Dreamers Live Beyond Themselves in Order to Make Dreams Come True

Even for those of you that don’t follow the Walt Disney Company regularly, the news coming out of Anaheim, CA from the biannual gathering of Disney fans called D23 has been nonstop since last Friday. Even though the event ended Sunday night, recaps, opinions, and second-guessing continues today – and probably will throughout this week and beyond.

With intellectual properties like Disney Studios, theme parks and resorts, and the studios of Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and now most of Fox, the entertainment giant is continuing to grow beyond expectations.

D23 was three days of seemingly nonstop announcements about the upcoming movies from all the studios mentioned above, new attractions at theme parks world-wide, new partnerships, and the unveiling of Disney+, the streaming service that will launch November 12. Artists, actors, and people normally behind-the-scenes were onstage everywhere at the Anaheim Convention Center, each presentation seeming to outshine the previous one.

I’m not even going to attempt to unpack everything that happened at D23 – there are much better sources for that.

Instead, I want to leave you with a couple of images – courtesy of Disney – and a quote by Walt Disney:

If you don’t know what these represent:

  • The top image is a representation of four “neighborhoods” coming to Epcot – a transformation of the park in every sense of the word.
  • The image on the lower right is a new statue of Walt Disney what will occupy “Dreamer’s Point,” a transition from Spaceship earth to the rest of the reimagined Epcot.
  • The quote in the lower left is from Walt Disney, part of a longer statement about Epcot he made in October 1966 – only two months before his death.

Think about that.

While Walt Disney was totally immersed in the building of Disneyland in California, and led in the acquisition of the thousands of acres that would become Walt Disney World in Florida, he never saw the first shovel of dirt turned, much less the completion of any part of Walt Disney World.

The EPCOT he dreamed of was not the Epcot Center that opened in 1982; all of the work done in major upgrades since then – and including this projected “transformation” – are not going to make that happen.

But the dream did not die with the dreamer.

His vision of ‘a new Disney world’ outside of Orlando, Florida, especially his concept of Epcot, was so strongly a personal, life-summing statement that many believed the dream might die with Walt. Not so. For in addition to the fantasy empire Walt had created, he had also built a unique organization.

– Richard Beard, Walt Disney’s EPCOT

Led by Walt’s older brother Roy, who postponed his retirement, the talents of the entire Disney organization went ahead with the Florida project.

Because that’s what dreamers do…

…they dream, and make sure there is a team who understands and lives the dream, and will keep it going.

So that’s what Epcot is: an experimental prototype community that will always be in a state of becoming. It will never cease to be a living blueprint of the future…

– Walt Disney

 

Will your dream live beyond you?

 

What’s Your Organization’s Creation Story?

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and Younique, writes about the importance of leadership stories here. He believes that storytelling and understanding the nuances of story will help leaders in the daily ebb and flow of communication. The first, appropriately, is your organization’s creation story.

As a leader, you should know more about the creation story of your organization than anyone on the planet. What are the circumstances—passions, problems, and people—surrounding how the organization got started to begin with? 

Mastering the richness of the creation story will help in two major ways. First, it will hold insight into the unique culture of the organization and therefore future decision-making and vision. Second, your mastery of the story itself will bring tremendous credibility with people when initiating change.

With a passion of Disney history, I’m always grateful to visit Disney properties and immerse myself in the stories and culture of Walt Disney and the “kingdom” he began. During a recent multi-day visit to California, I had the opportunity to visit Disneyland several days, experiencing both the familiar and new perspectives.

