The Quotable Walt Disney

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Having recently returned from Disney World, I find I am flushed with insights and quotes after immersing myself in all things Disney for the last 10 days.

Here are some of my favorites quotes from a book I recently read on Walt and his philosophies on life and business.

We allow no geniuses around our studios.

I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral.

I’ve never believed in doing sequels. I didn’t want to waste the time I have doing a sequel; I’d rather be using that time doing something new and different. It goes back to when they wanted me to do more pigs (Three Little Pigs).

When we opened Disneyland, a lot of people got the impression that it was a get-rich-quick thing, but they didn’t realize Disneyland was this great organization that I built here at the Studio, and they all got into it and we were doing it because we loved to do it.

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A word may be said in regard to the concept and conduct of Disneyland’s operational tone. Although various sections will have the fun and flavor or a carnival or amusement park, there will be none of the ‘pitches’, game wheels, sharp practices, and devices designed to milk the visitor’s pocketbook.

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I had different costs estimates; one time it was three and half million and then I kept fooling around a little more with it and got it up to seven and a half million and I kept fooling around a little more and pretty soon it was twelve and a half and I think when we opened Disneyland it was seventeen million dollars.

Everyone needs deadlines. Even the beavers. They loaf around all summer, but when they are faced with the winter deadline, they work like fury. If we didn’t have deadlines, we’d stagnate.

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If I were a fatalist, or a mystic, which I decidedly am not, it might be appropriate to say I believe in my lucky star. But I reject ‘luck’ – I feel every person creates his own ‘determinism’ by discovering his best aptitudes and following them undeviatingly.

No matter what the provocation, I never fire a man who is honestly trying to deliver a job. Few workers who become established at the Disney Studio ever leave voluntarily or otherwise, and many have been on the payroll all their working lives.

Happiness is a state of mind. It’s just according to the way you look at things. So I think happiness is contentment but it doesn’t mean you have to have wealth. All individuals are different and some of us just wouldn’t be satisfied with just carrying out a routine job and being happy.

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You reach a point where you don’t work for money.

Some people forget that you can still do good work even though you work with dollar bills. We took almost nine years to make Fantasia, and if we had to do it again I’d take a long hard look at it, because today it would cost us fifteen million dollars. At some state or other I have to walk in and tell the boys, ‘OK. Start wrapping it up.’ If I didn’t, we’d never get the work finished. But that doesn’t mean we pull back on quality.

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Everyone has been remarkably influenced by a book, or books. In my case it was a book on cartoon animation. I discovered it in Kansas City Library at the time I was preparing to make motion-picture animation my life’s work. The book told me all I needed to know as a beginner – all about the the arts and the mechanics of making drawing that move on the theatre screen. From the basic information I could go on to develop my own way of movie storytelling. Find that book was one of the most important and useful events in my life. It happened at just the right time. The right time for reading a story or an article or a book is important. By trying too hard to read a book that, for our age and understanding, is beyond us, we may tire of it. Then, even after, we’ll avoid it and deny ourselves the delights it holds.

There are some gems in there – quotes that really resonate with me (especially on the virtues of hard work, aligning talent, and putting your heart into it).

I hope this quotes do the same for you.

The Ultimate History of Video Games Review

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book-TheUltimateHistoryOfVideoGames

Video games are special to me. I fondly remember first seeing Pong as a 7 year old at my uncles New Year Eve party. Years later I became enamoured with digital worlds like Tron.

That’s why it was with great anticipation that I picked up Steven Kent’s The Ultimate History of Video Games.

I loved this book. I got to relive Atari, Intellivision, and Colecovision as a child but this time seeing it through the eyes as an adult. It felt a bit like reuniting with some old friends.

Here are a few notes I highlighted as I was reading:

Atari

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– Atari got it’s name from the Japanese word for ‘check’ in the game of Go.

– Within ten years of it’s inception, Atari would grow into a $2Billion a year company making it the fastest growing company in US history.






Jobs and Wozniak take on Atari Breakout

– Because of repair costs and reduced circuit board space, Atari saved approximately $100,000 for each chip removed before production. Nolan Bushnell (founder) wanted his engineers to reduce the number of chips in Breakout – but got no volunteers.

