How Environmental Immersion Leads to Creative Inspiration

One can be inspired by research as well as immersed in it for inspiration.  Rhonda Counts, Show Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering Florida

How you do research is dependent upon where you are in the process. Disney’s Imagineers, value the story’s intent and the importance of being surrounded with or immersed in the story’s environment.

Here’s an example from one of my current projects:

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As you can see, there’s a definite pirate’s theme going on in part of my office. It’s both from previous work and work in process. In 2014-2015, I used the theme of the Pirates of the Caribbean storyline to develop training resources and presentations in the area of Guest Experiences. Specifically, I created a tool – the Guest Experience Compass. And how better to demonstrate it, than using Jack Sparrow’s compass? I also created the Guest Experience Code – and based it on the storyline of the Pirates Code. Of course, both of these tools had to be introduced and used by a pirate – the Navigator – in a fully immersive learning environment.

Currently, I am working on developing new Guest Experience tools that will be available next spring – around the time that Pirates of the Caribbean 5 – Dead Men Tell No Tales – hits the theaters.

Then there’s the rest of my office…

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It’s no secret that I am a Disney fanatic of the first degree! I had an early start in the 60s, both from watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” and benefiting from my father, who as a Gulf gasoline dealer received many promotional tie-ins from Disney movies.

Anchored by a library of over 120 books (and growing!), I am literally immersed in all things Disney. As I research and work on various projects – especially Guest Experiences – I find great inspiration through the many resources at hand. My immersion is not limited to the visual and tactile – at any given time, the soundtrack of a Disney movie, or the background music from one of Disney’s theme parks can be heard.

Here’s how Disney Imagineers recommend immersion into an environment:

Select a project that you want to immerse yourself in. Make a list of all the elements of the project and find samples (the larger the better) that represent these elements. Find a place in your surroundings to display the samples so you can immerse yourself in them.

For example, if you wanted to fix up a vintage car, surround yourself with large detailed pictures of its original interior and exterior, very large color samples for its seat cushions, dashboard, etc., and exterior paint job, pictures of various locations you wold drive to, and of course, spray the space with new car scent.

Research leads to inspiration.


part of a series of ideas to help shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

written by The Disney Imagineers

Imagineering logo

Does Your Church Make Straight A’s When It Comes To Volunteers?

How does your church bring new volunteers onboard?

Onboarding is the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating, and accelerating new team members, whether they come from outside or inside the organization. (Onboarding, Bradt and Vonnegut)

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There’s actually another “a” word that is a perquisite: align. Here’s how the authors of Onboarding define the key processes listed above.

  • Align– make sure your organization agrees on the need for a new team member and the delineating of the role you seek to fill
  • Acquire– identify, recruit, select, and get people to join the team
  • Accommodate– give new team members the tools they need to do the work
  • Assimilate– help them join with others so they can do the work together
  • Accelerate – help them and their team deliver better results faster

Now that’s a list of “straight A’s” I will take anytime!

Though this list comes from a business book, there are great correlations for ChurchWorld as well.

For example, if your church values your volunteer team members, then they would make sure something like the process above is a part of your volunteer leadership development program. The role of bringing new volunteer leaders onboard shouldn’t be an afterthought.

My church considers the role of a team coordinator to be a volunteer staff position. In that role I may not receive a paycheck, but the importance of my role in the total scheme of what we do is not diminished one bit.

What’s it like at your church?

 

From Storytelling to Storyboarding

 

Storytelling is probably the oldest form of communication. John Hench, Disney Legend and former Senior VP of Creative Development, used to insist that storytelling was ‘in our genes.’ – Tom Fitzgerald, The Imagineering Workout

Storytelling has played a vital role in our survival – allowing us to share information, knowledge, and values from generation to generation. Story is the medium through which we receive our early learning as to right and wrong, good versus evil, reward and punishment, social values, etc.

We respond to storytelling. It engages our attention; no matter how old we get, who doesn’t love a good story?

Understanding this, Walt Disney created a technique in the early days of his cartoon films that helped illustrate the flow and continuity of stories – the storyboard.

Donald Duck storyboard, circa 1937 - courtesy of Tom Simpson

Donald Duck storyboard, circa 1937 – courtesy of Tom Simpson

Storyboards are tools that allowed Walt and his artists to envision a film prior to production. It allowed his team to have a shared vision of the story they were telling and how it would unfold. As a bonus to driving the creative development, it also offered a cost-effective way to experiment with a film early on, so that when production began, costs could be minimized.

Decades later, the tradition of storyboards continues on, though it has long expanded past just films. At Walt Disney Imagineering, rides, shows, and films for Disney’s theme parks around the world are the objects of regular storyboarding.

Starting with brainstorm sessions, the Imagineer’s first thoughts, ideas, images, and feelings about the story they are creating are captured on note cards and quick sketches.

The storyboards are worked, re-worked, rearranged, and edited until the story is strong and clear. Only then will production proceed.

At Walt Disney Imagineering, everything they do revolves around the story – and storyboards have remained an essential tool in helping them tell the story.

What story are you trying to tell?

