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  1. #1

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    The Price of Creativity

    A few on MC probably guessed I had a thread like this brewing. It is not a response to IASW or a critique of speicifc individuals. It is a complaint against WDI in general. As a child I really really wanted to be a part of WDI. I wanted to be an Imagineer. I also wanted to be a Jungle Skip, and in the end I wanted to be a Skip more. While working at Disneyland I was fortunate to work with WDI, and to honestly view them from the inside out. I learned a lot about how concepts are pitched, how rehabs are approved, and ultimately how things work. Sadly this view changed me, and I found that I no longer wanted this dream. The ideal, and the reality, were in stark contrast. After I left Disneyland (really hard choice) for my Dream Job, I received a tentative offer from WDI. I found it ironic that my actual Dream job corresponded with a Dream job I had previously sought for so long.

    Here is my main complaint. WDI doesn't have a plan B. They constantly pitch a specific concept. That concept gets approved. Disney at some point cuts the budget, or actual cost supersedes estimate... and WDI goes into panic mode. One thing I learned from reading about Disney, he always had a plan B. He would do as much as he could, and if he had to cut back in one area, he would have another plan to spruce up another area without affecting the overall budget. He would make additions in hopes that the public would not notice the cutbacks. I wish WDI would do the same. As a Skip I was privileged to be a part of the Submit-A-Joke program. Skips submitted a lot of material. We submitted some things knowing they would be redlined. We EXPECTED them to be redlined. It wasn't a wasted effort. By dragging the bar that low, and allowing those sacrificed jokes to be redlined, it allowed other jokes to be approved that would otherwise have been a maybe at best. The same creative approach IMO should be used with WDI, always have several plans in your back pocket and expect the budget cuts. Plan for things to be cut out, and figure out creative ways around them.

    For me, the Jungle rehab was a real eye opener. There was so much potential that was lost when Schweitzer Falls came crashing down. It was unexpected, it was expensive, and WDI didn't have a plan B. That is when I decided to create and submit the Jungle Rehab Proposal. It's sad when an average CM can submit something, and WDI's comment was "Why didn't we think of that?" Honestly, everything should have a plan B. It is the cost of being creative, to know that not everything will work out and some compromises will have to be made. But if they planned in that manner then Indy wouldn't have a dark room, and Rocket Rods would have had a lot more to it.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


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  2. #2

    • Progressive Disneylander
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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    I think this is just the reality of what happens when you go from a man whose heart and soul is invested into his own project to something that is just one part of a large corporate entity.

    I'm sure the guy who created McDonalds probably made a fine, fresh cheeseburger way-back-when and probably would be embarassed by what the food has become today. McDonalds sure sells a lot more burgers today than the original store once did, but I'm sure if you could zap back into time, the food made at that original stand would have a quality about it that you surely wouldn't find at your local Mickey-D's.

    Point being, I just think the park operates differently because it's a different business structure. The way a corporation operates is differently than the way a company works when it is driven by it's original owner. The quality dimishes because the goals change.

    I still think Disney does a lot of good things, but why things occur and how they come about happen quite differently today.

    The bottom line is that money is the number one issue (cost, profit, etc.) when doing a project whereas, it might not have been the #1 issue back in Walt's days. Plan B's are more expensive than altering and adjusting plan A's. But pretty much everything that becomes a corporate entity who must ultimately answer to stockholders will operate in that fashion. Sadly, it's just the way it is.

  3. #3

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Thanks for voicing my feelings better than I could. I've been thinking something like this (though without the really well worded and catchy phrases) for some time. It is really frustrating to seem them shoehorn themselves into a corner as they so often do.

    If I were them, every single idea that came out of WDI for a pitch would be so ridiculously huge and gargantuan that when it got cut back by the budget people it would still be amazing. Then it would be possible to pick and choose which incredible elements of a pitched idea to keep to make it the best it could be.

    And having backup plans is essential in anything. Famous quote: "No plan survives contact with the enemy." For this reason military people always have a backup, or contingencies. WDI is no different... except the enemy is the budgetary committee.

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. mycroft16 on Twitter

  4. #4

    • Mischievous Mouse
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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Quote Originally Posted by KISSman View Post
    I think this is just the reality of what happens when you go from a man whose heart and soul is invested into his own project to something that is just one part of a large corporate entity.

    This, I feel, is probably the single most relevant statement to the challenges to the proposal of a "plan B".

    It's really too bad.


    "We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together."

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  5. #5

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Working for Disney is a constant heartbreak.

    You work there because you cherish the legacy, the heritage, the creativity, and then you constantly have to reassign your feelings because nothing is sacred. Give Walt's Apartment to Adventures by Disney guides? Sure! Convert the Gallery into a $1,600/night cash cow? Perfect! Mow down the Rainforest? Who needed it!

    All of the folks here on Micechat that are striving to be a part of WDI are so passionate...
    It seems like everyone working for WDI should be as fervent for their job and about the magic they create and shape as they are. We know how hard it is to get there, how much value the Imagineer title holds, we see it as a prestige.

    I don't know if WDI has lost their passion, or if they're letting Rasulo keep them down, but come on guys! You are Disney Imagineers! Who can do it if you can't? Surely the most creative people in the world can find a way around restrictive budgeting...


