What nine old men taught me about presenting.


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.