Let it start with words and images to single note cards pinned on wall. Step back and look at the story you are trying to tell. Rearrange, edit, and add to the cards. Work at it – hard – until the story is just like you want to tell it.

Now, it’s time to tell the story…

 

part of a series of ideas to help shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

 written by The Disney Imagineers

Imagineering logo

Practice the Process of Inspiration to Generate Ideas

An exceptional concept depends on good process as well as pure inspiration.

One of my favorite shows at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s PhilharMagic. In the image below, notice the music notes in the background circling around the showcases in the gift shop at the exit from the theater. They’re not random. If you hum them, you will get the opening to Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – one of the most memorable sights and sounds from Disney’s Fantasia, and the core idea in Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

WDW Apr16 MK MickeyPHM

That’s the magic that “Process Practice” can produce!

Being aware of the design process and knowing what phase the team and the idea are in is a big part of the show producer’s job. You probably aren’t a producer, but all leaders have a role in pulling various people and resources together in creating something – which is the role of a producer.

Inspiration generates ideas, and the process helps to shape efforts in a way to keep the team moving towards a fully developed idea.

It’s time for you to “get” it…

  • Get going. Toss a bunch of ideas out. Direction often comes from joyous chaos.
  • Get excited. Brainstorm. Dream. Take tangents. Notice where ideas go, what’s cool about them, and incorporate this into the design.
  • Get committed. Set up a regular project meeting time, discuss ideas, or just sit and stare at the wall. Ideas will come either way.
  • Get doughnuts or cookies and some toys. Brainstorming sessions go better when food or toys are around.
  • Get different opinions. Listen to someone else’s point of view and listen for things that improve the design.
  • Get confused. Ask yourself hard questions that you can’t answer.
  • Get unstuck. Try a different direction. Throw out an impossible action. Debating a wrong answer can help reveal the correct one.
  • Get your hands dirty. Build a rough model or stage a reading. You will learn more from this than from any debate, and you’ll learn it in time to fix things.
  • Get reactions. Show the idea to others. Listen to what they say, especially if it isn’t what you want to hear.
  • Get it on paper. Take everything you’ve learned and write a description of the goals and details of the design. If you write convincingly, you’ve probably got a good idea.

If everyone is comfortable with the process, the team members have the freedom to generate the best ideas for their project.


part of a series of ideas to shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

Imagineering logo

The Disney Imagineers

Sue Bryan, Senior Show Producer

 

Celebrate Freedom

I have always loved history. Not many accounting majors have a minor in US History; the same goes for a Masters in Administration and Communication with a minor in Baptist History. But of all the history periods, I think the American Revolution is my favorite.

This time of the year – approaching July 4th – is a time to read the Declaration of Independence, sections of the Federalist Papers, and Common Sense.

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For me, this Independence Day weekend is all different.

My son is in the Air Force. He’s been deployed twice in the last 2 years.

While my father and father-in-law served in WWII and the years afterwards, and several cousins were in Viet Nam, somehow it’s all very personal now.

America celebrates 240 years as a nation this July 4th, even though the independence we celebrate was not settled for another seven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In the many years since we have gone through a devastating civil war, numerous regional wars, two World Wars, a Cold War, and are continuing a global war on terror that has no end in sight.

It seems that to have peace you must have war.

I pray for my son every day, for safety as he performs his duty. I know that he has been trained and prepared to do his best, and give his all, for his family and his country. While it is a sacrifice he is prepared to make daily, I hope he never has to.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women have made that sacrifice since 1776, and continue to do so to this day.

So when you celebrate freedom this weekend through July 4th, never forget the price others have paid.

 

 

 

Inspiration Comes from Things That Are Infused with Life

The word inspire means “to breathe into or upon; to infuse with life by breathing.” When we say, “I am inspired,” it has a deeper significance than we think. We are “breathing in” the living environment of ideas, enthusiasm, and energy that comes with the creative process.

If we look in the Bible, we see the same idea. In Hebrew and Greek the words for “spirit” are the same as the words for “breath” and “wind.”

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In fact even in English our word “spirit” comes from Latin word meaning breath. “Inspiration” and “respiration” have the same root. This is no mistake. From the earliest times people could see the connection between breath and active life. When a person’s body stops breathing, it also becomes inactive and dies. Breath is the outward manifestation of activity and life. This intimate connection between breath and active life is the reason why the same word is used for both “spirit” and “breath” in Hebrew (ruach) and in Greek (pneuma).

Inspiration comes from things that are infused with life.

In creating, Disney’s Imagineers always work from a basis of their training, exposure to others’ work, their research, and their life experience.  Working together, they are inspired by their collective histories, training, experience, predecessors, and mentors.

When we are inspired, ideas that are living inside us will find a way to be expressed.

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Here’s an exercise from the Imagineers: Select a creative challenge – painting, writing, inventing – anything that requires creativity. Now, make a list of creative souls that could inspire a solution: artists, scientists, inventors, musicians, writers. Select one or more people from the list, reflect on their talent, research their work, and let them breathe life into your thinking and imagination.

Now, find your own answers by letting your imagination soar with multiple solutions.


part of a series of ideas to shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

The Disney Imagineers

 Imagineering logo