– Enter Steve Jobs. Jobs was working with Wozniak on the Apple ][. Jobs convinced Woz to give it a go, and Woz did it in 72 hours non-stop, all in his head. Bushnell set a target to get it down to 75 chips (down from 100). Woz got it down to 20.

– Don Valentine, the founder of Sequoia Capital, was one of the first investors in Atari. He only stayed for 2 years, but later on Steve Jobs and Wozniak asked Valentine to help start Apple computer. That year Valentine invested in Apple and Cisco. Not a bad year for a VC.

The Golden Age of Arcade Games

– Space Invaders was so popular when it came out that it caused a national coin shortage.

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– Pac-Man, invented by Toru Iwatani, was originally called Puck-Man but was changed to prevent any Americans from vandalizing the name.

– Defender was a huge breakthough in gaming. 3 ½ screens and scrolling.

– Nintendo is a 100 year old company

– The same guy, Shigeru Miyamoto, created Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers, and Legend of Zelda

– Tempest took a year and had about 21K of code. It was also revolutionary for it’s vector based graphics.

– Toru Iwatani, the Namco employee who designed Pac-Man, was not involved with the creation of Ms. Pac-Man. It was created, instead, by nine college students, led by two MIT students, Doug Macrae and Kevin Curran.

– Midway sold 100,000 Pac-Man machines and more than 115,000 Ms. Pac-Man machines in the United States. Other than these, no arcade game has ever sold more than 100,000 units in the US.

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– Though ColecoVision had only the standard 8-bit processor, 8K of RAM, with an additional 16K of video RAM, it was cheap enough that COleco could afford a chip with the memory mapping and frame buffers that Atari had left out.

– Dragon Slayer, a game combining arcade play with full on animation, looked like a Disney production because it was animated by a former Disney animator who worked on films such as Robin Hood, the Rescuers, and Pete’s Dragon.

– In 1982 Activision replaced Atari as the fastest-growing company in the history of the US riding high with hits like Pitfall and River Raid.

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Commodore

– Commodore International was founded by Jack Tramiel – possibly the most complex person ever to enter the computer industry. He was a Polish Jew, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, who worked his way from poverty to fortune.

– In 1981, Commodore release the VIC-20 that sold for under $300. It had 5K RAM and 16-color graphics, and was a pricing coup for it’s time.

– In August 1982 Commodore launched the Commodore 64, a personal computer that company executives claimed rivaled the $1000 Apple ][ in power but sold for $600. By the following January Commodore was shipping 25,000 computers a month.

– In 1983 Commodore surpassed Apple in overall sales and became the first computer company to report a $1-billion sales year.

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– Coleco licensed a guys concept for dolls and renamed them ‘Cabbage Patch Kids’.
– In 1986 Coleco acquired the company that published Trivial Pursuit. They missed the fad, and in 1988 filed for bankruptcy.

Electronic Arts

– The biggest and most successful game company that emerged during the Commodore 64 run was Electronic Arts, a company that did something no other video game company had done before – it promoted it’s game developers.

– EA was founded by Trip Hawkins, a Harvard, Stanford MBA graduate who was opportunistic and persuasive. Was Apple 68th employee and was involved in many strategic decisions there.

– Hawkins is attributed for coming up with the albumn cover concept form video games

– EA created one of my favorite childhood games – Archon (chess where you fight the actual battles).

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– Sega is not a Japanese word. It is an abbreviated form of Service Games founded by Americans that has it’s roots in a US military base in Japan.

I could go on and on. The book goes into great detail talking about the rise and fall of Sega, Nintendo (these guys were huge but I didn’t play a tonne of these games). I more enjoyed the Atari, Intellivison, and Coleco Vision.

If you are looking for a thorough, indepth, light read on Video Games. This is definitely the book for you. It’s not the most well written piece of prose, but if you like history and nostalgia on one of the worlds biggest pop culture events, you won’t be disappointed.

My favorite video of all time – Disks of Tron.

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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

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benfranklin

After reading Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklink: An American Life, I was amazed at how little I knew about this man.

He was a printer, writer, scientist, diplomat, father, and he played a huge roll in the American revolution and the writing of its constitution.

What struck my most about the book has also appreciating the founding principles America has based on and how that compares to where the country is today.

