A Reflection: The Most Magical First Assignment


(Image courtesy of Walt Disney World® Resort Theme Park. Image was found at https://www.travelocity.com/things-to-do/walt-disney-world-resort-theme-park-tickets.a459711.activity-details?endDate=2022-08-17&location=Bay%20Lake%2C%20Lake%20Buena%20Vista%2C%20Florida%2C%20United%20States%20of%20America&pwaDialog=&rid=6034611&startDate=2022-08-03)


Disney World and graduate school have more in common than meets the eye. To the outside world, both seamlessly create high-quality results. Potential customers are in awe of how Disney World and Graduate School produce world-class experiences at a relatively high price. Recently, I was organizing my computer and came across my first graduate school assignment for my Strategic Communication Research Methods class. No two graduate school assignments are alike. My program allows students to pursue their interests when choosing research topics. To pay homage to my University of Central Florida roots, I decided to write about Disney World. Disney World is only forty-five minutes away from UCF's main campus. Many UCF hospitality students work in resorts, theme parks, and restaurants. So, Disney was not only the place where I had the chance to leave the UCF microcosm but also the place where I got to see my friends.



(Image courtesy of Andy Martin Jr/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock. The image was found at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/21/disney-world-coronavirus-staff-worry-covid-19-reopening)


It has been almost two years since I wrote the following assignment. We are fortunate enough to see either the first steps or a solution to some of the problems plaguing 2020. We live in a time where we admit the deeply ingrained problems of society and take the necessary steps to remedy the problems. I used images from 2020, 2021, and 2022 to show how Disney is continuing its promise of showcasing BIPOC characters and stories. With that, here is my assignment. I hope you like it.



RQ: What messaging did The Walt Disney Company offer in response to the 2020 dynamic?

Insight 1: Carousel of Progress


Introduction: There is always a better tomorrow. Currently, The Walt Disney Company’s messaging shows the world that there is a better tomorrow in the wake of the ills of now, also known as the Carousel of Progress. While the world stands still in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Walt Disney Company’s American theme parks continue to move forward by modernizing the landmark attraction Splash Mountain at both Disneyland and Disney World and by updating the façade of Cinderella’s Castle at the Disney World.


(Disney unveiled its new Splash Mountain concept art, themed to 'The Princess and the Frog.'

| CREDIT: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY. The image was found https://ew.com/movies/disney-splash-mountain-retheme-opening-tianas-bayou-adventure/)


Data:

One can begin to see the Carousel of Progress ideal demonstrated on June 25, 2020; both Disneyland and Disney World posted how the beloved Splash Mountain Ride will cut ties with the 1946 movie Song of the South and become the home to the 2009 movie Princess and The Frog themed attraction.[1] On each park’s Instagram account, both posted the same message, with only the accounts tagged differing. The Disneyland post was the most liked post timespan of this study, while the Disney World post was the second most liked post in this interval. This message has a F.O.G. Index of 7.9. This score allows anyone with a seventh-grade reading comprehension level to understand the meaning of the message. Besides, this score allows non-native English speakers to understand the crux of the argument. Disneyland and Disney World Instagram followers had very polarizing reactions to this post. Some wanted to petition Disneyland and Disneyworld to save the ride, while others praised this move as a step towards BIPOC equitable representation. While the sun sets on Song of the South’s Splash Mountain, the Princess, and Frog’s ride is rising to new heights.



(Disney unveiled its new Splash Mountain concept art, themed to 'The Princess and the Frog.'

| CREDIT: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY. The image was found https://ew.com/movies/disney-splash-mountain-retheme-opening-tianas-bayou-adventure/)


On July 9, 2020, Walt Disney World debuted its “new” Cinderella Castle. The once iconic grey structure is now boasting a vibrant pink exterior. This post was Walt Disney World’s most liked image from the timespan of this study. The post has a F.O.G. Index of 6.8. This score allows anyone with a sixth-grade reading comprehension level to understand the meaning of this message. Walt Disney World followers had a wide array of opinions over the remodeling. Some fans loved this makeover, while others complained that Disney vandalized its masterpiece. Cinderella’s Castle makeover demonstrates how 2020 is a year of change at the Walt Disney World theme park.


(Disney shared this concept art for the castle's makeover in February. CREDIT | Disney Parks. The image was found on https://www.insider.com/disney-fans-react-to-new-cinderella-castle-colors-2020-7)



Analysis:

The Princess and the Frog announcement came at an exciting time. Since the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the Black Lives Matter Movement (B.L.M.) has shined a light on police brutality and BIPOC civil rights in the United States.[2] On June 6, 2020, half of million people protested alongside the B.L.M. movement throughout the United States.[3] On June 25, 2020, Disney Land in California and Disney World in Florida announced how both parks would update the Splash Mountain ride's storyline. This announcement came when the central topic of conversation was this new wave of the civil rights movement.[4] The posts’ definite tone leaves Disney fans and critics no room to judge the language's semantics. Both posts have an easy reading comprehension level that allows fans of all ages, language skills, and learning styles to understand that Disney’s American theme parks are working towards a better tomorrow by showcasing BIPOC characters' merits. This perfectly timed message shows the world that Disney Land and Disney World are not anchored down by systemic racism; instead, Disney is looking towards the future by spotlighting BIPOC characters.



