Listicles · Princess Life · Uncategorized

Disney Women in STEM

For The United Nations’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science (#IDWGS), I wanted to draw attention to the representation of the phenomenal females of Disney. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many easily recognizable female characters in STEM in Disney media. Of the approximately 200 characters classified as scientists on Disney Wiki, only about 20 of them were female and even fewer were in more than one episode of a TV show or in a major motion picture. Below I highlight some of the better known and lesser known females in science roles from Disney animation, live-action and park attractions.

Animated

Honey Lemon is kind of the perfect combination of the traditional Disney Princess and nerdy scientist. She is kind, optimistic, fashionable AND an adept chemical engineering student. I love how she counters most of the stereotypes of a mad scientist as a crotchety Caucasian man and helps to break down the shock that most people have women can’t be both beautiful and smart.

 

Gogo Tamago is an industrial design and mechanical engineering student in Big Hero 6 who uses the science of magnetism as her super power. Her line of “Stop whining, woman up!” gave a clue into how the culture of San Fransokyo is different from our current society. Athletic and sarcastic, she deserves just as much respect and admiration as the more traditionally feminine Honey Lemon.

Vanellope von Schweetz is an actual Princess (and President!) but also a resourceful enough engineer to build her own kart to compete in Sugar Rush races. She could have used a little bit more knowledge of computer code but her spunk and sympathetic nature make her a very endearing child racing prodigy.

 

Gadget Hackwrench (who also has a ride in Disneyland’s Toontown named after her!) is one of Chip and Dale’s friends (and main love interests) but doesn’t get as much recognition as she deserves. She’s an inventor and tinkerer that always comes up with creative solutions using everyday items. She can be feisty but is nevertheless a valuable member of the Rescue Rangers.

Lesser Known

The majority of animated STEM females have very small roles and in other cases they are the villains, like the Evil Queen, Ursula or Yzma using scientific (but more often just magical) powers to craft various potions. In more recent productions, like on Disney Jr.’s Miles from Tomorrowland, there are some more notable women and girls in STEM.

Tanya Vanderflock from Mighty Ducks is similar to Gadget Hackwrench in that she uses her mechanical genius to help her accomplish team’s goals.

 

Vivian Francis Porter from Kim Possible also suffered from people not taking her intellect seriously due to her stunning beauty. Maybe she’ll make an appearance in the upcoming live-action Kim Possible!

Sara BellumRhoda Dendron and the villainous Anna Matronic from Darkwing Duck have great names but very little screentime.

 

Loretta Callisto is the main character’s supportive and tech-savvy sister and Dr. Zephyr Skye is her storm-hunting and kick-butt role model (voiced by a real meteorologist) from Miles from Tomorrowland on Disney Jr. Hopefully these characters will inspire more young girls to want to be scientists!

 

Live Action

While there are a handful of females with doctorates in Disney live-action films, very few of them have prominent roles or rich back-stories and plots like their male counterparts. Some of the best representation actually comes from the Marvel movies and even then, the studios could do much better by giving these wonder women their own movies instead of relegating them to supporting roles.

Carina Smyth from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a very passionate and determined astronomer living in difficult times. Her wrongful conviction as a witch definitely is not so far off from shaming of women that still happens today.

 

Gabriella Montez from High School Musical also fits the stereotype of being ridiculed and being an outcast for being a math and science nerd but she doesn’t let silly boys stop her from pursuing her dreams of going to an amazing school and maintaining her passion for singing and competing in the science olympiad.

Dr. Sara Jean Reynolds in Flubber and Dr. Abigail Chase from National Treasure both serve primarily as the love interests in their respective movies but have also achieved a great deal of success in their fields as evidenced by their prominent positions. I would love to see spin-offs showing the adventures and challenges they overcame to get to where they are.

 

Marvel

Jane Foster is a well-known astrophysicist and is Thor’s main love interest. It was great to see Natalie Portman portray another powerful woman.

Maya Hansen from Iron Man 3 is a botanist who has a brief relationship with Tony Stark.

Betty Ross is a nuclear physicist in the Hulk comics and movie and will be making an appearance in the upcoming Infinity War movie.

 

Lastly, Leia Organa was not only a princess and general but also secretly a doctor, but more on that at another time.

Parks

Dr. Jaclyn Ogden is the primary expert on banshees on the planet Pandora and restarted the Avatar program so that guests can partake in a similar rite of passage as the Na’Vi. (I have a feeling she was named after the real life Jackie Ogden who is an experimental psychologist and director of animal programs for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts).

 

Mary Oceaneer is one of the few females in the fictional elite club, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. She must know a fair bit about cartography, astronomy and the mechanics of captaining a ship and diving for treasure in order to be a successful treasure hunter. She inspired attractions on the Disney Cruise Line and at Typhoon Lagoon – a water park in Florida.

