Student discusses turning down Disney opportunity

By Callie Jennings – cjenning@unca.edu – Staff Writer | Nov. 19, 2014 |

Wish upon a star and your dream will come true, or so they say. For Isabella Daniels, a 19-year-old sophomore at UNC Asheville, her wish did come true, no stars necessary, but she chose not to follow it.

For Daniels, working and learning at Disney will always be a life goal – her obsession began at an early age, she said.

She struggled with anxiety as a child, even going through a period of physical illness after the Sept. 11 attacks. She visited the nurse’s office so frequently that school administrators told her to stop coming altogether.

“I think it was because we lived near an airport, and that can be kind of stressful for a first grader,” Daniels said.

To cope, and to keep her sanity after staying enclosed at home for days at a time, Daniels said she stayed awake at night watching Disney films.

Daniels said she remembers every detail from her childhood regarding Disney – waking up on Saturday mornings to watch DuckTales, arguing with her mother about dressing as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and playing with countless stuffed animals, all cherished characters from movies.

Daniels said Disney seemed to consume her life. A self-proclaimed storyteller, it became clear to her that she wanted to pursue becoming a Disney animator. Everything seemed to click together – her love for Disney, her passion for creating and artistic ability.

The Disney College Program once seemed like the perfect way to network with animators.

“But it was not what I thought it was going to be,” Daniels said.

After going through the application process, Daniels eagerly awaited a phone call. Days passed, then weeks.

Ultimately, Daniels said, they found her an extremely qualified candidate.

After acceptance into the program, Daniels said she took the time to find Facebook pages dedicated to her group of accepted students. She hoped to connect with some of her fellow classmates and interns.

“I joined five Facebook pages, but these kids were mean and hardcore partiers. I was not about having to live with people like that. At first I thought it was an option for me to be a resident assistant down there but then I found out they don’t even have those, which scares me even more,” she said.

She ended up turning down the opportunity to intern at Disney.

“There are many reasons I’m choosing not to go,” she said. “I actually would have no chance at all to network with anybody important in the animation world out there,” Daniels said.

“I kept calling them and asked if I could help out with the Animation Academy at MGM Studios. They put me in contact with them, and then they told me I couldn’t help them at all but wished me luck in trying to befriend them,” Daniels said.

All of that doesn’t account for all the student loans that she would have to pay back or social anxiety she would encounter, she said.

Caleb Thomas, 22-year-old junior at Western Carolina University, like Daniels, always loved Disney movies and the company itself.

He was accepted to the Disney College Program and, unlike Daniels, he took the position.

“I stayed in my internship for four months. While in the program I didn’t really notice a lot of partying. Disney does throw a lot of gatherings for their interns though, and there’s a lot of time that you can spend with your fellows living in the same apartment complexes,” Thomas said.

Thomas elected not to take any courses through the program but rather just work as an intern.

“I did not want to be an animator for Disney, but my love of Disney grew since working for the company,” Thomas said. “If you don’t take anything else from the internship, you’ll at least come out knowing that magic can be created at any age if you just believe in your dreams.”

Daniels, an art student, said leaving during the spring semester would have put her extremely far behind schedule for graduation.

“I still plan to own Disney. I really like experimental animation and classical 2D character animation – like Aladdin or Tarzan. I also recently got into rotoscoping, I want to bring Disney back into making classic animated movies. That’s what Disney is all about.”

Daniels’ boss, Mills Hall Community Director Robin Hamilton, said Daniels is quiet and reserved at times but also a hard worker.

“Anything artistic – painting, drawing – she’s really passionate about that. She really thrives,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said Daniels brings her creative skills into her job position as a resident assistant in Mills Hall. She recreated Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and 101 Dalmatians for her bulletin boards and sketched chalk characters at building-wide programs, and Daniels never seems to stop thinking of characters and storylines.

In regard to Daniels’ choice to turn a Disney internship away, she said, “I think it is wise and is smart to realize what you can and cannot do.”

Hamilton said if Daniels decided to reapply for the Disney program, she would be more confident and comfortable both mentally and financially.

“Don’t live with regrets, that’s what I told her. Don’t see it as a mistake for not going. Just see it as a choice that you have made for yourself, because you are most important first,” Hamilton said.

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