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


Is Your Life a Story?

Tom Peters thinks so.

In fact, he goes even further. In his book The Little BIG Things! Peters has a chapter entitled:

You Are Your Story – So Work on It!

A few highlights:

He/she who has the most compelling/most resonant story wins:

  • In life
  • In business
  • In front of the jury
  • In front of the congregation

Stories are 100 percent about emotion – and emotion, far more than dynamite, moves mountains.

-> Your schedule today is…a short story with a beginning, narrative, end, and memory that lives on.

-> Your current project is…an unfolding story about making something better, exciting users, etc.

-> Your organization’s reason for existence and therefore its effectiveness, is…a story.

-> Your career is…a story.

Master the art of storymaking-storytelling-story doing-story presenting.

How are you writing – and telling – your story today?


inspired by The Little Big Things, by Tom Peters

The Little Big Things

Stories Convey Meaning

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information; more powerful and enduring than any other art form.

People love stories because life is full of adventure and we’re hardwired to learn lessons from observing change in others. Life is messy, so we empathize with characters who have real-life challenges similar to the ones we face. When we listen to a story, the chemicals in our body change, and our mind becomes transfixed.

Stories link one person’s heart to another. Values, beliefs, and norms become intertwined. When this happens, your idea can more readily manifest as reality in their minds.

Tell the story.

Adapted from Resonate, by Nancy Duarte

Listen to Their Story

Every community has a story – a unique story. Every community has a character, a “feel”, and an attitude shaped by its own peculiar events and circumstances.



Does your church want to make an impact on your community in a meaningful way?

Listen to their story first.

Don’t rush in with your plans and dreams and schemes for what you want to accomplish. First, you ask what’s the story? What are the real issues, the real problems, the real needs?

  • What are the unique needs where God has placed us?
  • How are these needs reflected socially, economically, ethnically, environmentally, politically, and religiously?
  • What arena of our community is the furthest from the utopia that God wants to restore?
  • What special opportunities are found within our immediate sphere of influence (within a half-mile)?
  • What burning issues are alive in the public’s eyes and brought to attention by the media?
  • What needs and opportunities do the industries specific to our area create?
  • What is the most significant change in our community in the last decade, and what need does this create?
  • What are the largest community events, and what needs or opportunities do they create?
  • Because of our specific location, what solution could we provide that no other church does?
  • How would we describe the “atmosphere of lostness” in our community?
  • What is the creation story of our particular community, and what insight does this afford?
  • Does the history of our community bring to light any spiritual strongholds?
  • What one positive change in our community would have the most dramatic effect in people’s lives?

He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13

The Story Loop

Once upon a time, I suppose, people sat around and told stories to each other around a cooking fire. The older ones told the younger ones, who told their younger ones. Eventually, one family group passed along their stories to another family group.

Thus, the oral tradition of storytelling was born.

At some point in time, people figured out letters and the materials to write them on. They took the stories that had been told and passed down from generation to generation orally and wrote them as text.

The written story was born.

Much later, people invented devices that could capture the sound of the human voice, store it, and repeat it for others to hear – across the street or around the world. These devices changed shape and form, but they all worked in an analog fashion – capturing sounds for reproduction.

The audio-recorded story was born.

In the last couple of decades, a new way of recording the story emerged: digital. The sound source was recorded by breaking it down and storing it digitally. Not only could the sounds be reproduced, they could be reproduced over and over, without any degradation of quality.

The digital story was born.

Now here we are, in the digital age, texting, tweeting, Skyping, voice calls, emails, etc., all using a digital form of communication.

Sometimes, even when we’re in the same room or under the same roof.

Kinda like sitting around a cooking fire, telling stories…