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Class brings Disney magic to CBU

Riverside, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2014) -- A little bit of Disneyland’s magic came to California Baptist University during the summer semester.        

Dr. Jeffrey Barnes, associate professor and dean of academic services, taught more than 20 students in History 401 - Special Topics: The History of Disneyland.

The course provided an historical review of Southern California’s prominent cultural icon. The class focused on topics such as how the park mimics and mirrors the American Dream; the park’s place in American history and culture; its influence around the globe; and Disney’s impact on the entertainment industry.

During the eight-week session, Barnes incorporated entertainment and magic through two field trips and guest speakers. Students were given the VIP treatment at Disneyland for a hands-on experience and received a private tour at Garner Holt Productions in San Bernardino, which creates animatronic figures and more. The class also had the opportunity to hear from an array of guest speakers, who covered aspects of history, biography, culture and construction.

The first guest speaker, Disney historian Sam Gennawey, author of the class’ textbook The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream, shared the beginning stages of Walt Disney’s career, Disneyland’s construction and opening day. Next, Bill Butler, creative director of Garner Holt Productions, discussed his history with both Disneyland and Garner Holt, as well as a technical history of the mechanics of auto-animatronics.  Lastly, Mel McGowan, a former Disney Imagineer and president/founder of Visioneering Studios, presented Disneyland’s architecture, storytelling and theming. McGowan brought a fresh and unique faith-based perspective to Disneyland’s organization and building style. Being a strong believer in Christ-centered communities, McGowan said he viewed his role at Disney as a chance to highlight God’s glory through a form of re-creation.

Barnes summed up the class experience using a quote from Walt Disney himself:  “It really is kind of fun to do the impossible.”