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Film and Television Summer Institute – Media Parks: The Cinematic and Televisual History of Theme Parks

Explore the relationship between moving image media and theme parks

Examine the contexts and shared histories of theme parks and screen media

In this two-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, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Warner Brothers Studios. 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.

As of 5/10/2024, the Media Parks Summer Institute is closed to new applications.

Fees and Payment Info

The program fee includes the unit fees for the UCLA coursework offered as part of the program and thus varies by UC student status. The program fee also includes the cost of UCLA Housing (for mandatory housing programs). In addition to the program fee, students are assessed other campus and administrative fees during the summer. This is a summary of fees that commonly apply to the selected student type.

Actual tuition and fees are subject to change by the University of California. Visit the fees, payment, and financial aid section for important disclaimer, as well as more details on fees, payment instructions, and information on delinquency, refunds, and financial aid.

Program Fee
Registration Fee
Document Fee (for first-time Summer Sessions students)
Total Estimated Fees:
* Fees only apply for certain student types

Meet your Instructors

Instructors for the UCLA Film and Television Summer Institutes are UCLA Department of Film, Television and Digital Media faculty.

Heather Birdsall


Heather Lea Birdsall’s current research explores the changing relationships between the American theme park and film, television, and video games. She traces how modern-day theme parks are increasingly becoming “media parks,” or physically and virtually immersive cinematic, televisual, and game spaces. She examines theme parks’ physical story worlds as significant sites of narrative and spatial exchange, cinematic and televisual presence, and embodied and interactive experiences. She served as a University of California, Los Angeles Collegium of University Teaching Fellow during the 2019-2020 school year and was awarded UCLA’s Dissertation Year Fellowship in 2020. She received her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2022.