Doctor Marsh from DINOSAUR and the woman in Spaceship Earth are some of the only women of color in science in any Disney media and one of them doesn’t even talk. Perhaps now that Disney owns 20th Century Fox, the woman in Spaceship Earth can finally be tied to one of the awesome ladies of Hidden Figures and given a line.

 

To end on a positive note, women and girls visiting the parks can be inspired by real-life females in STEM by observing the hard-working women in Living with the Land or on the Behind the Seeds tour as well as in the light-hearted demonstrations of science principles in the SpectacuLab. Furthermore, Disney has highlighted several women in its Every Role a Starring Role and Disney Careers YouTube videos; check out my playlist of these women here.

Behind the Seeds

Spectaculab.png

Are there any Disney women in STEM that you think deserve more recognition? Or what kind of women in STEM would you like to see represented in Disney media?

Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Listicles · Science of Disney · Uncategorized

Top 5 Educational Experiences at Epcot

Although Walt Disney’s original vision for Epcot is far from realized, the spirit of showcasing technological innovations and providing memorable and educational experiences for guests lives on!

  1. Living with the Land – This ride is very long but really interesting. I never thought I would care about agriculture but finding out that Disney produces as much of its produce on-site as possible was really impressive! Seeing real scientists at work monitoring the plants and animals and their growing conditions in the most magical place on earth is bound to be inspiring for aspiring scientists, young and old. They offer a Behind the Seeds tour as well if you want more information about the work going on behind the scenes to feed hundreds of thousands of guests each day.
  2. The Seas Pavilion – Despite growing up a short drive from the Monterey Bay Aquarium (one of the main inspirations for Finding Dory’s Marine Life Institute), I had never seen manatees before and they are equally adorable and imposing due to their size and agility in the water. The large aquariums are full of several creatures and have TV screens that flash their names which makes this a great spot to cool off from the Florida heat by playing a game of I Spy with the kiddos. The sea turtles are usually pretty hard to spot because they like to hide! Each smaller aquarium also has short and sweet descriptions about the unique behaviors of the sea life within.
  3. Stave Church Replica and Museum in  Norway – Because the Norway pavilion has been overtaken by Frozen to a great extent, this museum is a nice way of tying together the movie and actual Norwegian culture. You can learn about all the inspiration for the film from the Norwegian landscape and traditional outfits, to how the instruments and vehicles are typically made and used.
  4. Oh Canada! – Even though I have been to Vancouver once before, this film taught me so much about Canada and made me want to visit again as soon as possible. The range of lifestyles represented – from small fishing villages to bustling, artistic city centers – and the sheer wonder of the various natural landscapes were absolutely fascinating, especially when presented in 360 degrees accompanied by Martin Short’s humor.
  5. Venetian Mask Shop – Besides showcasing the beauty and craftsmanship of what must be hundreds of masks, this little shop attached to the perfumery could have entertained me for hours due to what can be learned about Italian folklore. Ask the shopkeeper questions about your favorite masks and about the variety of designs; each one has its own meaning and story about the process of creating it. I may be biased because I read as many fictional books set in Venice as I could when I was in middle school but this really is a gem worth perusing when you’re still full on pizza and wine from Via Napoli.

Honorable Mention

Exhibits in Mexico

When I was last in Epcot in September, they were preparing for the promotional but potentially educational exhibit on Coco and Día de Muertos. I will have to check out the newly decorated area on my next trip to see if it is faithful to the culture, whether it teaches me anything different from my Spanish classes in school, and how it integrates aspects of the film. If it is anything close to the museum in Norway, it could be promising but perhaps difficult for kids who can’t read yet to be thoroughly entertained.

SpectacuLAB!

To replace Innoventions, the Imagineers decided an interactive science show would do the trick while also probably being less expensive to maintain and easier to potentially overhaul for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. One of my top priorities for my next trip is checking out how engaging (and hopefully not cringe-worthy) this show is; maybe what some people see as cringe-worth is really just a good use of Jungle Cruise style humor to demonstrate cool science phenomena. I’m hopeful that this will be a memorable experience because it is co-sponsored by Science from Scientists which is a non-profit organization working to improve STEM literacy in schools.

What is your favorite educational experience at Epcot?

Listicles · PhD Life · Princess Life · Uncategorized

If Princesses were PhD Students Part 2

Some of the best and most interesting Disney characters to me are the unofficial Disney princesses. What would these nine fearless females choose to study in graduate school?

Megara – Media and Communication.

She seemed to be quite confident in giving Hercules advice about how to adjust his public image. Becoming an expert in how rhetoric manifests in various mediums both ancient and modern would be quite lucrative for this dame; she could use these skills to develop her own media consulting company for all of the big stars or start her own magazine that would rival Cosmo with bitingly witty pieces on sandals, weak ankles, togas and how to become equals with any man despite how godly they might seem to the general populace.