  6. #6

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    I see what you mean, skip, and since you've spent more time actually dealing with WDI than I have, I have to just trust you to a certain degree. However, I would like to point out that it is possible to scale back a plan for financial reasons without sacrificing the core of the idea. I've heard Imagineer Joe Rohde explain this really well--basically, if you thoroughly understand the themes that are totally crucial and central to your project, and you've internalized the core values that make it what it is, you should be able to take away the smaller, less important parts and still have a strong concept. Every detail has a position in the hierarchy of importance, and as long as you can prune away the thinnest twigs without sacrificing the integrity of the major branches, you should be okay.

    That being said, a Plan B is always nice to have.


  7. #7

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    ...And yet we have a corpulent Nemo budget without much of an attraction to show for it...

  8. #8

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Wow, well worded Data.

    With the pruning back of WDI staff in the last decade, I wonder if the core values have kind of faded a bit. I wonder if they see it as the high honor and privilege that it is. Is part of the problem a feeling of "despair" with the way things are done now?

    And as fo'c's'le swab points out, Large Budget does not equal Creativity and Quality. Though it does help allow for it to be built.

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. mycroft16 on Twitter

  9. #9

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    I've thought the same thing too. Good post skip. I've seen something simmilar done many times by architects. Very often when presenting to a design review board for the first time they'll present something really crappy, so that when they come in again with their new and improved design, (reflecting what they really wanted to do in the first place,) the board is so happy with the improvement that they love it. It's an effective strategy.

    I imagine they do have some ideas for what they'll cut if budgets are reduced, but obviously sometimes the things they seems to cut are pretty critical, not simply little extras. Overall though, I think the biggest problem in the past has been creative ideas being killed by upper management before they're even developed and the imagineers who kiss these managers ***** rather than having some integrity. If imagineers are going to just act like yes men, the whole division is pointless, and they might as well just hire outside firms to design the parks.

  10. #10

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Thank you Skip for saying what many of us have been thinking. Everyone else so far has added a view to that core thought that really enhances the basic premise. One of the basic tennents I get is a reinforcement of a belief I have long held.

    With few exceptions the current (and recent past) Disney Management cares not for history, tradition, themes, quality, or it's employees. They have taken the brand from developing a new original idea to fruition and presenting it to guests, to sampling the public at large and designing and building to the lowest common denominator for widest acceptance - even if it isn't popular, but just good enough.

    I am seeing an increasing trend toward quality at least from (former CM) Matt Ouimet's attention to a clean and well maintained park, to the current quality of design and construction of the Midway Mania building. I certainly hope more in management start to "get it" and focus on excellence and tradition rather than drooling over public whim and a quick buck.







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  11. #11

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Working at WDI was a similarly and simultaniously eye-opening and crushing experience for me as well. I"d wanted my whole life to work there, and when I finally did, I had the shock of a lifetime. Granted, I was there during some dark times in the mid-ninties, and it's a somewhat different place now, but It was a very formative experience for me personally and professionally. And you know what? I'd still take a job there. The allure and the dream is still that strong.

  12. #12

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Well, the two friends I have who worked there always had a plan B. And were ready to be flexable with time and cost. But then, they had both worked with the Renaissance Pleasure Faire where they reinvent the wheel every year. Some years it's round, some it's oval. By comparison Disney, even in the 80s-90s was sanity.

  13. #13

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Too many chiefs, not enough Indians. (Sorry, not PC, but I said it.)
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  14. #14

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn, Renaissance Woman View Post
    But then, they had both worked with the Renaissance Pleasure Faire where they reinvent the wheel every year.
    I thought that was the Paleolithic Pleasure Faire...

  15. #15

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    Re: The Price of Creativity

    A lot of individuals actually misunderstood my meaning of a "Plan B". It actually falls along the lines of what Data mentioned. I'm not sure how many Micechatters play chess, but that is the easiest way to explain it. It is strategy. It is knowing some things will have to be cut, and designing them to be the obvious cuts WITHOUT telling those who hold the purse strings. It also means designing other aspects of the concept to be moved, because you expect the cuts and are already planning around them. Like I said as Skips we submitted a flurry of jokes knowing some would be cut but using them to lower the bar and get others passed.

    One proposal goes to those that need it. Several altered copies remain with WDI in that "in case of emergency" scenario. You never show the money men the scaled back copies because while you expect a cut, you don't encourage one. While it is easy to make some things obvious cuts, plan for anything to go. WDI learned that the hard way when Schweitzer fell. It sounds like common sense but I have actually seen WDI dumbfounded as to what to do when a budget was cut, money came up short and elements were scrapped. I was shocked at how a great concept could so easily unravel into the tag line of "good enough" as WDI scrambled for damage control. The worst part is that these cuts are obvious because they were not planned around. There was no attempt to hide them and worse no attempt to spread out the rest of the attraction to somewhat cover them up. In short they didn't plan on it happening, and it has happened over and over. Ultimately a concept is exactly that, it is a concept of what someone would like to build, a dream. But without proper planning the concept will look vastly different from the dream, and in some cases what you are left with could easily be ripped out or worse need to be improved in a mere matter of years costing the company even more money.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


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