Take this image, for example:

 

In talking with current Cast Members, Tour Guides, and former Imagineers, various stories were given as to the origin of Disneyland:

  1. It was Walt Disney’s fascination with trains, beginning as a boy, that led him to first create a scale model railroad in his backyard. Not satisfied, he begin to develop an ever-growing park that would include a railroad. When Disneyland opened in 1955, the first object you saw approaching the park was a train station, and a 5/8 scale railroad encircled the park.
  2. Saturday’s were “Daddy’s Day,” and Walt often took his daughters to play in nearby parks. While sitting on a bench in Griffith Park, Walt imagined what a park would look like that would allow both parents and children to be immersed in a story-rich, safe, clean park.
  3. Fascinated by miniatures, Walt began a hobby of crafting extremely detailed miniature items, building entire rooms filled with objects that were not only beautiful to look at, but fully functional. He envisioned a place to display these miniatures so that people from all over the country could enjoy them.
  4. By the late 1940’s-early 1950’s, Walt had grown tired of making animated pictures, and even his recent venture into live-action motion pictures left him dissatisfied. He imagined a place were people could actually be a part of a story, immersed in all the rich details that a “theme park” could provide.

What is the true origin of Disneyland?

I believe that all of the above contributed to the creation of Disneyland. And the common denominator of all of them?

Passion.

> What about your organization?

ACTION STEP: Write a one-page, 2-minute creation story talk. If you have any gaps in your knowledge, interview people in your organization until you know more than anyone else.

Capturing the Vision Lesson Behind Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Frequent readers of this site know of my fondness (well, let’s call it what it is – extreme fanaticism) for the genius of Walt Disney and the amazing “kingdom” that bears his name. Recently, I’ve been researching the early history of animation at Disney through various sources, mostly first-person accounts of the animators from the 1930s.

When I had the opportunity, I also spent a few days in Anaheim, CA at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. In a unique dining experience while talking with Cast Members, I was reminded again of the vision Walt Disney exercised to bring Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to life.

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Tucked inside the entrance gates to Disney’s California Adventure is an iconic reproduction of the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles. One of the most important theaters in the Golden Age of Movies during the Twenties and Thirties, it represents the premier of a tremendous achievement by Walt Disney – the first full length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Though we now view Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as an animation classic, in the mid-1930’s the idea of a full-length “cartoon” was unheard of. Walt Disney took one of the biggest risks of his career, putting almost all of his resources – both business and personal – into the film. Called “Disney’s Folly” by most of Hollywood (and more than a few inside Disney Studios itself), the film opened to critical and financial success, paving the way for Disney to continue expanding his creative genius.

With critics becoming more vocal, Walt Disney knew he would have to inspire his team of artists and writers as never before.

The rest is history…

Ken Anderson, Art Director for Snow White, remembered it this way:

Walt approached a group of employees late one afternoon, gave each of them fifty cents, told them to grab dinner across the street and then return to the soundstage that evening. None had any idea of what Walt had in mind.

When they arrived and took their seats on wooden tiers at the back of the room, Walt was standing at the front lit by a single spotlight in the otherwise dark space.

Announcing that he was going to launch an animated feature, he told the story of Snow White, not just telling it but acting it out, assuming the character; mannerisms, putting on their voices, letting his audience visualize exactly what they would be seeing on the screen. 

He became Snow White and the wicked queen and the prince and each of the dwarfs.

Anderson said the performance took over three hours. One animator later claimed, “that one performance lasted us three years. Whenever we’d get stuck, we’d remember how Walt did it on that night.”

– Neal Gabler, “Walt Disney-The Triumph of the American Imagination

But there’s more to the story…

Along about the same time, Disney demonstrated his vision in another way. The new medium of television, though in its infancy, was growing.

According to Keith Gluck, writing for The Walt Disney Family Museum,

Before Walt Disney even understood the new medium of television, he still had the foresight to invest in it. Walt had learned from dealing with shady characters in the past to pay close attention to contracts. When his distribution deal with United Artists was coming to a close, he chose not to renew. UA was insisting on the television rights to all Disney cartoons. “I don’t know what television is, and I’m not going to sign away anything I don’t know about,” Walt said. He ended up signing with RKO Pictures in late 1935.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937, distributed by RKO Pictures. It was a smashing success, and was later given an honorary Academy Award for its groundbreaking achievements. It was no typical Oscar, either – the award instead was one statuette with seven miniature statuettes!