A strong middle class.
A rejection of traditional hereditary nobility (kings and queens).
A society based on meritocracy.

The book is a big one. It’s incredible much we know about this man based on letters, transcripts, and his autobiography. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, as it has given me insight into today’s most powerful nation in the world, it’s founding principles, and some of the challenges it faces today.

I read this on my kindle, and highlighted sections and chapters I thought interesting. Here are some of my notes for future reference:

In addition to discovering the one-fluid theory of electricity, he also came up with the distinction between insulators, conductors, the theory of grounding, and the concepts of batteries and capacitors.

Pennsylvania was a Proprietary colony, which meant that it was governed by a private family that owned most of the unsettled land. In 1681, Charles II granted such a charter to William Penn in repayment of a debt. A majority of the colonies started out as Proprietary ones, but by the 1720s, most had become Royal colonies directly ruled by the king and his ministers.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.”

As Franklin repeatedly stressed in his letters to his son, America should not replicate the rigid ruling hierarchies of the Old World, the aristocratic structures and feudal social orders based on birth rather than merit.

On the American Revolution – Tyranny is so generally established in the rest of the world that the prospect of an asylum n America for those who love liberty gives general joy, and our cause is esteemed the cause of all mankind.

On playing chess – There were times when it was prudent to let an opponent retract a bad move: “You may indeed happen to lose the game to your opponent, but you will win what is better, his esteem.”

There was never a good war or a bad peace.

The Chinese were right, he said, to honor the parents of people who earned distinction, for they had some role in it. But honoring a worthy person’s descendants, who had nothing to do with achieving the merit, “is not only groundless and absurd but often hurtful to that posterity.” Any form of hereditary aristocracy or nobility was he declared, “in direct opposition to the solemnly declared sense of their country.”

There were few people in America either as poor or as rich as those in Europe, he said, “It is rather a general happy mediocrity.”

Instead of rich proprietors and struggling tenants, “most people cultivate their own lands” or follow some craft or trade. Franklin was particularly harsh on those who sought hereditary privilege or who had “no other quality to recommend him but his birth”

Unlike many subsequent revolutions, the American was not a radical rebellion by an oppressed proletariat. Instead, it was led largely by propertied and shopkeeping citizens whose rather bourgeois rallying cry was “No taxation without representation.”

Franklin’s blend of beliefs would become part of the outlook of much of American’s middle class: its faith in the virtues of hard work and frugality, its benevolent belief in voluntary associations to help others, its conservative opposition to handouts that led to laziness and dependency, and its slightly ambivalent resentment of unnecessary luxury, hereditary privileges, and an idle landowning leisure class.

In his spare time, Franklin perfected one of his most famous and useful inventions: bifocals.

On playing cards with friends when he got older – You know the soul is immortal; why then should you be such a niggard of a little time, when you have a whole eternity before you.

On the writing of the constitution…

So they gathered in the abnormally hot and humid summer of 1787 to draft, in the deepest secrecy, a new American constitution that would turn out to be the most successful ever written by human hand.

On negotiations – Declarations of a fixed opinion, and of determined resolution never to change it, neither enlighten nor convince us.

Roger Sherman of Connecticut rose to suggest another possible approach: the House of Representatives would be apportioned by population and the Senate would have equal votes for each state.

The new county was, in some ways, one political soceity but in other ways it was a federation or separate states, yet these two concepts need not conflict, for they could be combined as “halves of a unique whole”

Finally he incorporated a workable compromise into a specific motion. Representatives to the lower house would be popularly elected and apportioned by population, but in the Senate, the Legislatures or the several States shall choose and send an equal number of delegates. The House would have primary authority over taxes and spending, the Senate over the confirmation of executive officers and matters of state sovereignty.

On returning to public life after serving office – The argument that ‘returning to the mass of the people was degrading’ he said, ‘was contrary to republican principles. In free Governments the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors and sovereigns. For the former therefore to return among the latter was not to degrade but to promote them.

From such an assembly can a perfect production by expected? It therefore astonished me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish your enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the buildes of Babel, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better.

On religion

His support for religion tended to be based on his belief that it was useful and practical in making people better, rather than because it was divinely inspired.

