Thursday, November 19, 2015

Turning Anxiety into Magic

Are we feeling anxious yet?

The Walt Disney Corporation website has this to say about Imagineering's role in the company;

From castles, mountains and mansions to fireworks spectaculars, Imagineers are the creative force behind the iconic Disney attractions and experiences that our guests have come to know and love.

We combine our rich storytelling legacy with the latest technology to breathe life into beloved Disney stories and characters in our theme parks, resorts, cruise ships and other Walt Disney Parks and Resorts experiences around the world.

With one foot in the present and another in the future, Imagineers continue to push the boundaries of creativity, innovation and possibility as we create new experiences and new forms of entertainment for our guests of today, tomorrow and beyond.

That is a really compelling vision statement. Let's consider its implications;

Imagineers use the latest technology on theme parks, resorts, cruise ships. In order to do that they need to be architects and engineers who know how to work well with artists. Better yet, they should be artistic engineers themselves. That means they can use both the rational and emotional parts of their brains.

The other thing to remember is that there are (at least) two types of innovation; one is incremental the other is visionary. Over the years Disney has done both. The muti-plane camera, xerography and synchronized and multi channel sound were breakthru (aka "visionary" ) technologies. Disney hits it out of the park when they are visionary and it takes a certain type of personality to do that. Here's one example;

The WRAP's Gina Hall recently interviewed Andy Hendrickson and Hank Driskill on using the Hyperion rendering technology on Big Hero 6;

Hank Driskill: Some people were really excited by the promise. Some people were really anxious about something new and different because it was going to be painful.  (Notice the fear and pain. -df)

That anxiety was all the way up and down from the artists on the floor all the way up to the executives. There was anxiety about what this was going to be capable of, whether it would deliver on time, were we making a horrible choice that was going to impact the ability to deliver the movie. There was a big leap of faith on a whole lot of people’s parts to be okay with us trying to pull this off. It was a little bit crazy.

Andy Hendrickson: There was a lot of adrenaline associated with that. Basically we got to the point and some of the test images that we had created, we just looked at them. We were so enamored with what we saw in the visuals that we were creating, we said “OMG - we have to do this."

Consider the adjectives Andy and Hank use; adrenaline, anxiety, crazy, fear, horrible, pain. Then they use two very interesting phrases; "big leap of faith" and “OMG - we have to do this."

How does this happen?  How do you get from "horrible... crazy... painful... fear" to; 

"OMG we have to do this!"

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