HPU’s Michaela Mucha, ’18, creates creative marketing magic for Walt Disney Studios.
If you weren’t streaming movies and shows before the Covid-19 pandemic, then odds are high you’ve since become a streaming pro.
And with more than 85 million subscribers, chances are also good that you’ve explored Disney+ looking for your next binge-worthy experience.
You know the drill. Open the platform, select a category and start scrolling. You read titles, but it’s the movie key art, better known as the movie poster, that catches your eye. Each title given its own small square of vibrant design.
You may not know Michaela Mucha, but you know her work.
That Disney+ movie art on your screen? That’s one of Mucha’s projects.
Picture a movie theater lobby. Posters line the walls. You spot one for Disney’s latest animated film.
Yes, Mucha also collaborated with the team that brought these to life.
Who is Mucha?
She’s a Maryland native, a 2018 graduate of High Point University and a member of the Creative Print Marketing team at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, just outside of Los Angeles.
Her journey to Disney happened quickly, but the impact she’s made is long lasting. And it all started at HPU.
Calm, Cool Frozen and Collected.
Mucha’s first feature film project and partnership with Walt Disney Animation Studios included assisting her team with finalizing the creative print marketing materials for the much-anticipated sequel “Frozen II.”
Her team kicked off their efforts by meeting “Frozen” franchise Director and Writer, Jennifer Lee. Lee is also the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.
It was a big meeting for Mucha. As the youngest and newest member of her team, she had reason to be nervous.
But she wasn’t. She was ready, composed and comfortable. She’s since worked on projects that touch all the way up to Disney’s CEO.
She credits her preparedness to HPU.
“My time at HPU was such a growth experience for me,” she says. “It prepared me to be a leader, grew me holistically, gave me confidence in my creative skills, and drive to contribute ideas in creative collaboration meetings for upcoming Disney+, Animation, and 21st Century Studios films.”
Today, Mucha’s days are are spent on the creative, finishing, project management, production, and execution of the digital and print marketing campaign assets for numerous upcoming Disney+ streaming movies and series as well as Walt Disney Animation Studio, Pixar Animation Studio, Locksmith Animation, and Blue Sky Animation theatrical release movies.
Her latest major projects, to name a few, include directly supporting the creative print marketing vice president and director in developing the logo, movie posters, billboards and several social graphics for @Disney, @DisneyPlus, and @Pixar for Pixar Animation Studio’s “Soul,” “Luca,” and more.
For Disney+, Mucha has worked on the creative marketing materials and in-service product creative for original movies like “Lady and the Tramp” and the holiday hit “Noelle.” And most recently, the in-service product creative for “Soul,” “Togo,” “Stargirl,” “Godmothered,” the upcoming “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and Pixar Sparkshorts.
That’s not all.
She also collaborates and coordinates design assets enterprise-wide for Disney, sharing the creative her team has worked on throughout the company from Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, to Disney Streaming Services, and more.
Mucha has been with Disney since graduating from HPU. Her career started with an internship where she designed internal materials for Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
She quickly climbed to a corporate role in California as a graphic designer for Disney, designing for The Walt Disney Company in global, enterprise-wide campaigns for ESPN, ABC, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, National Geographic, and Parks & Resorts.
She joined the Walt Disney Studios Creative Print Marketing team in June, 2019.
Reflecting on her transformation and how much she’s grown, Mucha says there’s a time in her life where she couldn’t have imagined being where she is now. She would have called it “impossible.”
HPU changed that.
The Great “Mistake”
In high school, Mucha wasn’t heavily involved outside of academics. She recognized that in herself and decided she wanted more from her college journey.
She wanted to grow as a leader and as a person.
“Being a leader was so foreign to me that I didn’t know where to start,” she says. “But I knew I wanted a school with a strong community of caring people, where people would invest in my future to help me get there.”
She began researching schools. She wanted a campus that was walkable, a place where culture mattered, and a university that offered majors in both computer science and graphic design – a rare combination.
HPU rose to the top of the list.
Mucha calls visiting HPU before any other school her “mistake.”
“Nothing compared after going to HPU,” she says. “Once you visit, you don’t have eyes for anywhere else.”
Her parents came, too. They saw the campus, heard HPU President Nido Qubein speak and agreed with Mucha – this was the place for her.
“I knew I wanted to be at a university where people would know me not only as a student or peer, but as a friend when passing me on a walk across the promenade,” she says. “I was truly part of a family at HPU.”
An essential part of that HPU family was Mucha’s campus mentor – Professor Allan Beaver.
The Mentor Behind the Magic
Mucha came to HPU as a computer science major.
She had always had interest in graphic design but didn’t know if she had the skill set to make a career out of it.
Beaver changed that.
She joined HPU’s graphic design club on campus her freshman year. Made up primarily of design majors, club members buzzed about Beaver and his legendary status as a designer.
Mucha actively searched for courses Beaver was teaching and soon found herself in his classroom.
Beaver quickly recognized that Mucha had a skill she didn’t see in herself.
He pulled her aside and asked what her plans were after graduation.
“I’m a computer science major,” she told him. “So I guess I’ll be a computer scientist?”
She liked computer science, and it felt it was a safer bet.
Beaver forced her to pause. “But what are you passionate about?” he asked.
Mucha realized she was burying her passion. She was afraid to pursue it and fail.
“He told me that if my passion truly was in graphic design, there was no way I could fail. I should pursue a creative career,” she remembers.
So she went for it with his guidance. She changed her major to graphic design and set her sights on Disney.
“He pushed me outside my comfort zone,” she says. “I think sometimes about how different my life would be if I hadn’t learned from a professor like him or if I’d gone to a bigger school where I was just a number to be forgotten. I can imagine most professors might have given me a grade and sent me on my way.”
It was never like that at HPU.
Beaver recently passed away, and Mucha finds herself tearing up when she talks about him.
When she landed her internship with Disney, he was one of the first she told. He emailed her immediately.
“Walt Disney will always recognize talented designers,” he told her.
Mucha still has the email.
“Together we laid out a plan that made my dreams feel possible,” she says. “Soon, I learned it was possible. And now, I’m doing it. It’s all because of him.”
Signs on the Freeway. Symbols of Transformation.
That confidence sparked by Beaver began to spill over into other areas for Mucha.
She soon took on leadership roles in organizations she’d joined freshman year. By her third year, Mucha was elected president of the junior class.
She was shocked. It was never something she thought she’d run for, much less be elected and given the honor to lead.
But at HPU, she was inspired by her peers and professors to be more. To do more.
By her final year, she was recognized as an HPU Extraordinary Leader. It marked her official transformation from the self-conscious high schooler she had once been into the woman ready to roll up her sleeves and collaborate with Disney filmmakers and studio executives.
Now, living in L.A., Mucha ventures out and often spots a billboard she helped create.
Her team’s work on display for the entire world to see reminds her of how “insanely cool” this opportunity is. It reminds her how far she’s come and who helped her get to this point.
Those billboards are a symbol her HPU journey.