2023 CFAC Alumni Achievement Award Honoree Inspires Students to Keep an Open Mind When Pursuing Their Careers
As a child, BYU alum and Disney Executive Ben Hoppe fell in love with Disney songs and stories. As a teenager, he was positive he was going to become an actor. And as an adult, in his pursuit of an acting career, the magic of Disney led him in a completely different direction.
Addressing the College of Fine Arts and Communications audience, Hoppe encouraged students to keep an open mind when it comes to pursuing their dreams. His Homecoming lecture titled, “Preparation for Possibility: The Plan of Happiness & a Stewardship-Focused Career,” emphasized that every experience in our lives equips us for future prospects — even those that are unplanned.
Hoppe explained that it is very common to end up on a different path than you originally intended. “I had a dream, I went after that dream and then I found I needed to pivot,” he said. “Where I ended up, and the journey I went on, was better than what I thought I wanted.”
Once an aspiring actor, Hoppe is now a creative director in the Disney Character Voices Department of the Walt Disney Company. He works with newcomers, celebrities and seasoned voice-acting professionals to record content for projects ancillary to Disney and Pixar animated movies.
“Every moment of your life prepares you for the next opportunity to advance your happiness in this life,” Hoppe said.
Looking back on his childhood, Hoppe’s preparation for his career began when he was very young. He found inspiration in the television program, “The Wonderful World of Disney.” Disney shows, movies and songs were his introduction to audio and visual storytelling.
“I got bit by the performance bug pretty early,” said Hoppe. With the help of primary teacher, young Hoppe discovered he could sing. Hoppe was engaged in the performing arts from then on, taking part in school productions, roadshows and ward talent shows throughout his childhood.
In high school, Hoppe traveled to BYU for a five-week summer theater workshop where he took skill classes during the day and rehearsed all night. The immersive experience assured Hoppe to pursue a career in acting. “There was no way I was ever going to do anything else with my life,” he said.
Hoppe was accepted into BYU and cast in a few plays as a freshman. After he completed his first year as an undergraduate, he was called to serve in the Taiwan Tai Chung mission. Hoppe explained that his performance background aided him in learning Mandarin Chinese, a tonal language where the pitch or intonation of a sound affects the meaning of a word.
“Because I had ear training with singing, I was able to pick that up quickly,” he said.
After his mission, Hoppe went on to graduate from BYU in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Media Arts. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles, California. While interning at a casting office, he realized the harsh reality of pursuing an acting career.
After some sobering realizations and failed auditions, Hoppe experienced a “real crisis of faith.”
“I had a plan. I knew I was supposed to be [in Los Angeles],” he said. Then quoting Mike Tyson, he explained, “But everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
At the time of his predicament, Hoppe was a temp at Disney. After working in a few departments within the company, he began working as an executive assistant at Disney Character Voices International, bringing him close to the right people at the right time. Referring to his eventual hiring into his current position, Hoppe said, “All this preparation I had done in my life prepared me for something I didn’t know existed.”
Hoppe described his role in the department as a “steward” of Disney stories. During the lecture, he showed the audience examples of productions he worked on throughout his career, all of which support the stories, such as theme park attractions, parades, video games and toys. For Hoppe, the recording studio is a quiet, innovative space where he can collaborate with wonderful people. He introduced the idea of a “creative sandbox.” “Whatever constrained spot you have to work in, there will be an infinite number of possibilities,” said Hoppe.
Hoppe never expected to have this career but preparation and experience throughout his life ultimately opened that door for him. He urged students to stay open to possibilities, insuring them that they will end up where they need to be.
“If you pay attention, you will see how the Lord is preparing you through your experiences to move toward a goal and wind up where He needs you to be,” Hoppe said.