Masters of Doom – Book Review

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Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture is one of those guilty pleasures I find myself reaching for during the summer months. This is an incredible tale of two young men (John Carmack and John Romero) who formed an incredible partnership and create arguably the most influential game to come out of the 1990s – Doom.

Having played Doom in the 1990s I could readily relate to the late night frag fests that spontaneously seemed to spawn up all around the world with the release of Doom.

People don’t realize how big this game was. In 1995 it was the most installed software on windows PCs, after the operating Windows95.

When released it cause numerous outages, crashes, and University ended up having to ban it because of it’s huge popularity and viral nature. Everyone was playing it!

The engine that John Carmack used on Doom, Doom2, and eventually the Quake series also spawned numerous other games that wouldn’t have existed with it.

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Unreal – Epic
Deus Ex
Heretic
Hexen
Dark Forces
Descent
Half Life – Valve

What impressed my most about the book through was the behind the scenes research, dialogue, and drama that went into making this pop culture phenome.

For example, here’s how the game Doom got it’s name:

“All they needed was a title. Carmack has the idea. It was taken from The Color of Money, the 1986 Martin Scorses file in which Tom Cruise play a brash young pool hustler. In one scene Cruise saunters into a billiards hall carrying his favorite pool cue in a stealth black case. “What you got in there?” another player asks. Cruise smiles devilishly. “I here?” Cruise replies, flipping open the case. “Doom.”

Man I love that stuff. Little things like that.

Or little behind the scenes stories. Like how Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, was so addicted to Doom, that after a concert, his security guards would rush him off stage, past the screaming groupies, and onto his tour bus, forsaking the drugs, beer, and scantily clad women to the computer that was waiting for him. Booted up, and ready to play Doom.

So cool.

I also didn’t get how Doom was so instrumental in pioneering the shareware model of distribution. iD owned that space. That’s how they got Doom out there so fast into so many hands. Shareware. They you pay for additional levels or the full game.

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Quake was the name of a Dungeons & Dragsons character Carmack played who possessed a really powerful warhammer (these guys played a lot of D&D).

Microsoft was scared of Doom, and tried unsuccessfully to buy the company. It drove Gates nuts that this little company from Mesquite was outperforming him with some game.

But it’s also a story of failure. Daikantana was a hugely ambitious game Romero wanted to create after the two Johns broke up. Carmack was the engineer. He wanted to keep the company small and just focus on the tech and coding. Romero was the level designer. He thought it was all about design.

In this case, engineering won. Even though Carmack licensed his 3D engine to Romero, he couldn’t keep up with the pace of innovation. He built a huge company which eventually collapsed in on itself – and lost Edios a lot of money.

Next Ready Player One, this was the most fun I have had reading a book in a long time. If you are a retro gamer, enjoy reading about empires, how they were built, and they fell, and love a good story about two computer hackers how changed the world, you could do a lot worse they reading Master of Doom.

Imagineering – Mickey’s Ten Commandments

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Today I cracked the cover on a book I have been waiting to read for a long time.

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Disney’s Imagineering – A behind the Dreams Look at Making More Real Magic

I was immediately drawn to a key figure, Marty Skylar, legend who retired after 54 years at Disney as creative lead of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Marty distilled much of what he learned about building great amusement park rides into Mickey’s Ten Commandments.

Mickey’s Ten Commandments

1. Know your audience.

Identify the prime audience for your attraction or show before you begin.

2. Wear your Guest’s shoes.

Insist that your team members experience your creation just the way Guests do it.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas.

Make sure there is a logic and sequence in your stories, and in the way Guests experience them.

4. Create a wienie (visual magnet).

Create visual targets that lead visitors clearly and logically through your facility. The story here is that as a kid, whenever Walt went to an amusement park, the first thing he saw was the wiener cart. And he was drawn to it because he wanted a hot dog. The wienie for Disney parks is the castle. People are just drawn to it.

5. Communicate with visual literacy.

Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication – color, shape, form, texture.

6. Avoid overload – create turn ons

Resist the temptation to overload your audience with too much information and too many objects.

7. Tell one story at a time.

Stick to the story line; good stories are clear, logical, and consistent.

8. Avoid contradictions – maintain identity.

Details in design and content that contradict one another confuse an audience about your story or the time period it takes place in.

