Near her left collarbone, Deborah Berk ’12 has a simple tattoo of the Mickey Mouse silhouette, but her love of Disney is more than skin deep. During a trip to Disneyland her junior year of high school, she saw the effect Disney has on imaginations. “Kids are willing to be silly and play and believe anything is possible. In order for anything to be possible, we have to believe it’s possible. That appealed to me as something worth continuing,” says Berk. “I want to isolate what is so special and timeless about Disney.”
Now a senior economics and theatre double-major, she’s taking her hobby and looking at it academically through a Mentored Advanced Project, “Deconstructing the Disney Magic,” advised by Celeste Miller, lecturer in theatre and dance. The project is Berk’s own idea. “It’s the first time I've taken something, one of my own hobbies, and taken the time to do academic research and think about it critically. It’s really empowering,” she says.
A self-designed project, the first half started in literature and interviews, weaving through child psychology and theatre books, watching movies, and interviewing Disney historians and producers, trying to distinguish what makes the appeal of Disney movies different from those of Dreamworks or Fox. On May 12, Berk will present storyboards she created for two scenes in a new movie she’s imagined about the adventures of Lewis and Clark.
While watching movies seems less than curricular, it hasn’t been a walk in the park for Berk. “Over spring break, I went to Burbank, Calif., and interviewed a Disney historian. When I started this project, I didn’t know anyone who worked at Disney. I didn’t have an ‘in.’” Luckily, she had friends who did. “Through some networking, I was able to find real people to talk to and make connections with, but I didn’t have everything set up until the week before spring break!”
Berk’s love affair with Disney doesn’t end with graduation — she has been accepted into the Disney College Program as an intern in the Walt Disney World costume shop, starting in July and ending in January, and hopes to pursue arts administration in the future.
By Mona Ghadiri ’11