Jane – Evolutionary Anthropology.

This likely descendant of Belle shares the bookworm’s affinity for beastly creatures as demonstrated by her fondness for gorillas, chimpanzees and of course Tarzan. Living in the jungle for so many years would make her one of the most qualified candidates to be a leading researcher of apes, so I expect that she would apply to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. I’m sure she’d leverage her strong bonds with the bands of gorillas to study their behavior and communication very intimately and become a well-published expert as long as the animals don’t trash her camp repeatedly.

Anna – Art History.

During the time that Anna spent in the halls of Arendelle’s castle growing up, she seemed to deeply appreciate (and talk extensively to) the paintings lining the walls. Studying art history would give Anna the skills to preserve the works of art as well as learn more about the customs of Arendelle that she can no longer remember. As a result of her studies, she likely would not stop talking about the rich artistic traditions of Scandinavia, which Kristoff would happily endure and perhaps even contribute to himself.

Elsa (yes, she’s technically a queen) – Civil Engineering.

She already seems to know a lot about building with ice so she’d probably revolutionize the field of civil engineering by using her expertise of ice’s properties as well its advantages and disadvantages to design structures in regions other than Arendelle. Elsa would also shatter some glass ceilings as she rise in the ranks of the male-dominated field. I would just feel really sorry for Elsa networking at conferences because everyone would come up to her “wanting to break the ice” which would probably get old very quickly. On a positive note, her several years in solitude have prepared her well for hours writing papers alone.

Nala – Marriage and Family Therapy.

Where would the animal kingdom be if not for Nala’s amazing skills at helping Simba confront his past and his own greatest fears? Once the famine of Scar’s years as king subsides, Nala would be better able to serve the kingdom if she could receive additional training to hone her skills at negotiation. I’m sure there’s way more drama in the pride than is shown in the movie and she would be just the lion to help resolve any conflicts.

Kida – Religious Studies.

Like Moana, the mythology of her people would spark a need to know more about why people believe what they believe. Learning about Mesoamerican and Southeast Asian religious practices would only be the launching point for writing a thesis on Atlantean beliefs and customs. Several of her people would follow in her footsteps to share and develop more expertise about the unique Atlantean architectural styles and functioning of crystals.

Vanellope von Schweetz – Computer Science.

Having been erased from the code of her own game, this spunky gal would go to school to ensure that none of the citizens of Sugar Rush face the same fate as she did. Understanding the intricacies of several programming languages and how videogames store their data could make her the heroine of the whole arcade if it were ever in danger again as well as make her much more adept at navigating the Internet (Wreck-It Ralph 2 *hint hint*). Furthermore, gaining expertise in computer science could also help her make faster and more environmentally friendly electric racing cars; who’s to say that even a gingerbread car couldn’t run on electricity?

Atta – Biology.

As such a broad field, biology would be best suited for Atta’s need to know about ecosystems, agriculture, animal (or insect) behavior as well as environmental policy in order to be an informed leader of her colony. Knowing more about photosynthesis and the nutrients and farming practices that would best support high, continuous crop yield would ensure that she would rarely have difficulty feeding all of her “subjects” and maybe even feed some grasshoppers in the mean time. She might have to improve upon her skills at standing up for herself in the field but standing up to Hopper would definitely make for a good personal statement.

Dot – Mechanical Engineering.

With Flik and Atta as role models, Dot will have witnessed dramatic revolutions in how her colony harvests food by the time she would be prepared for a PhD program. Her experiences with birds (both real and constructed) would likely have piqued her fascination with machines, especially flying ones. Thus, studying how things move would enable this princess to improve the harvesting machines and potentially lead the growing colony off the island either by riding the streams from rainstorms or via air travel.

Read Part 1 here!

Which characters would you like me to do next?

 

Disney Tips · Listicles · Uncategorized

My Favorite Ear Shops

In honor of Small Business Saturday, I’ve compiled a short list of just a few Etsy shops whose ears I really appreciate for their uniqueness, cuteness, and comfort. None of these are sponsored in any way and all of these pictures are from their websites!

Ears By Samantha – the only person I have bought ears from, Samantha was very communicative and the ears are so sturdy! She has other styles and sells bows without ears. Check out her Instagram too!

3Cheers4Ears – World of Color ears are hard to find and these glow and you can pick your bow color! This is just one of many designs in this shop.

MagicShoppeDesigns – I just love these cutout designs of my favorite characters!

VisionsOfADaydream – These are the most fabulous Lion King ears I have ever seen! They might not be great for rainy days in Florida but they look so comfortable.

What are your favorite Etsy shops for ears? Comment below!

