What nine old men taught me about presenting.

nineOldMen

Disney’s Nine Old Men

These men, all of them animators (and eventually company directors), were at the center of many of Disney’s early successes. Think of some of the classics… Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lady and the Tramp, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book, and these guys were at the core of the Disney storytelling. (It also happens that they’ve had a lasting impact on the current generation of animators, two of them even had cameos in The Incredibles.)

These gentlemen knew how to draw the story, how to pull you into the action, how to deliver the goods. It wasn’t by accident either. The many failures of Walt Disney are well documented. The eventual product of those failures are equally well-known… characters that we care about, movies ingrained into Americana, theme parks that set the bar for all to meet. Those successes are no accident. They a testament to some very important ideas.

The 12 Basic Principals of Animation

Great storytelling means relying on a solid framework. Everyone has an outline, a rough draft and so on. But using a set of principals will help you bring meaning to your story.

  • Squash and stretch
  • Anticipation
  • Staging
  • Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose
  • Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  • Slow In and Slow Out
  • Arcs
  • Secondary Action
  • Timing
  • Exaggeration
  • Solid Drawing
  • Appeal

It’s a pretty simple list of relatively straightforward descriptors, and they’re not exclusive to animation. They’re useful in all sorts of creative expression… even sales presentations. In fact, think about the last time you shared a story with someone… you likely used some of these without being conscious of it.

Three of these principals, “Anticipation,” “Arcs” and “Timing,” I think are key ideas in sharing a compelling story. In my experience in giving presentations, these notions have proven to be invaluable tools in building a story. And if you spend any time at all studying those who deliver “stories,” or messages, you’ll no doubt see that many of the most effective communicators use these principals too. (Steve Jobs was a master at many of the techniques, like anticipation, staging and timing.) There’s so much to learn by watching others deliver a story… how they craft the message, how they built anticipation, how they delivered (or didn’t) deliver on their plan. I love to watch others give a talk.

Recently I accepted a new job (more on that later), but I get the chance to see some of the best presenters deliver their content, but one thing is constant… they rely on the tried and true storytelling techniques mentioned above. (And I’ll bet some of the presenters don’t even know it!)

Hopefully you’ll see this list as a useful tool in building your stories.

» To learn more about the principals, click here.

A Rookie’s Guide to Disney Info

Many of my friends think I’m a complete dork for knowing how to find stuff about Disney touring. Okay, guilty as charged.

However, this also means I’m often who they turn to when it’s time to start planning their trips. Truth is, I love pointing folks in the right direction. After having written the “helpful pointers” email a number of times for friends, I thought perhaps it’d be more useful to post it here. It’s possible that I’ll break some of this out into separate posts, since there are several topics covered here, but that’s for a rainy day.

 

Question: “Where can I find a good deal?”

There are so many places to find “deals” on Disney trips. Seems like you can always see a ‘special offer’ on TV, likewise, you can find specials online (I’ve included a few links below to help), but there’s more than a few things to consider when starting to plan your trip. I thought I’d cover a few of the main points in this post.

Package or a la Carte?

Getting a Magic Your Way Package is simple, and it’s probably what Disney would prefer you do. Why? Most likely so they control more of the process (and predictability in occupancy), but there’s plenty of upside for the consumer: you’re staying on-property (lots of goodies with that) and you getting the deal they’re advertising. These deals are always stacked in their favor (read the disclaimer copy very carefully). You’ve got choices, and there’s a ton of info online to help you, read on.

I’ll tell you that we’ve always booked “packages” until our most recent trip. This time we booked a “room-only” deal and bought park tickets separately. Doing this can get really confusing, really fast, but it doesn’t have to. Consider working through a Disney Travel specialist.

Why? They know things that us mortals don’t. Like this: If just one person in your party buys an Annual Pass, you’ll be able to save on the room reservation, probably enough to offset the cost of the Annual Pass itself.

Our agent recommended the Annual Pass technique, and saved us a bundle. There are a lot of other benefits to having an AP. But we wouldn’t have known to do that without her help.

So, the first big tip is: Use a travel agent… preferably one who specializes in Disney bookings. They’ve got their ‘ears to the ground,’ and know about specials, and usually will re-book your trip as new specials come along. And what most folks don’t realize: they’re paid by Disney, not you.

Disney Specialist Travel Agents

Stay On-property or Off-property?

We always stay “on property” (that means literally on the Walt Disney World Property, at one of their resorts). There’s lots benefits to staying off-property, but you what you give up is:

Convenience: You’re literally “right there.” Easy in, easy out. And if you choose one of the deluxe resorts (The Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian), you’re directly on the Monorail. Bonus: many of the resorts are close enough for you to watch the fireworks from your room!

