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Track 8: Media Parks - The Cinematic and Televisual History of Theme Parks

In this three-week intensive program, students will explore theme park history, and the evolution of the relationship between moving image media (film, television, and video games) and theme parks. The course will examine the contexts and shared histories of theme parks and screen media, explore theoretical, industrial, and cultural issues surrounding them, and investigate how these cultural phenomena are shaping one another in today’s media landscape. The program will include lectures, screenings, discussions and guided site visits to Disneyland, Disneyland California Adventure, Knott's Berry Farm, and Universal Studios Hollywood. In class, students will study case studies of theme park rides and theme park "lands" by researching and analyzing scholarly texts, reference films, television shows, and video games. Each guided site visit will also include an on-site behind-the-scenes lecture.

Through these topics, students will be introduced to the fundamental skills of college-level academic writing, practice reading comprehension on college-level academic sources, and be challenged to practice critical thinking and observation skills through several reading and writing assignments.



This program carries 3 quarter units of UC credit. Students in this track are enrolled in the following class:
FTV 18: Media Parks – The Cinematic and Televisual History of Theme Parks (3 Units)


Guided Site Visits

During the course, students will embark on five curated visits to Southern California theme parks: Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood and Warner Brothers Studios. Visits will be structured around instructor-guided experiences as well as required visits to select attractions and park “lands.” The required attractions/lands and will be the springboard for writing assignments and require students to connect their observations, critical media analysis, and argumentation skills to lecture concepts, assigned readings, and screenings. Students will choose specific attractions or lands as case studies for two short papers and one final paper.

These site visits allow students to have a firsthand educational experience and learn directly from the interactive aspect of theme parks. By studying the historical, cultural, industrial, and theoretical issues surrounding these spaces and attractions in-depth before encountering them, students will be well-prepared to approach these experiences from a critical and analytical perspective. Ultimately, this hands-on investigation provides students with a sense of how these interactive spaces and rides work together to create unique media experiences. While these excursions will no doubt be fun, they are first and foremost active learning experiences and sites of analysis.



Admission to the program is by instructor consent only. Students will be asked to answer several questions on their application to determine their academic readiness for a rigorous college-level course, as well as provide their transcript and a letter of recommendation.

This track is open to high school students enrolled in 10th - 12th grade in Spring 2023.



View the program layout for:
Session A (June 25 - July 15, 2023)



Registration opens February 15, 2023. Please check back for more updates or visit the Summer Sessions website for more information.


Grades and Transcripts

Program participants will earn units of credit on a letter grading basis and will be recorded on an official University of California transcript. Please note that official transcripts are not automatically sent to students. To request a transcript, please contact the UCLA Registrar’s Office.



Due to the rigorous and intense nature of the program, the residential plan, which includes a meal plan, is mandatory for all participants. Participants will be housed in one of the UCLA residence halls, comfortably furnished and conveniently located within easy walking distance of classrooms, libraries, and recreational facilities.


Summer Scholars Support

Scholarship support may be available for continuing California high school students with a family annual adjusted gross income of $100,000 or less. For deadlines, eligibility requirements and application information, please visit the Summer Scholars Support page.


Student Quotes

“I really enjoyed the course as whole. Everything put together made it an unforgettable experience. The professor, peers, TA's, food were amazing. This course was the highlight of my summer.
-Media Parks Student 2022

“I had so much fun and learned so much from Dr. Birdsall. I think that it is a great way to see how film develops into attractions!
-Media Parks Student 2022

“It was lots of fun. I got to learn how to think critically about themed spaces. I engaged in lots of readings and discussions, and met many people.
-Media Parks Student 2022


Contact Us
UCLA Summer Institutes
1332 Murphy Hall
Box 951418
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1418
Tel: (310) 825-4101
Fax: (310) 825-1528
E-mail: info@summer.ucla.edu