Two Theatre Students Are Finalists in a Selective Disney Competition

The team is one of just six invited to present (and interview for Walt Disney Imagineering internships) in California next week.

By: Meghan Kita  Friday, January 19, 2018 00:00 PM

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Andrew Carey '17 and Noah Sunday-Lefkowitz '18 collaborated on a project that earned them a spot in the finals at the 2018 Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations Design Competition. Photo by Paul Pearson.

It all began with a Google search for “abandoned locations around the world.”

That’s how Andrew Carey '17, a theatre major, and Noah Sunday-Lefkowitz '18, a music and theatre double major, learned about the Kennecott Copper Mine in Kennecott, Alaska, a “ghost town” the pair reimagined as a booming tourist destination for the project they entered into the 2018 Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations Design Competition. This year’s prompt asked entrants to “revitalize an abandoned area,” and the mine—dilapidated barn-red buildings set among evergreen trees in the shadow of snow-capped peaks—caught the duo’s attention.

“There are locations we knew about that surround Muhlenberg and both our Pennsylvania hometowns that might have been interesting, but we wanted to push ourselves a little more,” Andrew says. “When we came across Kennecott, we saw a photo of one of the main structures of the mine and we said, ‘This is it. This place looks so compelling, we need to dig more.’”

Andrew and Noah are one of six teams (out of more than 270 entrants) who will spend five days at Imagineering's headquarters in Glendale, California, next week, presenting their projects and interviewing for internships. In the 27 years the competition has taken place, they’re the first finalists from Muhlenberg.

“We are so excited to meet all the other finalists,” Andrew says. “We’re curious as to how all these other students created these incredible places. To just be in a community of people who are doing the same thing we are, that’s what we’re most excited about.”

While the project itself is under wraps until the competition starts, here’s what Andrew and Noah can share about it: It’s a digital presentation that shows renderings of “Exploration Outpost: Kennecott,” the tourist destination they dreamed up, which would offer activities like hiking, kayaking and whitewater rafting. It also includes visuals of the wearable “Adventure Compass” activity tracker each guest would receive upon arrival and the “Adventure Tracker App” guests would use to log their activities there.

The project required them to create a fictional backstory for the fictional destination—that a child who grew up in the area when the mine was active returned to revitalize it—which they based on their research on the families who lived around the real-life Kennecott Copper Mine. The whole thing is set to music Noah composed: “It has a folk/country-western sound that’s appropriate for the country-style visuals of Kennecott,” he says.

The duo made ideal collaborators: Andrew, who focused on theatrical design during his time at Muhlenberg, produced most of the visuals, while Noah, whose work here includes both scriptwriting and performing, created most of the backstory, each using input from the other to enhance his work on the project.

“The ability I had in all my classes to learn how to best visualize and display complex information has been super helpful as I’ve entered the design world,” Andrew says. “Learning how to dig deeper into a project—to find deeper meaning, more information or some facts about a location—means you can then start building a world that starts to feel real.”