Extra Magic Hours: Disney’s term of letting resort guests into the parks early and stay after the general public, is a great benefit. I know a lot of folks that don’t use this, but our family rocks it. If you’re goal is to ride rides… then this benefit alone is worth it.

Disney Service: There’s quite literally no other place that “gets” guest service like Disney. Staying on-property is a wonderful extension to your park experience.

On-property Resorts

Disney’s Polynesian Resort (one of their “deluxe” resorts) is our family’s favorite. It’s beautiful for sure, which comes at a cost. What we love about it, though, is its proximity to the Magic Kingdom. One Monorail ride away and you’re on Main Street. Plus, O’Hana (our favorite restaurant) is located in the Poly, making it super-convenient to see if they can “squeeze us in.”

We’ve also stayed at Pop Century (a “value” resort), much more budget-friendly, but you give up some “experience.” Though, if all you’re worried about is a room, pool and food court, you’re all set here. In fact, pretty much all of the Disney resorts are similar in room size, what you pay for is the experience and decor. Two exceptions: DVC resorts, and family suites at a few of Disney’s resorts.

Here’s a full list of on-property resorts. And for some unbiased reviews and such, check out AllEars.net.

DVC Resorts

I have a good friend who swears by DVC resorts (Disney Vacation Club, Disney’s answer to timeshares). I’ve heard that if you go at least every other year, it’s a good deal. We’d love to do it, but haven’t just yet. My friend isn’t a DVC member, but instead “rents” points allowing him to stay at DVC resorts without committing to the program (a really smart way to go).

With DVC, you get a bit more spacious accommodation, and you’re still on property (with all the benefits). Really, it’s a great way to go. (His favorite is Old Key West.)

DVC Point Rentals

Off-Property

It’s true, you’ll save money staying off-property (and there are tons of options, many of which offer shuttles to the ‘World), but you lose some of the great benefits mentioned above. What you gain, though, is more room, less cash out-lay, and some flexibility in location. Another option is renting a vacation home. All have bedrooms for everyone in your party, pools, media rooms, laundry rooms… really, all the comforts of home. Transportation is on you, but if you’ve got a car, you’re all set.

Vacation Home Rentals

Where can I find more details?

There’s SO MUCH information out there on the open web. Sites dedicated to every aspect of Disney touring. Below you’ll find a few of my favorites. I regularly visit these places, not because I’m always planning a trip (though I’d love to), but to get a “Disney fix.” Yeah, that’s right, I feed my habit by living vicariously through those sites. Don’t laugh…

Touring Plans
Whatever you do… go get a copy of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and a subscription to Touring Plans (the companion to the book). They’ve really figured out how to get the most out of a trip, but the Guide is chock full of research (reviews on rides, hotels, dining, everything…). And, if you grab their app, Lines, you’ll have access to even more, all on your phone, while you’re in the parks. It all works together to help you build touring plans that will rock the ‘World. On our last trip, we stuck to a touring plan, and by 2:30, we were done with the “must do’s” and on our way back to the Poly for a leisurely afternoon swim at the pool. Best money you’ll spend. Trust me.

All Ears
Do your recon with All Ears. They’ve seen, and photographed, every inch of WDW, and posted it for you to enjoy. Rooms, pools, resorts… even menus to all the restaurants. This site is rich with content.

WDW Today Podcast
I’ve listened to these guys for years. Three times a week they publish a podcast that answers questions, offers tips, and speculates on rumors and more. If you’re into listening while you work, this podcast is a fantastic resource.

The DIS
This site is probably the largest Disney Community online. Their forums are deep and wide, with topics for quite literally any question you could think up. The community that supports it is amazingly helpful… but be careful, you could lose yourself in there.

DisUnplugged
Produced by the folks behind The DIS, this podcast offers a ton of content: audio, video and commentary. They’re also the crew from Dreams Unlimited Travel. Bonafide experts.

WDW Radio
Lou Mongello has a great show chronicling all things Disney World. Often he’ll have guests on, some of whom are literally Disney legends.

And for good measure, here’s a couple of links for deal-searching:
Official Disney Offers
MouseSavers

 

Best. Trip. Ever.

Photo0093FourBySix

Okay, this is gonna get a little personal. Our family has had a few years of real struggle. Times when we honestly asked “why us” and questioned a lot of things near and dear to our heart. Now, you might think that this is an odd way to start a Disney trip report, but that’s just it… I don’t. After those ugly years, we were enabled to take an amazing trip… one that will be in our memories for years to come.

As I begin this report, I’m sitting on a plane returning from Walt Disney World, and it seemed only too apropos to spend a little time to reflect on the time we spent forging new memories into our collective family life.