There’s one more piece to this vision puzzle…

Over a decade later, Walt’s interest in television began to develop. In 1948 he spent a week in New York with the specific purpose of watching and learning more about television. By the time he returned to the Studio, he was convinced it was just the forum to help promote his work. He even told Studio Nurse Hazel George, “Television is the coming thing.” While other movie studios were trying to think of ways to thwart the coming of television, Walt was gearing up to embrace it. 

 – Keith Gluck, The Walt Disney Family Museum

By being the first studio producer to become involved with the fledgling medium of television, Disney was able to leverage that partnership into a financing arrangement that allowed him to bring another dream to reality – Disneyland.

Walt had a grander vision of what his shows could do on ABC, and how they could be used to promote Disneyland. Despite pressure from the other studios, Walt and Roy Disney signed a contact with Leonard Goldenson of ABC, in which the network put up $500,000 in cash, guarantee $4.5 million in loans, and receive one-third ownership in Disneyland (which it later sold back to Disney).

– J. Jeff Kober, Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz

With the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Walt’s vision and imagination took on a reality that people could see, hear, and feel – an experience that changed entertainment forever.

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Walt Disney’s Vision Lesson for Leaders Today

Walt Disney’s unique vision, personalized in the telling of Snow White, demonstrated in the far-reaching aspects of a contract, and brought to life at Disneyland, can be a model for church leaders today.

When God wants change, He affects the heart of the leader first.

To help people see the invisible, the leader must first understand how to unlock the imagination. How does the leader influence the imagination? Through metaphors, blended with the art of storytelling and question asking.

If the leader has any hope of painting a memorable picture of the future, it will be with the vivid and compelling language of metaphor – living language – that penetrates the soul as much as it illumines the mind.

– Will Mancini, Church Unique

What vision is burning inside of you, a vision that can captivate your team, influence the influential, and be brought to life in your community?

Why It’s Always Time to Go Back to the Drawing Board

…a memo from Walt Disney, December 23, 1935, to Don Graham, Disney artist and teacher of animation classes to studio artists

Right after the holidays I want to get together with you and work out a very systematic training course for young animators, and also outline a plan of approach for our older animators.

The following occurs to me as a method of procedure:

Take the most recent pictures – minutely analyze all the business, action, and results, using the better pieces of animation as examples, going thru the picture with these questions in mind:

What was the idea to be presented?

How was the idea presented?

What result was achieved?

After seeing this result – what could have been done to the picture from this point on, to improve it?


 

To put that quote in context, by the early 1930s Walt Disney had built a successful cartoon studio and an empire on the shoulders of Mickey Mouse – but to make the leap from shorts to a feature film, he knew his artists had to develop further.

 

In the beginning, Walt himself drove his artists to the nearby Chouinard Art Institute, then expanded that educational effort by building his own in-house art school like none other.

The following quotes from Walt Disney put his actions into perspective:

The first thing I did when I got a little money to experiment, I put all my artists back in school. The art school that existed then didn’t quite have enough for what we needed, so we set up our own art school.

It was costly to set up training classes, but I had to have the men ready for things we would eventually do.

Walt Disney had a vision to do what no one had done before, and he knew that vision required resources that didn’t exist.

He didn’t give up – he created everything to complete his vision: actions that required invention, patents, training, and unbounded passion.

As a leader, what vision do you have? What resources do you need to bring that vision to reality – even the ones that don’t exist?

Do you need to create a culture of learning?


 

Before Ever After is a treasury of rare and unpublished lecture notes, photographs and drawings which reflect the culture of learning that Walt Disney curated to raise the level of his artists in preparation for their first feature: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Walt hand-picked instructors from the renowned Chouinard Art Institute to hold classes on action and drawing.  He screened films for study.  He brought in talent from Architect Frank Lloyd Wright to choreographer George Balanchine to humorist Alexander Woollcott to teach and inspire his team.  The result is a stunning collection of transcripts and history which not only lay the artistic foundation for the animated art form, but also give us an intimate look inside the walls of Walt Disney’s studio during a seminal and profoundly creative moment in time.

