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Source: Mick Charney, 785-532-1103,
News release prepared by: Jennifer Torline, 785-532-0847,

Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010


MANHATTAN -- When Walt Disney imagineer William Hanus gives a Sept. 29 lecture about his work in the world of Disney, it will mark an enchanting evening at Kansas State University for both the attendees and Mick Charney, K-State associate professor of architecture.

Charney taught Hanus before he joined Disney and helped to bring him to K-State for the lecture. When the teacher and student reconnected last year, Hanus gave Charney a behind-the-scenes look at Walt Disney World.

Charney was so inspired by the tour that he began to look at parallels between Disney Imagineering tricks and classroom teaching. Imagineers are very knowledgeable about understanding crowd control, crowd psychology, as well as how to entertain people and immerse them in the Disney experience.

"The wonderful thing about Disney Imagineering tricks is that they are so nuanced that as you are exploring the park, you aren't even aware of the tricks because they are so subtle," Charney said. "That's the way it ought to be in the classroom. It ought not to be a situation where you bludgeon students over the head and say, 'This is how we're going to do things now.'"

Charney saw a connection between the Walt Disney cast working with crowds and instructors working with groups of students. He created the workshop "Designing Courses the Disney Way: Translating Imagineering Tricks into Teaching Strategies" and recently presented it at the 35th annual Improving University Teaching International Conference in Washington, D.C.

In his presentation, Charney took several Imagineering tricks and applied them to teaching in the classroom. For instance, "plus-ing" is when imagineers make something as good as they can and then try to make it even better, which can be a paradigm for teaching.

Imagineers avoid dead ends in their designs, and Charney said the same could apply to classrooms -- any tangential topics should circle back around to the discussion at hand instead of leading to a dead end.

"Hidden Mickeys" are small Mickey Mouse heads hidden in architecture throughout Walt Disney World. Charney said "Hidden Mickeys" could be found in the classroom when teachers hide "mickeys" or mistakes, surprises and ideas in their course content. When students discover the "mickeys" on their own, it excites them and enriches the experience for them.

"A lot of these are tricks I've been doing in the classroom all along, but without a name," Charney said. "Now I've got some validation through Disney that these tricks do work, so this is what I am going to try and do more deliberately."

Charney is preparing his Disney Imagineer presentation for future conferences.