9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of treat.

In our business, Walt Disney said, you can educate people – but don’t tell them you’re doing it! Make it fun!

10. Keep it up! (maintain it).

In a Disney park or resort, everything must work! Poor maintenance is poor show.

Something else Walt also insisted on was that his Imagineering attend park rides and stand in queues every two weeks so they never lose site of feel of what the guest sees.

I am really looking forward to this book. Here’s a joke to set the tone:

Q: How many Imagineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?

The Alchemy of Animation by Don Hahn

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alchemy-animation

My son picked up The Alchemy of Animation today from the library. One of the things that struck me is the shear numbers of roles involved in creating a CGI animation. Here they are.

The Team

Director – Chief storyteller
Producer – Team builder, coach, psychotherapist, and cheerleader
Writers – develop the story
Song writers – write the songs
Story artist – someone who can draw and tell a story

Design
Production designer – responsible for the way the movie looks
Art director – sees that the design is executed through every frame
Visual development artists – create art that helps explore and visualize the universe of the film
Sculptors – make 3D models for the animators to digitize so they can draw characters from every angle
Voice actors

The Production Team
Associate producer – worries about x3 things: people, time, and money
Production Manager (PM) – works closely with producers to set goals for each week and manage the daily flow of work
Department heads
Production Department Manager
Modelers – create the elaborate 3D sets
Rigger – takes a modeled character and attaches the animation controls that allow an animator to move the model around

Cinematography
Cinematographer – works with director to plan exactly what the audience sees through the window of the movie screen
Layout artist – designs and creates the films sets

Art and Technology
Technical Director – highly creative jack of all trades who is part artist, part technician. Makes sure artists have user friendly computer screens to work on
Software developer – tests new commercial tools. Builds whatever they can’t buy
Look development artists – create the look of the surfaces on the character

Creating Life
Animators – are actors with a pencil

Animation Tips
Strive for the most effective and clearest extreme poses.
Where do you want the audience to look.
Don’t move anything without a purpose. Holding still is just as important as moving.
Let the whole character tell the story, not just the animator.

Visual effects
Visual effects animator – helps create the feeling of a believable plausible environment.
Lighters – apply final lighting to scenes

All you can do sometimes is just press harder on your pencil to try to make the drawing express what you’re feeling in your heart, and you hope that the audience can feel it as they’re looking at it. – Glen Keane

Designing and Planning
Layout artist – designs the sets for the film
Background painter
Art director – plot the flow of color through a movie

Clean-up artist – make sure everyone is on model

I found this role interesting. Just as everyone’s handwriting is slightly different, every animator has his or her own personal style. So the supervising animator draws a series of ‘model sheets’ to show all the animators on a film how to draw a character.

Ink and Paint
Color modeller
Painters

Anyways. It was a cool book and I would recommend to anyone who wants to inspire their kids or to learn more about what goes on in creating a CGI movie.

The difference between incentives and motivations

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BBCs’ September 6 2012 InBiz podcast this morning had a good piece with Clayton Christensen, The Innovators Dilemna, where Clayton thinks that conventional businesses with their bonus driven mentality, often have the wrong idea about motivating the people how work for them.

Clayton Christensen:

There really is a difference between incentives and motivation. What an incentive is ‘I am going to pay you to want what I want.’ And as along as you pay people to want what you want they do it. The minute you stop paying them, to want what you want, they stop. And they are not motivated to do anything. They were just incentivized to do just that.

What motivation is in contrast, is an engine inside of you, that you are so committed to, that whether you are paid or not, it causes you to want to keep sacrificing and serving for the cause that you’re engaged in.

And so if you want people that are working with you or for you to be motivated, then what you have to do is help them see in the work what it is that causes them to be motivated.

The most important of these is achievement. And then right after that comes recognition, and responsibility, the opportunity to learn, and once I realized that if I can create a company like that my people will be with me regardless of whether we are doing poorly or doing well.

Instead what most managers do is they confuse motivation with incentives and therefore the people that work for them, don’t have those motivators in their lives and you just pay them to want what you want.

End.

I am glad to see this being talked about more in business. I think we need it. Also think it is the most important question to answer before starting a company.

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