From the authors:

To help rekindle the spirit of that time, we chose to share these transcripts in exactly their original form, printed on animation paper to be distributed to the crew. It is a treasure of artistic information and a series of historic document that should inspire artists, historians, and Disney fans alike, evoking the culture of learning that existed in a time when art, technology, and passion collided inside the gates of the Disney Studio.

 

inspired by Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio, by Don Hahn and Tracey Miller-Zarneke

 

 

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 projects:

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. I’ve used the theme of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” storyline – both the attraction and the movies – 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. The result?

As a result of my pirate “adventure,” I created a blog series which you can read about here.

And it doesn’t stop with pirates.

There’s the Disney wall in my office…

 

It’s continually changing as I acquire new books and other “resources” that help my inspiration.

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 Disney library of over 375 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 is playing in the background.

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 would 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

Good Leaders Unlock the Imagination by Starting with WHY

To help see others see change, the leader must understand how to unlock the imagination.

The very act of imagination is connected to faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When a leader articulates, or provokes, a follower’s imagination, he or she is serving both God and the individual by exercising the muscle of faith.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Start with Why, by Simon Sinek

Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty?

In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way-and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why.

Drawing on a wide range of real-life stories, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Walt Disney’s dream that we now know as Disneyland faced an immense problem: how do you get financial investors to back something that’s never been done before, and exists only in a few sketches?

Faced with this dilemma, Disney did what he was best at: he painted pictures with words:

The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to spend pleasant times in one another’s company.

Disneyland will be based upon and dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and hard facts that have created America. And it will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts and send them forth as a source of courage and inspiration to all the world. 

Disneyland will be filled with the accomplishments, the joys and hopes of the world we live in. And it will remind us and show us how to make those wonders part of our lives.

Walt Disney, An American Original, 246-247

Disney’s simple but evocative language convinced the investors of a future they could not see – and the rest is history.

Great leaders and great organizations are good at seeing what most of us can’t see. They are good at giving us things we would never think of asking for.

Great leaders are those who trust their gut. They are those who understand the art before the science. They win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with WHY.

Products and services with a clear sense of WHY give people a way to tell the outside world who they are and what they believe. Remember, people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. If an organization does not have a clear sense of WHY then it is impossible for the outside world to perceive anything more than WHAT the organization does. And when that happens, manipulations that rely on pushing price, features, service or quality become the primary currency of differentiation.

WHAT: Every single organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATS are easy to identify.

HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required. There is one missing detail:

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your organization exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

It all starts from the inside out. It all starts with WHY.

Simon Sinek, Start with Why

A NEXT STEP

There is a fine line between inspiration and manipulation. A leader can use powerful language, vivid images, and emotional pleas to his audience – and be a manipulative, power-hungry despot.

A leader can also use powerful language, vivid images, and emotional pleas to his audience – and be a visionary leader.

The difference is in the WHY. If people don’t believe in the WHY behind your vision, they won’t be motivated to help you deliver it.

To understand the WHY behind all sides of a situation, idea, or problem you are facing, take the WHY Train by answering the following questions:

  1. Who is the main actor in the situation or problem?
  2. What is the main concept, object, or action the main actor uses or performs?
  3. Where is the main actor located when performing or using the main concept, object, or action?
  4. When does the situation or problem occur?
  5. Describe each answer in more depth.
  6. Conclude by asking WHY to the answers you have given.

The result of this exercise will be a thorough and sequential description about a situation and the insightful reasoning behind each element.


As leaders, we communicate in all we say and do. We may be entertaining at times, we inform much of the time, and occasionally we must be directing in what we say. But in all situations, we can inspire and connect with our audience.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 29-1, published December 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

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

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