The Disney Parks may be closed, but their magic still spreads through UCLA’s new Disney Club.
Spencer Beck, a third-year English and psychology student, founded the newest incarnation of UCLA’s Disney Club this year as she said she wanted its magic to be present on campus. After searching for an existing Disney Club during her freshman and sophomore years, she said she discovered the club has been inactive since 2016. After months of preparation, Beck said she decided to restart the Disney Club during this past winter quarter to have a place where UCLA students can share their love of Disney with others.
“I decided to take the challenge and I’m super passionate about Disney, so I thought it would be a really fun way to get more involved on campus and make more friends,” Beck said.
From guest speakers to presentations, Beck educates students on all aspects of Disney that could be used in their professional lives. One notable guest speaker was Joshua Rush from Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack,” who used his celebrity status to discuss voting rights and encourage UCLA students to let their voices be heard in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.
In addition to activism, Beck said she and the other club officers give presentations about the Disney company as a whole. On Wednesday, former Imagineer Terri Hardin and Cinde Fortino, founder of the annual Be Our Guest dinner, spoke to students about their roles in the Disney corporation, as well as provided advice to students interested in working for the company. A key member in planning these events and meetings is Kristen Abernathy, second-year biology student and the club’s internal vice president, and one meeting in particular stood out to her.
“We had a meeting about how Disney and Pixar concepts evolve from concept to what you actually see in the movie theater, and I thought it was really interesting because I’ve always loved those really big Disney coffee table art books,” Abernathy said. “It was really cool to be with people who also had that weird enthusiasm.”
Contrary to the expectation that a new club would struggle as a result of the current pandemic, the Disney Club has flourished. From the success of its social media pages, Beck said the club has gained many new followers and keeps current members engaged through events such as Disney movie nights and biweekly general meetings Wednesdays via Zoom. In order to attract students to participate in these virtual meetings and events, Paige Brunson, first-year design media arts student and the club’s graphics artist, designs graphics to portray the club’s lively atmosphere.
“We wanted to go for a vintage vibe for our logo, so we used the original Disneyland sign that used to be outside, and I just made another graphic that will be used for virtual Bruin Day that will help promote the club,” Brunson said.
While the club is continually brainstorming strategies to attract UCLA students, Beck said she has been able to take advantage of the new online format to engage and connect with Disney lovers not just at UCLA but across the country. After first connecting with local Disney clubs at Chapman University and California State University, Northridge, Beck said she was able to expand nationally and come in contact with clubs in Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and New Jersey, allowing UCLA students to be able to communicate with a wide range of people while quarantined at home. Now, the Disney Club’s virtual events and meetings are open to anyone who wants to share their love of Disney with others, Beck said.
“I think it’s important that we have a space where people can talk and have a sense of community and not feel so isolated during this time,” Beck said.