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Disney Fox Merger Sounds Death Knell for Creatives

Book cover for Penguinate! The Disney Company

The official merger of Disney and Fox has sounded the death knell for creativity. While scooping up Fox’s assets is the right business decision for Disney, it is one that writers, movie makers, ad executives and other creatives should fear.

With Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Fox, and its own studio, Disney will own an estimated 40% of the box office. The merger allows Disney to exercise economies of scale and negotiating power not seen this side of Wal-Mart.

Writers already face enormous competition to get their stories read. Every indie writer out there who wants to see their stories on the big screen has just had their chances reduced by one major player. Making a living as a writer is difficult enough without having Fox’s ability to seek out new storylines withdrawn from the market.

Looking at Disney’s upcoming movie slate, Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King are remakes of animated films. Dumbo will have to lose the crows. Will Smith will have to do his own genie thing because it would be ridiculous to copy Robin Williams. Other than that, these three films look to be Xerox photo copies of their animated counterparts. We’ve already seen them and we’re going to see them again.

The sequels list is longer. With Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home (though not as far as you might think), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Frozen II and Star Wars Episode IX on the slate, there is hardly any room for an original idea. While sequels can bring something new to franchise, they don’t require as much risk taking or creativity to make.

Which leaves Disney with Artemis Fowl and with DisneyNature’s Penguins as its only non-sequel, non-remake movies coming out in 2019. With 11 films left on the slate, Disney has one new story that will probably flop and a documentary to offer. Take a moment to ponder that.

Even if Disney remains true to form and let’s Fox operate the way Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm have, Fox was depending on its Avatar sequels and X-Men films to keep it in the black. Films Disney was already on board with.

Creativity will have to come from film makers with smaller budgets who, despite lacking marketing savvy and budgets for said marketing, have a film hit big. Like writers, these smaller film makers will have to find a way to cut through the noise of modern media and its giants to harness the power of going viral, and they’re going to need you to help. It’s going to be an uphill battle for creative people to get out there, but it always has been.

(Full disclosure: I own Disney Stock ad will go see all the Disney/Marvel/Pixar branded movies they make.)

For more thoughts on the Disney company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” For more on creativity, buy “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Goals

Penguins with ball

Many people think that creativity only involves a free-for-all, throw-stuff-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks, and it can be that. Disney uses “Blue Sky” as its terminology for ideas that have no boundaries. Some organizations call it “Green Field” thinking. A simple brainstorming session can also encompass this type of idealized creativity. One person alone or a group of people coming up with ideas about anything and everything.

But that’s not really how most creativity works. Disney might have blue sky sessions that encompass everything from transportation to theme park attractions and TV series to communication break-throughs, but most of the time these sessions are focused on a goal. The goal may still be overwhelmingly large, like a story for the next great Pixar movie, but it is a goal nonetheless. Jackson Pollock doesn’t sit down to write a novel and end up with a painting, and George R.R. Martin doesn’t sit down to write a novel and end up with clay statue.

For some people, the word goal may be too pointed. There still have to be limitations or a problem that the person is solving before he or she can really engage the creative juices. The goal, or general direction, helps people to focus their creative energy and allows the brain to pick up on the importance of the project or question. Even if no answer is immediately forthcoming, the problem may be solved during an unrelated activity.

If you’re having trouble firing up your creativity, it may be because your too thinly spread. Focus on one thing you want to make better and work on that. One goal I always come back to is “What can we do to make Tomorrowland more about tomorrow?”

If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments section below. You can read some of my ruminations in the upcoming book “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” Until its release, you can pick up “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Becoming More Creative for a Better Life and World.” You can also preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, Storytelling and Ken Anderson

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Walt Disney turned to Ken Anderson to work on the Haunted Mansion in the late 1950s. There had been other concepts before, usually one or two drawings and not much else. Anderson got to work and began coming up with stories for the mansion, which he referred to as the “ghost house.” Anderson came up with the design based on a building in Baltimore, and he came up with several different stories, especially suited for a walk-through.

