How to Learn Creativity from Disney’s Imagineers

It’s time for the first summer term of the 2016 GsD program, and just as in previous summer terms, we begin with a reading survey course. Over the next few weeks, I will be listing a broad overview of some of the best literature in the field of customer service – and you will quickly see how it connects to Guest Experiences! It’s only an introduction to whet your appetite – the application to the world of Guest Experiences for churches will come in the second summer term!

2016 GsD Summer Term 1 Survey of Customer Experience Literature 201

Text: The Imagineering Pyramid: Using Theme Park Design Principles to Develop and Promote Your Creative Ideas

Author: Louis J. Prosperi

Synopsis: Using existing material published by Disney plus conversations with Imagineers, Prosperi weaves together an interesting thought captured in the book’s subtitle: Using Disney Theme Park Principles to Develop and Promote Your Creative Ideas.

It’s a very compelling challenge: look at the existing body of work done by the Imagineers for Disney’s theme parks and translate those principles into a “pyramid” of 15 principles grouped into 5 tiers.

Outline

Tier 1: Foundations of Imagineering

  • It All Begins with a Story – Using your subject matter to inform decisions about your project.
  • Creative Intent – Staying focused on your objective.
  • Attention to Detail – Paying attention to every detail.
  • Theming – Using appropriate details to strengthen your story and support your creative intent.
  • Long, Medium, and Close Shots – Organizing your message to lead your audience from the general to the specific.

Tier 2: Wayfinding

  • Wienies – Attracting your audience’s attention and capturing their interest.
  • Transitions – Making changes as smooth and seamless as possible.
  • Storyboards – Focusing on the big picture.
  • Pre-Shows and Post-Shows – Introducing and reinforcing you r story to help your audience get and stay engaged.

Tier 3: Visual Communication

  • Forced Perspective – Using the illusion of size to help communicate your message.
  • “Read”-ability – Simplifying complex subjects.
  • Kinetics – Keeping the experience dynamic and active.

Tier 4: Making It Memorable

  • The “it’s a small world” Effect – Using repetition and reinforcement to make your audience’s experience and your message memorable.
  • Hidden Mickey’s – Involving and engaging your audience.

Tier 5: Walt’s Cardinal Rule

  • Plussing – Consistently asking, “How do I make this better?”

About the author: Lou Prosperi is a former game designer and currently works as a technical writer and manager for a large enterprise software company. His interest in Disney theme parks and Disney Imagineering goes back to 1993.

Additional Resources: The author is continually adding resources to his Imagineering Toolbox.


A Quick Comment: Instead of building an object like an attraction, Prosperi challenges the reader to do something with the principles that may be even more daunting: be creative.

Even though I was familiar with most of the principles and their origins, I enjoyed reading how Prosperi linked the ideas together into a unified whole. Especially helpful were the questions at the end of each chapter, with a general focus as well as specialized applications for game design, instructional design, and management and leadership. The questions will help anyone have a better grasp of the concept and how to apply it an almost any field.

The Imagineering Pyramid was especially beneficial to me on a recently completed 3-day “field trip” to all four theme parks at Walt Disney World. As I walked through each park, the genius of the Imagineers inspired me to fill several pages of my Disney journal with new ideas for development as well as take over 1,000 photographs of design details – exactly what I believe Louis Prosperi had in mind when writing the book.

Leaders in any capacity will benefit from The Imagineering Pyramid as a helpful tool, providing a creative framework for solving problems.

ImagineeringPyramid


Guestology – the art and science of knowing and understanding your guests – is a term originated by Bruce Laval of the Walt Disney Company. The use of GsD (Doctor of Guestology) is my tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that organizations that really want to understand and deliver a WOW Guest Experience need to study the best practices and principles in use today, and then adapt them to the context of their own environment.

If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the 2013 GsD Summer Reading 101 classes, you can begin reading a 10-part session here.

For more reading in the area of Guest Experiences, check out my Essential Guest Experience Library. I am always adding new resources for your learning pleasure!

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