Texas A&M Disney Design Competition

Texas A&M students Kennedy Behling, from left, Abby Zuber, Abby Henning and Cecilia Gonzalez show off their trophy alongside Mickey Mouse after winning second place in the 29th annual Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition in Glendale, Calif.

Four Texas A&M University students earned second place last week at the 29th annual Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition, a national event at which student teams were tasked with designing “an iconic installation at the contestants’ own campus or city that served as an inspiration, honored the past and was a vision of the future.”

A&M’s competitors — students Abby Henning, Abby Zuber, Cecilia Gonzalez and Kennedy Behling — comprised one of six finalist teams that were chosen to travel to Disney’s corporate headquarters in Glendale, Calif., which is just north of downtown Los Angeles.

The Aggie team created and designed a concept they titled “Here,” which they described as a year-round Aggie Muster, referring to the annual tradition at which Aggies remember those who have died. The team referred to their concept as a place at which current, former and future students would gather to relax, reflect and remember the Aggies who came before them.

“One thing that we think really made our memorial a special tribute to Muster was that Muster is a one-day ceremony every year, and we wanted to stretch that out and make it a year-round experience where students can come, honor people that they’ve lost and celebrate their Aggie family beyond that one day,” Gonzalez said during a Thursday interview with The Eagle.

“Our main goal for the installation was to make it a living memorial,” Zuber said. “We wanted it to respect the nature of Muster as a somber event but also celebrate the camaraderie between A&M graduates, students and the Aggie family. We designed the installation so that it educates guests about the tradition of Muster, both past and present.”

Former Imagineering executive Marty Sklar founded the design competition in 1991. Disney Imaginations received 141 projects, with 313 teams applying and 178 teams qualifying. The six teams of finalists received an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney Imagineering from Jan. 13-17 to present their projects to Imagineering executives, meet and network with Imagineers and interview for internships during their visit.

Zuber described the trip as “the best week of my life” and said it was a terrific experience to meet the other competitors, whom she described as talented, creative, humble and kind. Henning explained the event as a transformative, story-based “meeting of minds.”

Four students from the U.S. Naval Academy earned first-place honors, while a team from the Savannah College of Art and Design finished third.

Gonzalez appreciated the opportunity to get “a peek behind the curtain” of Disney’s creators. “It was a week chock full of really cool moments that give you goose bumps,” she said.

According to contest guidelines, designers had to consider how guests could have a communal and family friendly experience as a group, as well as take into account local codes and ordinances.

Behling, a senior environmental design student, explained that she and Gonzalez worked last summer at Universal Creative in Orlando and discussed the possibility of building a team for the Disney competition. “We both decided that it was right up our alley,” Behling said. They then recruited Zuber, who specializes in architectural and graphic design, and then Henning, who said she had more of an animation background.

“We met all these people who come from vastly different backgrounds, and yet they’re all sitting in the same place,” Henning said of the weeklong event. The competitors encouraged Aggies to enter in the competition in the future.

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