There was Captain Gore, who killed his bride when she found out that he was an infamously blood-thirsty pirate; she haunted him until he hanged himself. There was the Blood family, whose ancestral home where they all died was transplanted at Disneyland. Anderson worked on various effects and storylines within those concepts, including one with the Headless Horseman and naïve guides, but none of them worked for Walt. The Haunted Mansion resisted cohesive story-telling.

Instead, it needed to be more like the Pirates of the Caribbean, which wasn’t developed at the time Anderson was working on the Haunted Mansion. Walt told his imagineers to think of Pirates like a cocktail party. People wouldn’t be able to hear all of the conversations going on. This was a good thing because it meant that they would have to come back to see it again. That approach worked for the Haunted Mansion, too.

While the façade of the Haunted Mansion was completed in 1963, the attraction wouldn’t open until August 9, 1969. The years it spent in development and the amount of time the mansion stood empty only worked in favor of Disneyland where it opened to large crowds and earned the hearts of millions of guests.

Celebrate 50 years of the Haunted Mansion with us and preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” A wholly unauthorized look at the history of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and what it can help us learn about becoming more creative.

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Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and Creativity

In the stage play when Tinker Bell drinks the poison that is intended to kill Peter Pan and starts to fade, Peter says it’s because not enough people believe enough in fairies. If the audience could believe more in fairies, and show that belief through applause, Tinker Bell could be saved. This isn’t the only time that the two characters are associated with belief.

In Disney’s 1953 screen adaptation, Peter tells the Darling children that they can fly. “All it takes is faith and trust… and a little bit of pixie dust.” As long as the children think happy thoughts and believe they can fly, they can.

The first step to improving your creativity is to believe you can. Too many people believe that creativity is an innate gift bestowed upon a blessed few at birth. The reality is that everyone is creative, you just have to harness it, practice it and release your inhibitions. None of that can happen unless you believe in your own creativity and your ability to improve it first.

Think you can improve your creativity? We do to, get a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Steps for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essay and Short Stories: Improving Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Let us help you fly!

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Disneyland Attractions and Their Movies

Partners statue in Disneyland

Many Disneyland attractions already have movie attached to them. The Jungle Cruise will get its eponymous movie, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in 2020, though the boat designs were based on 1951’s “The African Queen.” The Indiana Jones Adventure has a series of films and a TV show based on the popular character; there are rumors of a fifth film in the works for 2021. Tarzan’s Treehouse is connected to Disney’s animated feature of the same name and was formerly known as the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; the Swisskapolka is still played in memoriam of the former incarnation. This leaves only the Enchanted Tiki Room as an attraction in Adventureland without a movie.

The Pirates of the Caribbean has had five movies based on it. A sixth one was scheduled but the writers walked out and Disney has yet to clarify whether the reboot will move forward. The Haunted Mansion had a terrible movie made about it and deserves a do-over. Tom Sawyer’s Island, based on the Mark Twain stories of Tom and Huck Finn with a pirate overlay, has a movie starring JTT and the tie-in to the Pirates of the Caribbean. The seasonal Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes have the surprise hit of the 1950s “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier,” which started on the weekly Disney TV show and moved to the theaters after it became so popular. New Orleans Square is pretty much covered unless you want to count the Blue Bayou or Club 33 as attractions.

Critter Country’s Splash Mountain is based on the never-to-be-seen-in-the-U.S.-again “The Song of the South,” and Winnie the Pooh has several films, and TV shows – most recently, “Christopher Robin.” The Country Bear Jamboree also got a movie; however, the film released after the show was evicted from the premises.

Over at Frontierland, the Mark Twain doesn’t have its own movie; neither does the Sailing Ship Columbia or Big Thunder Mountain. Big Thunder Mountain does have a series of comic books. The Golden Horseshoe Stage was designed by Harper Goff who also did the saloon in “Calamity Jane.” The Shooting Exposition is another attraction that is missing a movie. But does it deserve one?

Fantasyland is all about the mostly animated films of Walt Disney, which contributed to the TV show “Once Upon a Time.” From “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “Frozen,” just about every attraction has a movie to go with it. “Dumbo” and “Alice in Wonderland” are represented twice, and that’s not including the miniatures in Storybookland Canals. Even the Matterhorn is tied to “Third Man on the Mountain.” It’s a small world, however, does not.