(Disney's Encanto features a star-studded cast including Stephanie Beatriz and John Leguizamo

DISNEY. The image was found https://www.newsweek.com/disney-encanto-voice-cast-stephanie-beatriz-1653234)


This one data point is a prime example of the social media strategy employed by Disney World. If the researcher had a larger budget, it would be very interesting to ask different groups across the geographical, political, and socio-economic spectrum to garner their responses. It would be interesting to see the contrast between rural and metropolitan America and how those subsets of the population believe in different things. It would be fascinating to ask interest groups such as the Christian Coalition, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and Environmental Defense Fund for their opinions on the topic. In the past, Disney worked with each of these interest groups on different issues such as movie censorship, civil rights, and environmental rights at their American theme parks.[6] The Walt Disney Company is a global brand that allows anyone to be a part of the family as they watch Disney movies, wear Disney products, or visit Disney attractions. For Disney to reach every possible shareholder, Disney must effectively communicate across the political, racial, and ideological spectrum in over to get the same message across to everyone. These particular interest groups all interact with the company and its subsidiaries. As a result, Disney needs to be aware of what each is thinking. The researcher also believes that the data is particular to this one post. If the study’s period was over one year instead of one month, then the data can encompass the overall company’s ethos rather than just one month's tone. If given more time, I can look at the long-term social media strategy, which will enable me to see how the Carousel of Progress Principle is carried out on a range of topics from attractions, food, etc.



(Disney released its adaptive Halloween costumes and wheelchair cover sets on Monday. CREDIT | Disney. The image was found https://www.insider.com/disney-adaptive-halloween-costumes-wheelchair-covers-2020-8)


Cinderella’s Castle renovation proves to the world that Walt Disney World was not stalling nor regressing during its four-month closure in 2020. This makeover subtly suggests that Disney World continues to grow and evolve while the rest of the world stands still. Although this post had a mixed reaction in the comment section, this was the most liked post with over six hundred thousand likes. The rationale for why this post received so much attention comes down to this: The Walt Disney Company embodies the Westernized family ideals.[8] Since its inception, Disney’s movies, parks, and television have remained loyal to its values of innocence, morality, and wholesomeness.[9] This ethos is seen in all of the Disney-related content. Cinderella’s Castle is the embodiment of Disney’s values.[10] When a change occurs in the building's exterior, subconsciously, fans see this as a change in values. This step towards modernity has fans wrestling over the fact that Disney is not a stagnant ideal but rather a Carousel of Progress.



( Image depicts Raya from the movie "Raya and the Last Dragon." Credit | Walt Disney Animation. The image was found https://www.businessinsider.com/raya-and-the-last-dragon-viewership-jumps-on-disney-nielsen-2021-7)



The researcher believes that this post has a multi-layered meaning. If the researcher had more extensive time for this study, it would be fascinating to dive deeper into how this one exterior change shows Disney's evolution. The researcher would then look at other posts with a similar qualitative post that deals with the same topic. If the researcher had a larger budget, the researcher would interview Disney Instagram followers of different generations (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z). Questions would include what the Castle symbolizes to them when the Disney Park closes/changes iconic attraction. Does it deter customers from going to the parks, and how can Disney evolve its attractions without changing its overall messaging? Intergenerational communication is essential because Disney has had a generational buy-in since its inception. As a result, Disney has been a constant in American culture since the 1930s. To see the company is evolving, it needs to ask how different generations view changes to make a solution.




(Image credit DISNEY. The image was found https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/magic-kingdom/cinderella-castle/)










Bibliography


Alter, Rebecca. “Florida Governor Approves Disney World Reopening: Here's Everything We Know.” Vulture. Vulture, June 25, 2020. https://www.vulture.com/2020/06/disney-reopening-plans-for-theme-parks.html.

Best, Joel, and Kathleen S. Lowney. "The Disadvantage of a Good Reputation: Disney as a Target for Social Problems Claims." The Sociological Quarterly 50, no. 3 (2009): 431-49. Accessed September 9, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40220139.

Buchanan, Larry, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal K. Patel. “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 3, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests-crowd-size.html.

CLIFF Notes. “American Government.” Types of Interest Groups, 2020. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/american-government/interest-groups/types-of-interest-groups.

Hill, Evan, Ainara Tiefenthäler, Christiaan Triebert, Drew Jordan, Haley Willis, and Robin Stein. “How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody.” The New York Times. The New York Times, June 1, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/george-floyd-investigation.html?auth=login-facebook.

Mecchi, Irene, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton, Tim Rice, Elton John, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, and Jeremy Irons. The Lion King. The Lion King , 1995. https://movies.disney.com/the-lion-king.

Pallotta, Frank. “'It's the Heart of the Brand': Disney World Reopens as Coronavirus Cases Spike in Florida.” CNN. Cable News Network, July 9, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/09/media/disney-world-reopening/index.html.