Listicles · PhD Life · Princess Life · Uncategorized

If Disney Princesses were PhD Students

Each and every Disney Princess is capable of putting in the dedication and effort required to earn her PhD. So if their dreams were to finish grad school, what would their theses be on?

Snow White – Materials Science and Engineering.

Based on her life at 14, which leaves a lot of time to grow and have her interests change before the typical age of entering graduate school (looking at you Princess Leia), Snow would likely get sick of cleaning up after seven little men pretty quickly. But channeling the inventiveness of real-life women who were looking to improve the efficiency of the tasks they were expected to do (and came up with a few handy things like windshield wipers, Kevlar, and solar-heated homes), Snow White would set out to study materials and their various cleaning properties. Who knows, she might even patent a robot besides the Roomba (also invented by a woman) that whistles while it works!

Cinderella – Clinical Psychology.

Her kindness and her own childhood experiences would prepare Cindy well for researching and providing therapy for her royal subjects, particularly those in foster care. Taking classes would give her knowledge of forms of care to prescribe other than befriending mice or expecting a fairy godmother. I just hope she’s more punctual with her clinical appointments by the time she graduates than she was with her the stroke of midnight.

Aurora – Neuroscience.

Specifically, she would study the still unanswered questions of why humans need sleep and how consciousness works during slumber. This would allow her to better defend her everyday arguments for why cursing the entire kingdom with 100 years of slumber was actually GOOD for everyone. She could also run studies on the neuronal activation patterns of true love’s kiss which I’m sure Prince Philip would happily volunteer for.

Ariel – Anthropology.

This little mermaid has always been fascinated by humans and would have a hard time settling in on ONE question or even just a few to answer with her dissertation. But she did seem particularly keen on fire and all its causes and consequences, although incorporating that into a likely career in museum curation (she’s already got gadgets and gizmos aplenty) might be a little difficult. Nevertheless, I’d love to see her take on an interactive exhibit about man’s red flower.

Belle – Comparative Literature.

This beauty’s obsession with stories and faraway places isn’t focused on any one time period or even language (the tale of Aladdin is rumored to be one of her favorites though). Reading through the entire library in the castle she shares with Beast would give her a voluminous head start on the adventure of earning her doctorate.

Jasmine – Economics.

She wanted to know how the people outside of her palace walls lived so she’d have to pick a program that allows for in-depth field work. This, coupled with Jasmine’s responsibilities as a sultana (I just learned a new word), makes studying economic theories a good fit. She’d learn how to determine how her policy decisions would affect the economy. This would help her devise better welfare programs than stealing bread and apples.

Pocahontas – Environmental Policy.

Protecting the natural environment is of utmost importance to this daughter of a village chief. Researching the effects of deforestation on ecosystems around the globe and the effectiveness of various grassroots organizations would probably be her choice of dissertation topic. I can see the title now – We are All Connected To Each Other: In a Circle, in a Hoop that Never Ends – because all good titles have colons.

Mulan – Political Science.

Excellent army generals are often appointed as higher-ups in government, and Mulan would definitely be my choice for Secretary of Defense. After years of researching women’s roles in government and military decisions, maybe picking up a law degree along the way, she’d have a few more diplomatic tricks up her sleeve than using fireworks as her weapon of choice. And she could pave the way for proving that women aren’t “too temperamental” to lead an army.

Tiana – Biochemistry.

Besides earning an MBA, Tiana would realize that gaining a better understanding of the chemistry of food and how humans enjoy it would be the next best thing for growing the success of her restaurants. With a working knowledge of the science of digestion, I wonder if she’d ever put frog legs on the menu.

Merida – Aerospace Engineering.

Stemming from her passion for archery, Merida would likely have an interest in other flying objects like planes and spaceships. Plus, it’s a field that has a lot of barriers to break – for women, the speed of sound, the speed of light, etc. She’d be in the thick of developing military technology as well, which would pair well with her experiences dealing with the other clans.

Rapunzel – Physics and Astronomy.

Despite the wealth of knowledge and skills that she accumulated in her years in her tower (somehow with only a few books and a lot of craft supplies at her disposal), what fascinated Rapunzel the most were the stars. Naturally, her new dream would be to study the forces that control everything from her hair’s incredible strength to the creation of “balls of gas, burning billions of miles away”, to quote one of Disney’s most philosophical characters. She might even win a few scientific images contests with her artistic inclinations.

Moana – History.

All she knows is that she is descended from voyagers and I’d bet ten coconuts that she wants to learn a little bit more about her people. Her persistence and curiosity would serve her well in navigating through the literature on Polynesian History and Culture to write an impressive dissertation. She would probably have to find a new advisor besides Maui though – who knows what the department policy on having a demi-god as a committee member would be?

What discipline do you think these twelve leading ladies would choose? Comment below with which ones you agree with most!