June 29, 2011

Imagineering a Better Future

SCA students win Best in Show at Disney design contest

USC School of Cinematic Arts students have won awards for writing, directing, cinematography, editing, game design, scholarship and just about every other aspect of storytelling for the moving image and, on June 17th, the School added imagineering to the list by winning “Best in Show” for innovation at the Disney Imagineering’s ImagiNations Competition.

Imagineering Mentor Leia Mi, Molly Martens, Jannae Fong
and Joe Rothernberg

“I was in such disbelief I was shaking! I think the first thing I did was group-hug my teammates...it really felt like a fairy tale ending,” said Joe Rothenberg, the lead of the design team and a John C. Hench Division of Division of Animation and Digital Arts student. “My courses at USC taught me how to collaborate with others, how to be comfortable speaking on a stage and helped me expand my artistic range. USC also sharpened my critical thinking skills, showing me that every project, even a theme park ride, should be based around a clear, defined idea.”

The winning project is a roller-coaster style balloon ride through the jungles of South America called Adventure is UP There! which was inspired by the Disney Pixar film Up. The design team includes SCA student Rothenberg and USC Viterbi School of Engineering students Jannae Fong and Molly Martens.

“I am very proud and pleased that Joe, Molly and Jannae won First Place,” said DADA professor Tom Sito. “I was their faculty adviser, but it was they who took the initiative to get together, initiate the project and seek out my help. I helped them with their concept story line, since the key to a Disneyland attraction is not just how you can toss the visitors around, but that the ride has a credible plotline, with a beginning, middle and end.”

Projects were voted on based on their creative, technical, artistic and business skills in designing a ride, attraction, hotel or a land within an existing Disney theme park or resort. The six teams of finalists visited Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale to make professional presentations to the judging panel, interview for paid internships and visit Disneyland. During their week at Imagineering, the teams met and networked with Imagineers from a variety of disciplines.

“The win was a great surprise but considering Tom Sito mentored and Joe led the team to victory I understand how they won,” said Kathy Smith, the Chair of the Animation Division. “Tom is a Disney veteran and highly respected in the industry. We are extremely lucky to have him as a faculty member at USC. In addition, Joe is a wonderfully talented and entrepreneurial student who I believe will do great things in the future. This is a great start for him.”

The Animation Division recently inaugurated the Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg Center for Animation and is currently preparing for the 2011-2012 school year.