If at first you don’t succeed…

It began with a dream, three years ago, as we started to plan our next visit to our favorite place on earth. As life would have it, we just couldn’t make it happen.  Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the first time we’d start and stop the process. I guess that’s what made this trip all the more amazing. After probably three years of turbulence, a nice juicy freelance project came along at just the right time. You see, we pay for our Disney trips outside of our family budget, it’s the only way we can make it happen.

Now, in our family, I’m the Disney planner. I usually take on the responsibility of making the touring plans, getting the flights set… you know, all the bits & pieces. Along the way, I’m asking everyone what’s on their must-do list… just to cover the bases.

This time around, we decided to not include the kids on the planning. We booked our flights, corresponded with the travel agent, and generally laid our plans in secret. We even planned on packing in the basement, in order to do everything in a “covert” mode.

As the time came closer, we concocted a cover story that we were panning a trip to see a family member… only, they were actually meeting us in Orlando! In the weeks leading up to the trip, the boys began speaking more and more about what we’d be doing in Dallas… from where we’d be staying, do what we’d be doing, you know, the sort of questions that naturally come up.

It quickly became too much for us to handle, and with one week to go we decided to let the kids in on the awesomeness that was about to happen. They almost didn’t believe us (I’m naturally pulling their legs about all sorts of stuff, so for me to be “kidding” about this wouldn’t be out of the question). After showing them the airline confirmation, they finally bought in. We were going back to Disney!

Time to fly.

Fast forward one week, we’re on the plane to Orlando. After touching down, and sitting on the tarmac for an hour, we retrieved our bags, and headed to Disney’s Magical Express. Off we went. Arriving at the Poly was a dream come true. Not only is it Liam’s favorite place, but it’s certainly held a special place in my heart. In fact, the whole family looks forward to seeing the lush foliage, friendly “cousins” and Captain Cook’s.

Rain, rain, and more rain.

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We checked in, dropped our bags in the room and headed over to the Magic Kingdom. On the Monorail, it became clear that the skies were going to make it a wet evening. Making memories already!

Walking down the ramp from the Monorail station it really sank in… “we’re actually here.” As we passed through the security and the turnstile, and walked onto Main Street, there it was… The Castle. After a stroke, two heart attacks and some hefty financial crud, *this* was a magical moment for me, and I won’t soon forget it. (I get teary just thinking about it. For real.)

Let it sink in. This is what I’d been waiting for… rain or shine, this a beautiful site. The first thing we did was get a PhotoPass card… this year, Dad’s gonna be in the pictures!

First up was Space Mountain. Thanks to the rain, there wasn’t much of a crowd, so the wait times were in our favor. For the first time, Owen was tall enough to join us on all of the attractions… it was amazing.

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Done with Space, we headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean. No wait, straight on to our boat. After having recently watching all three Pirates movies (Four wasn’t yet released), it was fun to experience the attraction with fresh memories. It’s amazing, after having visited several times, I never really took a liking to this attraction until this trip. Maybe it was the overall glow of being there, maybe it was having just watched all three films recently, but whatever it was, this was really enjoyable this time. (The Davey Jones fog portrait was especially cool.)

We then headed over to Haunted Mansion. By this point, the rain was in full downpour. Though Amy might have you believe that it was miserable, I’d say that after the recent three years’ worth of drama, being wet in the Magic Kingdom was better than anything else in the world.

The younger guys wanted to head back over to Tomorrowland and do the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. As we walked toward the attraction, the rain came down even harder. It was almost comical… by the time we got there, we were all quite literally waterlogged. Memaw Texas, being the ever patient one, I think was probably reconsidering joining us for the week.

Once we got inside, Amy and I were looking around and noticed a young couple who seemed to be dry… “how did they stay dry?” Amy asked me… didn’t seem fair.

I’m that guy.

We took our seats on the end of a row, the the show began… and within minutes, it was clear this was going to be a unique trip: I’d been selected as “that guy” (the one they keep cutting back to during the show and picking on). The things we put up with for our kids. All three boys seemed to get a kick our of Dad being on screen and being poked fun of… and, to tell you the truth… I loved it.

Next up: Buzz Lightyear! Now, we love us some Pixar goodness… and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is always on our list of attractions to hit at Magic Kingdom, though we’d not yet been to Toy Story Midway Mania yet. (Oh, we’ll cover that in a bit.) Since we had six guests, we took three ride vehicles, and off we went> I still swear my blaster wasn’t working right!

After Buzz jumped on the People Mover, one of the kids’ favorites. Riding through Space Mountain, and around various Tomorrowland attractions, getting an alternative perspective (no matter how old it actually is) always brings a smile to our faces. Eventually made our way to Main Street. Last stop for the day: the Candy store. Jelly beans for all. $50 worth to be exact.

All in all, a wonderful beginning to what’s going to be an epic trip. How we love Disney World.

Day One of the Best Trip Ever.