Pham, Sherisse. “TikTok Is Winning over Millennials and Instagram Stars as Its Popularity Explodes.” CNN. Cable News Network, May 5, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/05/tech/tiktok-bytedance-coronavirus-intl-hnk/index.html.

Reichert, Corinne. “Disney's Splash Mountain to Get Makeover amid Black Lives Matter Push.” CNET. CNET, June 25, 2020. https://www.cnet.com/news/disney-to-retheme-splash-mountain-amid-black-lives-matter-push/.

Sheppa, Lara, Wes Holzerland, Kathy, JCJang, Matt, Dick Hercher, John Dex (full), et al. “COVID-19 Expert Reality Check.” Global Health NOW, February 20, 2020. https://www.globalhealthnow.org/2020-02/coronavirus-expert-reality-check.

“Update on Disneyland Resort Operations.” Disneyland Resort. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://disneyland.disney.go.com/travel-information/.

Whitten, Sarah. “Disney's Splash Mountain to Get 'Princess and the Frog' Makeover.” CNBC. CNBC, June 25, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/25/disneys-splash-mountain-to-get-princess-and-the-frog-makeover.html.

Yasharoff, Hannah. “'See You Real Soon': Disney World Officially Closes Its Doors amid Coronavirus; More Disney Closures Announced.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, March 16, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2020/03/16/coronavirus-disney-world-officially-closes-after-drawing-big-crowds/5057229002/.

— Caroline Champlin and Caitlin Hernandez, — Alyssa Jeong Perry, — Jackie Fortiér, — Sharon Mcnary, — Carla Javier, — Kelly Puente | Long Beach Post, — Mike Roe, et al. “Disneyland, Universal Studios Closing Due To COVID-19.” LAist, March 12, 2020. https://laist.com/latest/post/20200312/disneyland-coronavirus-closes-shutdown.

[1] Whitten, Sarah. “Disney's Splash Mountain to Get 'Princess and the Frog' Makeover.” CNBC. CNBC, June 25, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/25/disneys-splash-mountain-to-get-princess-and-the-frog-makeover.html. [2] Hill, Evan, Ainara Tiefenthäler, Christiaan Triebert, Drew Jordan, Haley Willis, and Robin Stein. “How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody.” The New York Times. The New York Times, June 1, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/george-floyd-investigation.html?auth=login-facebook. [3] Buchanan, Larry, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal K. Patel. “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 3, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests-crowd-size.html. [4] Reichert, Corinne. “Disney's Splash Mountain to Get Makeover amid Black Lives Matter Push.” CNET. CNET, June 25, 2020. https://www.cnet.com/news/disney-to-retheme-splash-mountain-amid-black-lives-matter-push/. [5] CLIFF Notes. “American Government.” Types of Interest Groups, 2020. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/american-government/interest-groups/types-of-interest-groups. [6] Best, Joel, and Kathleen S. Lowney. "The Disadvantage of a Good Reputation: Disney as a Target for Social Problems Claims." The Sociological Quarterly 50, no. 3 (2009): 431-49. Accessed September 9, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40220139. [7] Yasharoff, Hannah. “'See You Real Soon': Disney World Officially Closes Its Doors amid Coronavirus; More Disney Closures Announced.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, March 16, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2020/03/16/coronavirus-disney-world-officially-closes-after-drawing-big-crowds/5057229002/. [8] Best, Joel, and Kathleen S. Lowney. "The Disadvantage of a Good Reputation: Disney as a Target for Social Problems Claims." The Sociological Quarterly 50, no. 3 (2009): 431-49. Accessed September 9, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40220139. [9] Ibid. [10] Ibid. [11] Mecchi, Irene, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton, Tim Rice, Elton John, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, and Jeremy Irons. The Lion King. The Lion King , 1995. https://movies.disney.com/the-lion-king. [12] Ibid. [13] Alter, Rebecca. “Florida Governor Approves Disney World Reopening: Here's Everything We Know.” Vulture. Vulture, June 25, 2020. https://www.vulture.com/2020/06/disney-reopening-plans-for-theme-parks.html. [14] Sheppa, Lara, Wes Holzerland, Kathy, JCJang, Matt, Dick Hercher, John Dex (full), et al. “COVID-19 Expert Reality Check.” Global Health NOW, February 20, 2020. https://www.globalhealthnow.org/2020-02/coronavirus-expert-reality-check. [15] Pham, Sherisse. “TikTok Is Winning over Millennials and Instagram Stars as Its Popularity Explodes.” CNN. Cable News Network, May 5, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/05/tech/tiktok-bytedance-coronavirus-intl-hnk/index.html. [16] Best, Joel, and Kathleen S. Lowney. "The Disadvantage of a Good Reputation: Disney as a Target for Social Problems Claims." The Sociological Quarterly 50, no. 3 (2009): 431-49. Accessed September 9, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40220139. [17] Ibid. [18] Ibid. [19] Ibid. [20] Best, Joel, and Kathleen S. Lowney. "The Disadvantage of a Good Reputation: Disney as a Target for Social Problems Claims." The Sociological Quarterly 50, no. 3 (2009): 431-49. Accessed September 9, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40220139.



Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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