For many years now, there has been a commercial on TV where the reigning Super Bowl MVP is addressed thusly, "You've just won the Super Bowl ... now where are you going?" To which the player gleefully responds, "I'm going to Disney World!"
Well, one 2010 graduate of Aurelia High School recently got to go to both Disney World AND Disneyland within a two-week time frame - and it wasn't just to ride the rides and see the sights. No, it was kind of a "working vacation."
Amanda Swanson, the daughter of Byron and Michelle Swanson of Aurelia, is that fortunate young woman. Amanda is currently a sophomore at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake.
The interim at BVU has been renamed the "J Term," standing for January, which is when the term's classes are held. For her January 2012 J-Term class, Swanson chose to take a class called "Storytelling With Disney," in which the students were able to learn all about the behind-the-scenes creations on-site at Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
From January 3rd until January 17th, five Buena Vista University students, along with two business professors, learned about eight key strategies involved in storytelling: Experience, Service, Collaboration, Presentation, Listening, Magic, Memorable, and Image.
For example, the train station at the entrance is as big as it is to cover up what is behind it - the Disney castle. The tunnels are filled with posters that guests walk by in order to enter the park, and they are there to act as the "previews" to the film/world you are about to enter. The students also learned about how when the "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" attraction first opened, the Abraham Lincoln robot malfunctioned, and it started to leak a red liquid. This horrified some guests because they thought Disney was trying to replicate his assassination.
On another tour of Disneyland, the students were able to see a fire station with Walt Disney's apartment upstairs. They found out that there used to be a fire pole that went up into Walt's apartment, but it had to be boarded up because children were starting to crawl up there when Walt was home. Not only did they learn this secret about Walt's apartment above the fire station, but they also learned that there is credit given to people who helped make the park possible located on the windows of Main Street U.S.A.
During their time in California, the students were also able to enjoy a bus tour around Hollywood and Santa Monica, and they were amazed to see some of the places movies were shot. Some of the magic was lost, however, when they found out the areas were actually much smaller than they seemed to be in the films. For example, said Amanda, the town in "Nightmare in Elm Street" was only a block long. Among other sights, the students were also able to see where Julia Roberts got picked up in "Pretty Woman," and the jewelry store her necklace came from.
The students were also amazed at how many "fake actors" and homeless people roam the streets of Hollywood, and their bus driver warned them to not take pictures of the "fake actors/actresses," because they sometimes take the tourist's camera and charge them in order to get it back.
After that dose of reality, the students enjoyed Santa Monica Pier, which marks the end of Route 66 and also the beginning of the Paxific Ocean.
After California, the group took a "long flight" straight to Florida, where they
stayed in the Pop Century Resort at Disney World. Though they were starting to get tired, Amanda said they still made it to their early classes at Disney World. Once there, they were able to see what happens "behind the scenes." Amanda said that Disney is "very particular in all they do, and there are actually lines backstage near the gates that tell cast members in parades when they are out of the public eye and can stop dancing."
The Magic Kingdom is unique among Disney parks, in that it is the only park with an underground walkway and the students were privileged to go into this walkway, where they saw "princesses without their makeup and carts full of food to satisfy guests."
The students also learned that there are certain requirements, such as height and build, which need to be met to be a certain height and build, to be a character cast member at the Disney parks. Another specific Disney requirement is that the princess wigs be groomed every two days.
While at Disney World,the group was also pleased to learn more about Animal Kingdom, and found out that that park does not have fireworks because of the presence of the animals.
During their Florida sojourn, the students were also able to go to Universal Studios, where they saw soundstages where a variety of both large and small films are filmed, and also went to "Islands of Adventure," where they enjoyed the new 'Harry Potter' attraction.