In a Galaxy, Far, Far Away… Disney Stories Owe it all to Space Science

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Disney Parks Blog recently staged a galactic meet-up for fans. A fanboy dream mash-up of panellists included superhero storytellers, imagineers, and representatives from NASA. The discussion delved into the connection between storytelling and space science.

It seems that anyone who enjoys a good Disney story may also possess the potential to be a scientist.

The panel included Disney imagineers Amy Jupiter and John Mauro, Marvel Entertainment’s VP of Development, TV, and New Media, Stephen Wacker, NASA Astrophysicist Dr. Kimberly Ennico Smith, and retired US NASA astronaut and Navy pilot Captain Mike Foreman. The panel enlightened the audience, drawing from their respective fields, on how the marriage of storytelling and science is a gift to both entertainment and technology.

The panel made a case for an innate connection between science and popular culture, with one being influenced by the aims of the other. They asserted that TV shows, movies, and comic books tap into the hopes and dreams of their markets. Wacker said that the foundation of the Marvel universe is space storytelling. He explained that at the core of everything they did was built on wish fulfilment and hopelessness, all based on science.

Dr Smith said that when extra attention is paid to a comic book story, in particular, that the reader knows that they’re out of the realms of reality and that they only start to doubt that reality when you throw in elements of truth. She also praised the realism of creative thought when talking about Iron Man’s creation of his particle accelerator. She said that she was impressed by the thinking behind Tony Stark’s character and how he infused elements of engineering.

We see this willingness to accept worlds out of reality in all sectors of entertainment. Illusion is one such sector. Did we ever really believe, for example, that David Copperfield escaped from Alcatraz or made the Statue of Liberty disappear? Maybe not, but we suspended our belief just enough to be entertained. We see it also in online gaming. A site such as Vegas Casino, for example, provides other-worldly experiences, with games such as Flying Pigs and Leprechaun Goes to Hell. Users may enjoy playing such fantastical titles, but it is unlikely we really believe that we must save the leprechaun from the fiery flames.

Even Walt Disney was dazzled by advances in the science world, bringing his own vision into his theme park. Mauro talked about what influences imagineers, saying that science has always been a device with which they use to tell stories, right back to the beginning of Tomorrowland.

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