Toon Town is also replete with films, or at least, the short cartoons of Disney’s past. Home to the Big Five, Toon Town also features nods to the Disney Afternoon with Gadget’s Go Coaster. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” provides the framework for Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin.

Tomorrowland has its own movie, which was better than it was given credit for. The attractions in Tomorrowland mainly rely on “Star Wars,” “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo for their themes. The exceptions are Space Mountain, the Monorail, the Astro Orbitor and Autopia.

Main Street U.S.A.’s attractions appear to be completely ignored by Disney’s movie making machine. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Penny Arcade, and the Main Street Cinema are all attractions without movies though Disney did distribute “Lincoln” in 2012. None of the vehicles on the street have their own films.

So, which of the attractions that do not have films should be made into a movie? Or is Disney going to need to create new attractions to find the next Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? Leave your comments below, include a possible plotline, just keep it PG.

Thinking deeply about a subject is part of becoming more creative. If you like Disney, a great place to start to think deeply and improve your creativity is with “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” for a more in-depth analysis of my favorite ride. For other articles related to Disney check out these links.

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‘Frozen 2’: The Fall of Elsa

Let’s forget the mildly entertaining and somewhat inconsistent shorts that Disney spun from its billion-dollar franchise ‘Frozen’ and look at the new teaser that just dropped. A determined Elsa faces the fury of a stormy coastline. Was she kidnapped and left on an island? Shipwrecked? We don’t know. We do know, by the determination in her face and body language, that she’s going to get off the island using her ice powers. The ocean can’t defeat her. (I don’t know why she needs a running start or how long she plans on running.The ocean is big.) She could probably make a stairway or bridge over the waves, but that would be way less cool.) Winter is coming!

Floating multi-colored diamond shapes…

All the SVENS! Gather the herd, we have places to run!

Anna shows off her athleticism. That’s quite a leap. Of course, tossing a bust around like it’s a bouquet of flowers showed off some of Anna’s unexpected strength.

Elsa is fighting fire to save her friend Olaf. Is this the time we see the demise of Olaf? If this scene comes before Elsa fighting the ocean… I fear for our friend who likes warm hugs. Maybe, it’s retribution for the short that was too long and shown before “Coco.” Olaf! Some people are worth melting for. Just maybe not right now!

The wind through the leaves as fall settles across the land. Has fall come too early? After Elsa’s eternal winter of the first movie, is this how the trees would react? Are those two new characters? It doesn’t look like Christoff’s coat. And he’s being blown like a leaf on the wind. It could be Hans or the son of the Duke of Weselton.

There’s a fell voice on the wind. All of those blowing leaves… It’s the Fall of Elsa. How else would a queen, her sister and the official ice deliverer be able to leave the castle and ostensibly the kingdom? Who did they leave in charge? Hans? He was a capable leader who seemed to care about the people of Arendelle, even if he wanted to kill the sisters.

The all female version of “Vuelie,” the seemingly weirdly out of place opening to the first movie featured a choir of men and women. This trailer version is different. And cut! No, Anna, I didn’t mean that literally!

I have already proposed several different plotlines that I’m pretty sure Disney didn’t consider. You can see them on my Patreon page as a preview of my planned book “Penguinate! The Disney Company” if you join today! You might also want to check out five bad pick-up lines from “Frozen” at our Weebly archives.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Brainstorming

Creativity comes when people aren’t afraid to make connections or sound dumb. People don’t like to be judged or have their ideas called stupid, even if they sound out there. Brainstorming sessions attempt to put people in a safe place where there is no judgement and they can dream as big as they want to. As an idea generation practice, Brainstorming can provide hundreds to thousands of ideas, depending on how many people participate and how long the session is.

Brainstorming sessions should have between 8 and 12 people. The session should last about 45 minutes to an hour though longer sessions can be advantageous if there are appropriate breaks. All brainstorming sessions have rules. At Disney in their blue-sky sessions, imagineers follow these rules according to “The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland”:

  1. There is no such thing as a bad idea.
  2. No talking about why it can’t be done.
  3. Do not stifle ideas with “buts,” “can’ts” and other negative words.
  4. There’s no such thing as a bad idea.

