Social research cannot be conducted in a vacuum. All research is influenced by the life experiences and personal values of the researcher, as well as what is going on in the world around them. My current research focus, on Disney and plastic waste, is a product of my life experiences, travel, work, and study.
I have been aware of Disney for as long as I can remember. I do not recall a time when I became aware of it. My first ever watch had Mickey Mouse as the hands. I can literally track my time with Disney.
My first overseas holiday, when I was 20 years old, included two days at Disneyland, California. I have been back to the United States (US) twice since then and I have visited Disneyland and California Adventure Park on both of those occasions. The most recent trip included visits to Walt Disney World Resort parks in Florida, Animal Kingdom and EPCOT and a run through Magic Kingdom. I have also visited Disney theme parks in Japan and Hong Kong.
The first DVD I bought for my daughter was a Baby Einstein DVD produced by Disney. I limited how much TV she watched as a baby but I trusted Disney first. These days, particularly with COVID-19 lockdowns, the Disney+ app is a significant component of our family’s viewing experience. There is a standard that I have come to expect from Disney products that is not always met by other brands.
A trip to Disneyland is not universally available. I worked multiple jobs to save for my first trip. In contrast, my daughter had her first Disneyland Resort experience in Hong Kong, aged three. In the subsequent seven years she had the opportunity to visit another four Disney theme parks over multiple days. She took this for granted, or at least she did before COVID-19 changed the way we all think about travel.
My overseas travel has not all been about visiting Disney theme parks but it was a focus of my most recent trip. In December 2019 and January 2020 my family spent seven weeks in the US. While visiting the Disney theme parks, I was confronted by the inability to use my refillable cup, which I had taken with me from Australia, when ordering tea. In an organisation that has a policy to reduce waste, and that expresses a commitment to environmental sustainability, this transgression confused me. Why was this simple practice, which had become the norm for me in Australia, not able to be facilitated? It was in pondering this question, and the many entangled factors that led to this circumstance, that led me to enrol in a PhD (for the second time).
When I was three, I hugged a tree, to stop my dad from cutting it down. A concern for the ‘natural environment’ has been an inherent part of me for as long as Disney. While I prefer writing to more direct forms of action, my interest in the environment has continued to develop through my studies and work, spanning environmental management and tourism. I also have a pragmatism learnt from years working in the public service. I will spend the next six years exploring the relationship with plastic and waste in the Disney context in the hope of making a valuable contribution.