Skimming down my to-do list for homework, I feel a bit daunted and unmotivated to get started on any one particular assignment. Debug the .cpp file of my mock C++ Scrabble game for my Data Structures and Object Oriented Programming class? Read a chapter on inventory depreciation methods for Accounting? Or should I start on that loop-invariant proof for my course in Discrete Methods in Computer Science? Looking down a little further, I see one list item that is not like the other: Watch Mulan.

This unique homework requirement comes from my “Screenwriters and Their Work” course, CTWR431- The Magic of Disney: Redefining the Family Film, a course I discovered the first week of school this year and immediately did everything in my power to fit into my schedule. Taught by Bob Tzudiker, the writer of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Newsies (along with his wife Noni White) as well as a contributing writer on Tarzan, this class delves into the details behind the creation of numerous Disney animation classics. With commentary from both the professor and guest speakers like Don Hahn, the producer of The Lion King, or Brenda Chapman, the director of Brave, we are able to gain behind-the-scenes information on how these classics came to be, the challenges that occurred with all of them, and their impact on Disney and the industry as a whole. This is a dream come true for any immense Disney fan like myself (I’ll say it, I’m not ashamed of it). So when I see on my schedule that I am actually required to watch Enchanted over the weekend, it takes no convincing on my part to get started on that assignment.

Now this doesn’t mean to avoid the other work and put it all off, choosing to watch a Disney princess movie instead. Believe me, the temptation is certainly there to do just that. Rather, my Disney-movie watching assignments have become the fuel or small push behind getting my major classes’s work finished in order to enjoy a relaxed viewing of Tarzan as a break later on. For some people, the ideal break is going for a run or a taking a quick nap, two choices I thoroughly enjoy as well. But there are just those days that seem particularly long, especially in this Zoom semester, when singing along with Elton John to the songs of The Lion King sounds like exactly what I need.

And that’s the point of me writing about this class. Not to go on and on about this one 3 hour lecture on Tuesday nights, but to show how important it is to have these kinds of outlets amid a rigorous course of study like engineering. Not every week is filled with CS work that I don’t want to start; most of the time, I enjoy digging deeper into my major and getting into the tougher yet more rewarding topics that come after introductory classes. But during those weeks where the work seems to pile up endlessly and I can feel the Zoom fatigue setting in, I am excited, reenergized even, by the thought of attending a class that requires nothing more of me than to listen attentively to an area I’m extremely passionate about. No stressing over notes or the “right or wrong” answer. Just listening to artists talk about his or her craft, sharing funny stories about their encounter with mountain gorillas while exploring parts of Africa before writing Tarzan or describing what it was like to working with Phil Collins or how they felt being one of the first female executives at both Pixar and Dreamworks.

Basically, find a small thing, whether a non-engineering class, engaging club, or weekly Trojan Talk, that gives you a little something to look forward to and treat yourself with during those tougher weeks. You never know, you might find a new passion or minor to pick up!

(And no, I didn’t just use this blog post as an excuse to look at my photos from my last trip to Disneyland because I miss the park…)

Gianna Beck

Gianna Beck

MAJOR: Computer Science/Business Administration YEAR: Class of 2023 HOMETOWN: Phoenix, Arizona PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @gianna__25 I'm involved with computer science research investigating affective gesturing in robots in the Interaction Lab along with being a member of the Society of Women Engineers. Outside of Viterbi, I'm a part of Greek Life, USC Surf Club, and the Student Alumni Society leadership board.

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