Not everyone agrees that brainstorming is a good idea. Edward de Bono says it’s a waste because so many ideas are discarded and the time to come up with them is wasted thereby. The process is inefficient. However, creativity is inefficient, so the brainstorming session, when the plan begins, should be the most inefficient part of the process.

De Bono also notices that some people try to top others, so the session results in people coming up with the most outlandish ideas. For me, that’s part of the point of brainstorming. Like Disney imagineers, I believe you never know where the best idea is going to come from, and it could come from a connection to an outrageous idea that someone else had.

Others decry the fact that brainstorming sessions have no follow up step. That’s up to the business to create. Recording the ideas and having the team follow up is easier if someone has the authority, time and resources to move forward with new ideas.

If you want to have a lot of ideas to choose from, start with a brainstorming session.

For more ABCs of Creativity, check these links. Grab a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Creating for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Photos from Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure

Pixar Pier sign

The Disneyland Resort is still trying to figure out what it needs to do to get more people flowing into its second gate: Disney California Adventure. Retheming Pixar Pier is the start of the Disney Company’s ambitious plans. However, it does nothing to change the equation on a higher level. Pixar Pier is laid out the same way. With the only space left to occupy being the place where the old Maliboomer used to be, it’s hard to see anything drawing more than Toy Story Midway Mania does now. The Incredicoaster did have a long wait on a night when there was no “World of Color.” Gone are the days of 20 minutes to get on the only inverted loop in the Disneyland Resort.

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Fantasmic! at the River Belle Terrace

Everyone loves Fantsmic! Water, video projected on water, fire, fireworks, special effects, magic, and a catchy tune make this one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland. Even after more than 25 years, people stake out their seats early and cause traffic problems on the Rivers of America to see Mickey’s imagination run wild as he faces off against some of Disney’s scariest villains.

More colorful than years before, Fantasmic! 2018 features new segments and a tighter script (especially the Jack Sparrow segment). While Mickey and the Sword of Truth no longer face Maleficent in dragon form (instead, he vanquishes her as the sorcerer’s apprentice), the whole show is well-produced and choreographed.

The best seats in the house (of the mouse) aren’t necessarily in the front at the edge of the Rivers of America where spectators are likely to get wet. Instead, the River Belle Terrace offers an elevated view above the crowds and away from the water. This dining package includes a lanyard and a menu full of great food to choose from. Better, you don’t have to stake out your seats because you’ve reserved them far in advance.

The corn chowder is spicy, warm, and tasty. It hits the right spot during a cool winter evening in Frontierland, and it fills the belly and soul with goodness. The tater tots are spiced to be addictive. (As someone who isn’t a huge tater tot fan, I couldn’t get enough of them and found myself popping them in my mouth even after I was full.) The beef brisket was good, too. The showstopper, however, was the Maleficent dessert: chocolate and spice in a raspberry sauce makes it amazing.

The tables may be a little wobbly, and the seating area doesn’t have any heating elements, but the views are positively Fantasmic! And Early show viewers can stay to see the fireworks form the comfort of their table on the River Belle Terrace. Check out my Disneyland page.

From the 2017 show
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Disney Magic: Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean Changes More Than the Red-Head

While everyone has focused on the controversial change to the iconic auction scene on Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, people have missed a subtler and more astounding addition to the classic attraction. In the cave as guests transfer between the world of the dead into the world of the living pirates, a skeleton holds treasure while hanging from a rope above a living octopus. Barbossa’s assault on the Spanish fort can be heard in the background as the guest’s ship glides by the skeleton.

But wait, it’s no longer a skeleton. The figure has transformed into a full-blooded pirate with flesh and hair! The effect may be simple to create, the result is still astounding. It was so surprising that I had to ride twice to make sure I saw what I did and other members of my party didn’t see it the first time either. So, while Scarlett, who is available as a funny, powerful face character in New Orleans Square, gets all the glamour, this other more low-key addition to Pirates of the Caribbean proves that Disney can still make magic!