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Shavertown Natives Finalists In Disney Competition

February 18, 2018 GMT

Noah Sunday-Lefowitz and Anthony Nardone are two college students from Shavertown who happened to have the same dream — become a Walt Disney Imagineer.

The Muhlenberg College senior and the University of Pennsylvania junior also got the same chance to make that dream come true. The Shavertown natives were finalists in the 2018 Imaginations Design Competition, created and sponsored by Walt Disney Imagineering with the purpose of seeking out and nurturing the next generation of diverse Imagineers.

The two didn’t meet until the competition in California, despite growing up about five minutes away from each other. Sunday-Lefowitz explained he was reading the other teams’ projects and information and came across one competitor who also had a love for the Haunted Mansion. The quote was from Nardone.

“To meet someone who had gone to the same art classes as me for most of my life, but we have never interacted with each other, was fascinating,” Sunday-Lefowitz said. “We are so lucky that we got to meet in California with this opportunity.”

Meeting in California, the students realized they had more in common than just their hometown.

“I wanted to be an Imagineer since I was four years old,” Nardone said. “Ever since I went to Disney for the first time, and saw the Haunted Mansion, I was struck by how it embodied the Walt Disney Imagineering question of ‘How do they do that?’ That question drove me toward Imagineering and made me want to create the magic I witnessed.”

“It is really funny how similar our stories are,” Sunday-Lefowitz said. “I have known about Walt Disney Imagineering most of my life, and by time I was 10, I started researching behind the scenes. I also fell in love with the Haunted Mansion, and as I grew up I wanted to be an Imagineer.”

Ghost towns

Sunday-Lefowitz and Nardone were part of six finalist teams out of 270-plus entries. This year’s teams represented five universities including Baylor University, Muhlenberg College, Otis College of Art and Design, University of Pennsylvania and Savannah College of Art and Design. The teams were challenged to select an actual abandoned “ghost town” from anywhere in the world and revitalize it. The six teams received an all-expense-paid trip in January to Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, California, where they presented their projects to Imagineering executives.

Nardone presented his project with three other classmates from University of Pennsylvania and their “ghost town” was called the Kessler Station. Also serving as an inter-orbital museum, the project repurposes abandoned and soon-to-be outdated landmarks such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, Tiangong-1. The Kessler Station is a space center for cleaning up the hundreds of thousands of pieces of debris orbiting the Earth, to be visited by guests as part of an all-day space adventure.

“Our project was a spring board for cleaning up outer space,” Nardone said.

Sunday-Lefkowitz worked with a classmate from Muhlenberg College to create Exploration Outpost, a “high adventure outdoor retreat.” The two created a story about Abigail Walker, a 90-year-old woman who is refusing to accept her old hometown is abandoned and crumbling. So, with the help of her family and the guidance of the National Park Service from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, they rebuilt her past into Exploration Outpost, a place in the Alaskan wilderness where families can unplug and be immersed in a little town of American history.

“We used the town of Kennecott, Alaska, an abandoned mining town that closed 30 years after the mines ran dry,” Sunday-Lefkowitz said.

While they didn’t win the overall competition, the two did have the opportunity to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind-the-scenes to see how Disney magic is created and even interview for paid internships.

While Sunday-Lefowitz is double majoring in theatre and music and Nardone is majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in fine arts, both came to realize the main focus of Imagineers is figuring out how they can use those skill sets in the future.

“The competition had to take all different kinds of people with all different kinds of skill sets to work together to create one cohesive story,” Sunday-Lefowitz said. “It was amazing to see the intense collaborative process that exceeds all boundaries to tell the best story possible. At age 12, I asked myself, ‘How do I become an Imagineer?’ and I got my answer; ‘become an expert in your field.’”

“This experience really opened my eyes. It is really broad to say, ‘I want to be an Imagineer.’ You need to find out what it is that you’re good at and how that will help the Imagineers,” Nardone said.

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