This course meets on campus twice a week, and has field trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida
Disney theme parks have attracted millions of visitors since the opening of Disneyland in California in 1955. To date, there are Disney parks in California & Florida in the USA, and parks in France, Japan, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, China. This course will explore the explicit and implicit religious dimensions of one of these parks – Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida. The insights gained in this course apply to the entire global Disney Theme Park empire.
Starting in January on campus, students will participate in a seminar-style class to explore a variety of theoretical frameworks and topics in Religion and Disney to understanding religion in contemporary contexts. Concepts to be explored include civil religion, hyper-real religions, and religious consumerism. Students will also study the ideological history of Disney theme parks, including an emphasis on the religious dimensions of Disney’s constructed pasts (the frontier, the antebellum), futures (the retro-futurism of Tomorrowland, Pandora & Star Wars) and the global village as represented in EPCOT and Animal Kingdom.
This course includes a fieldwork component. Students will travel to Orlando, Florida, to stay 8 nights at Walt Disney World. While at Walt Disney World, students will visit all four WDW theme parks, ride every major attraction, attend every live-action theatrical event, and explore every themed area of the parks. Students will meet daily with the instructor to discuss the religious dimensions of Disney ideology as experienced at the theme parks. A valid passport is required for this course.
Five written assignments
Religion in Disney Parks Colloquium – Research Presentation and written analysis
Participation in field trip
Five Written Assignments
Students must read assigned weekly readings, and come to class prepared to discuss the key points of each reading. A written assignment, noting key points, strengths, weakness, and questions arising from the readings must be handed in at the end of each class. Assignments must demonstrate a clear understanding of the theoretical and ideological concepts presented by each reading. All assignments must be completed prior to the field trip component of the course. Five assignments worth 10% each = 50%
Students must keep a daily journal during the field trip to Walt Disney World, in which they record their insights and analysis of primary field experience. These journals will provide data for the presentation/analysis assignment below. Students must also meet with the instructor at a set time each day of the field trip (usually over breakfast.) A copy of the field journal will be submitted to the instructor at the conclusion of the field trip component. Field Journal – 10%
Disney Parks Colloquium topics
Students may work independently or collaboratively with another student to prepare a research presentation on a topic within the scope of our course. Topics should be chosen before the field trip begins. Topics might include: Civil religion in Disney Theme Parks (How Disney constructs a sacred America); Disney Eschatology (Where did we come from and where are we going, Disney theme park style?); Disney Parks and Cultural Evolution (It’s a great big beautiful religion-free tomorrow?); Disney’s Implicit Religion (the meaning, nature, and purpose of life according to Disney); Death and the afterlife in Disney Parks; Good and Evil in Disney Parks; The Sacralization of Nature in Disney Parks; the Occult in Disney Theme Parks; the Commodification of Religion in Disney Theme Parks; The Construction and Commodification of Dreams in Disney Theme Parks; and many other possible topics (must be approved by the instructor before research begins.)
Disney Parks Colloquium Presentations
Students must present the results of their research and analysis in a colloquium open to members of the university community. This colloquium will be publicized through posters and through announcement via the Arts email list. Student presentations will take the form of media-rich presentation on a topic approved by the instructor. Photographs, video clips, merchandise, park maps, audio recordings, etc. collected during the field trip will be used to bring the topic to life. Presentations must be made using presentation software (powerpoint, keynote, presi, etc.) Each student or pair of students if working collaboratively will meet regularly with the instructor to discuss the topic, how the material will be organized, how the work will be divided, the proposed schedule of results, etc. Within one week of the presentation, students will submit a written summary of the research, specifying the contributions of each student if working collaboratively, and addressing any questions raised by classmates and members of the university community during the presentation stage. Grades will be assigned based on both the presentation and the written summary. Presentation/analysis = 40%