. However, I can hardly imagine that Disney does not already employ techniques like this. So I thought I would turn here for some thoughts.

    Any comments on this idea or suggestions in general would really be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2

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    Re: Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    As a fellow grad student, I sympathize with you completely!!

    As a developmental science student...I'm approaching your thoughts from a devil's advocate perspective. My 'specialty' is children and media. We study children's learning from and cognitive processing of media. As much as I love Disney, I would hesitate to bring it into my work, as I feel that my emotional feelings would present a huge bias in my research and interpretation of findings. Granted, your program seems to focus less on experimental science and more on critical thinking and design assessment (just a guess from your short description). I would also worry that your strong feelings about Disney would make it difficult for you to be open to others opinions or criticisms of Disney design. However, I don't know your area of academia well enough to apply my own thoughts and experiences to your work.

    Could you do something broader on overall theme park design (historic versus trends of the present and future), developing guidelines based on what you believe are the most successful design elements? That way, you could bring critiques of bad practices in while focusing on the successful things that you like about WED? It would allow you to celebrate what you love without your dissertation sounding like a Disney lovefest.

    Just a few thoughts; they may be utterly useless. Best of luck!!!

  3. #3

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    Re: Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    Fellow two-time grad student here--I feel your pain! (and yours, TikiRoom!)

    I agree with TikiRoom in that your feelings for Disney may not make you the most objective person. You're not going to be able to avoid criticizing Disney. Are you going to have a verbal thesis defense? If so, you're going to have to prepare yourself for an anti-Disney onslaught. I'm not sure I understand your field completely either , but I can tell you that in a thesis you will HAVE to point out things that are wrong in what you're studying.

    My thought was similar to Tiki's. Can you bring it down to a smaller scale? Like, rather than tackling Disneyland as a whole (is this a master's degree or doctorate?), I'd probably bring it down. Maybe look at something like queue design--take one or two rides where Disney completely got it right, and one to two where they totally got it wrong, then do an analysis of both sides, create a best practices, and maybe invent a model attraction with an ideal queue? Or take a section of the park and analyze crowd flow, one good, one bad, and apply it to an original park design. Is that the kind of thing you're studying?

  4. #4

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    Re: Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by ktulu View Post
    [FONT=&quot]I am a grad student in Environmental Design at the dissertation topic selection stage. I am having a really tough time choosing a thesis topic and would like to ask for help in the best place I can think of given my interests.

    However this has been a very difficult process for me. First of all the reception of many profs has been icy due to, I suppose, the whole Ivory Tower mentality as Disney being fluff, (what do they know!). But also because a thesis must break new ground so to speak, and this is my failure having been naïve in thinking I could just look at an area of interest and essentially write about it.
    Greetings. If I could go back to school, I'd take what you are doing. I'm currently eyeing an Environmental Engineering Technology program that I may take in a couple years time if funds become available again - wish I would've taken that instead of Electronics Engineering Technology and my BBA.

    I can't suggest any particular topics, however, today while I had my little earth day Disneynature movie marathon, while watching the Oceans Blu-Ray I decided to watch the featurette: "Disney & Nature: Preserving The World We Share". It opened my eyes a bit more about the company. There's a number of initiatives that I did not know they were involved in. For instance, I thought they started all their "green" initiatives recently when they launched Disneynature, but they've been going at it since the 80s (and actually earlier if you count the True Life Adventures they did during Walt's era). Since your background is environmentally related, I highly recommend checking out that featurette. It's not that long, about 15 minutes maybe. I think it's also on the DVD of the movie (I just took a look on Youtube if it was up, but it's not). You may get some idea for your dissertation from it and perhaps change the mentality of your profs about Disney (I know what you are talking about, I've been through similar situations myself. ) Good luck!

  5. #5

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    Re: Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    Thank you all for the comments, suggestions and especially the well-wishes it’s been a trying time and it’s nice to know that others have been thru some of this themselves.

    I think a lot of my issue does boil down to, as TikiRoom correctly surmises, the nature of my program as geared more towards critical thinking and design. This is what has me banging my head against the wall because I have been advised repeatedly that I need to solve a problem or otherwise apply critical thinking/ design solution to an issue/ phenomenon. To me it made sense to look at how Disney creates kinetic space and the new insight I would be providing would be looking at ways emerging media technologies are beginning to be utilized/ what the future may hold etc. but essentially I have been told that this is not addressing an issue.

    I think that all three of you have provided some good things for me to assess. I didn’t think much about how my attachment to Disney could be skewing my perspective which seems obvious now that it is pointed out. I do have to verbally defend it so it is quite right ShelbyH that I would likely be peppered with pointed questions should my thesis be too fawning in nature. These are certainly things I need to keep in mind.

    I also appreciate your help with thinking about a topic, I honestly think all three are interesting approaches and are certainly worth looking into. Barbossa, I had only recently thought of my interest in Disney in terms of an ecological angle and I will be interested to watch the featurette you refer to. TikiRoom and ShelbyH, thank you both for helping me consider a new lens thru which to consider my rather broad initial interests as I agree the scope needs to be narrowed down considerably.

    Best all!

  6. #6

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    Re: Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    Keep us posted; I'd love to know what you end up choosing!

  7. #7

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    Re: Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    Hello fellow design student
    I'm in interior design and I'm always looking at the design aspect of things and certain spatial relationships. I wish I could help you out but I agree with something that Shelby H said: What if you take two land areas that really work and two that don't and get into the details of that and how that can relate to environmental design. I think choosing a subject close to your interests will actually make you hate this project less than you would had you chosen something irrelevant in your life. I know how design projects can be. I'm in the middle of one that I didn't choose that I'm so bored with and have a long way to go. Good luck with choosing a topic and keep us posted.


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    Re: Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    Thanks Tiki/ Izzy- I will sure let you know how I make out. I will certainly give consideration to that comparative idea as a possible path as it seems like as strong/ interesting direction.

    Take care

  9. #9

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    Re: Disneyland Thesis Ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by TikiRoom View Post
    As a fellow grad student, I sympathize with you completely!!

    As a developmental science student...I'm approaching your thoughts from a devil's advocate perspective. My 'specialty' is children and media. We study children's learning from and cognitive processing of media. As much as I love Disney, I would hesitate to bring it into my work, as I feel that my emotional feelings would present a huge bias in my research and interpretation of findings. Granted, your program seems to focus less on experimental science and more on critical thinking and design assessment (just a guess from your short description). I would also worry that your strong feelings about Disney would make it difficult for you to be open to others opinions or criticisms of Disney design. However, I don't know your area of academia well enough to apply my own thoughts and experiences to your work.

    Could you do something broader on overall theme park design (historic versus trends of the present and future), developing guidelines based on what you believe are the most successful design elements? That way, you could bring critiques of bad practices in while focusing on the successful things that you like about WED? It would allow you to celebrate what you love without your dissertation sounding like a Disney lovefest.

    Just a few thoughts; they may be utterly useless. Best of luck!!!
    I just wrote a research paper on the effects of the social media on children, such an interesting topic and you start looking at the television that our children are watching differently. Where are you studying developmental science if you don't mind me asking? ( I am starting to look into graduate schools )

    As for the original post, like others have suggested comparative work always seems to get the job done. Are you restricting yourself to just DLR or are you open to maybe comparing the way they design their queues over at WDW? I believe I read something about animation design in your OP, why not compare they way Disney films movies such as Cinderella versus Pixar animation style? Hope I was a little helpful

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