As a music-loving UGA student in the 1990s, Mitch Powers was living the dream.
He spent a lot of time talking with fellow music fans—students and townies alike. And he handed out a lot of CDs. In the 1990s, this was a coveted gig.
Powers’ UGA experience led him directly to Los Angeles and his first job out of college—eight years on the marketing team at Universal Music. But perhaps most importantly, it was Powers’ time interacting with fans in Athens that set him up for the job he has now.
D23: The Official Disney Fan Club has more than one million members with nearly as many different interests. As vice president and general manager for D23, Powers and his team are responsible for engaging with them all.
“We have fans who love Disney history, and we lean into that,” he continues, noting that he and his staff are as big of fans of Disney properties as the D23 members themselves. “We have things that are happening right this second, either in our theme parks, in movie theaters, or on Disney+ [the company’s streaming service], and there are a lot of fans who love just looking toward the future.” Even with all these fans and all these passions, Powers and his team aim for a personal, more focused touch that makes the enormous club a small world after all.
D23 is a reference to the 1923 founding of The Walt Disney Company, an anniversary that will be celebrated all year with efforts that include new attractions at the Disneyland Resort, the massive traveling Disney 100: The Exhibition opening at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and much more.
In line with these fan opportunities, the D23 team’s work is about communication and engagement. They produce a quarterly print publication that covers everything from Marvel movies to the Disney Vacation Club, they create exclusive member benefits, and, most importantly, they put together can’t-miss fan events. Last September, the D23 Expo, the ultimate three-day Disney fan event held in southern California, returned after a three-year hiatus. It brought Powers back into his element.
Human interaction is so important. Being able to get to the heart of people’s passions is something we think a lot about,” — Mitch Powers, vice president and general manager for D23: The Official Disney Fan Club
“It’s really a critical moment to engage with fans on a deeper level, and these are some of the most important fans we have,” Powers says. For instance, one of the highlights of the D23 Expo 2022 was sneak previews of upcoming Disney films. Some of them, like Avatar: The Way of Water, premiered over the holidays. Others, like a reimagining of Snow White with Gal Gadot as the evil queen, got early, early previews delivered by the stars themselves.
“Human interaction is so important. Being able to get to the heart of people’s passions is something we think a lot about,” Powers says.
That interaction is also crucial to Powers’ unofficial duties in the UGA fan club. When groups of UGA students visit California, he leads them on a tour of Walt Disney Studios and answers all their questions, which range from his own job experience to the wider Disney universe. And, many of the students are fans themselves.
“I love hosting the students on campus,” Powers says. “If I can help serve as a mentor, I love it. I mean, when I was younger, I didn’t really know where point A to point B was going to take me. I didn’t know what point B was. So the advice I’d give a student is just, you never know where your career is going to take you.”
After all, sometimes Point B can be right in the middle of the Happiest Place on Earth.