When I was at Walt Disney Imagineering during the design phase of Disneyland Paris there was one morning a week, I believe it was Monday if my memory serves me, that we had the “Monday Morning Breakfast Meeting.” Any WDI peeps that are reading this can correct me if it fell on another day of the week.:-) One of the creative directors, Peggy Van Pelt, organized these meetings as well as many other artistic and creative programs for the artists and designers at WDI. The meetings were on a variety of topics. Guest lecturers gave an hour presentation on what Peggy thought Imagineers would find interesting. Plus, there was free breakfast from the WDI cafeteria!
One meeting that sticks out in my mind was the one where we went across the street to the animation theatre to see Don Hahn, the producer of Lion King, present Lion King during it’s design phase. Since animation is a different division than Imagineering within the Walt Disney Company, we heard rumblings about this new movie they were working on and we wanted to find out more. Don is a very funny and engaging speaker as well as author. I never will forget, starting his presentation, he showed a clip of the opening sequence; first the African chant, then the gorgeous animation of the African savanna, Elton John singing the intro and then that last loud drum beat at the end. We were all sitting there dumbfounded with our jaws dropped to the floor and goosebumps on our arms. The room was a buzz with excitement. This was going to be good!!
Don went on to produce Beauty and the Beast, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. His other credits include, The Disneynature films Earth, Oceans, and African Cats and the short The Little Match Girl, which earned him his second Oscar Nomination. Beauty and the Beast was his first, which was the first animated film nominated for and Oscar. He has also authored a number of books.
I just recently read his latest book, Brain Storm, Unleashing Your Creative Self. Don is such a witty writer, this is one of those books that can be so funny you will find yourself literally laughing out loud! However at the same time, it is very thought-provoking about the creative self and the creative process. Don pulls experiences from his own life from boy hood to today, siting personal examples to explain aspects of being a creative person. There are stories recalling sneaking a colander in his room, when he was little, in his pajama pants to create the night sky on the ceiling in his bedroom with a flash light to many tales on what it was like working on his many Disney projects. The main point I took away from the book was inspiring creativity in your daily life, whatever that creative endeavor is that drives you.
“When you focus on the journey and not the arrival, then your art becomes more like a treasured artifact of the creative process. A painting, a poem, a sketch or a piece of music that you’ve written becomes a record of your life - a souvenir of the creative process, just as much as the photos are an artifact of your unforgettable travels abroad.” -Don Hahn from Brainstorm Unleashing Your Creative Self.