Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Watch This DVD: Tomorrowland, Disk 2 - EPCOT Video


My Disney obsession continues. This is a longer article than normal, but stay with me, the videos at the end are completely worth it.

Among the most important thing you will do in your professional life is present your ideas to others. A big part of my reference material deals with competent of PowerPoint, but a brilliant example of an effective presentation can be found on Disk 2 of the Walt Disney Treasures series on Tomorrowland (Netflix).

When Walt had the idea to create Disneyland, he didn't have the money for it. To subsidize the construction of the original theme park, he made a deal with ABC to create a series for their then fledgling network. Entitled "Disneyland", the series would eventually be called "Wonderful World of Color" and "Wonderful World of Disney" in its various incarnations over the years primarily shown on Sunday nights in the US. The original installment was an anthology series that, each week, featured a show cleverly themed to one of the lands at Disneyland.

Advantureland themed shows depicted nature programs that would become film staples of my elementary school education, Frontierland had the Adventures of Davy Crockett, and Fantasyland would show one of the animated feature films. It was essentially a weekly infomercial for the park, but the show was wildly popular. The Tomorrowland segments dealt with futurism as it existed in the 1950s and helped make Wernher Von Braun become a household name as the space race gripped the American public. The Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland DVD set contains selected episodes from the Tomorrowland part of the anthology, including an accurate prediction of how whether satellites would be used and how the Space Shuttle program would eventually feature a reusable rocket and glider system.

Honestly, most of the episodes are pretty boring but the real gem of the set is the original "EPCOT Video" that appears on Disk 2. During the mid 1960s as the company began to buy up land in central Florida for what became Walt Disney World, Walt had the space and buffer he couldn't get when Disneyland was built. But he wanted something else: complete autonomy.

Everything ever built at Disneyland has been subject to building codes. Lots of them. What Walt wanted in Orlando was an unprecedented exception to those codes and the EPCOT Video was created with the express purpose of obtaining exactly that from the Florida state legislature. He had big plans for building what he called the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow (EPCOT) (which was very different from the EPCOT theme park that was eventually built) and to do that, he needed freedom to construct things his own way.

The EPCOT Video was never shown to the public in its entirety until this DVD was released and it was the last piece of film shot of Walt Disney before he died. It was shown to leaders in Florida and the Walt Disney Company was granted the autonomy they wanted, essentially acting as their own county within the state of Florida. Through the magic of YouTube, you can watch the video right now and learn from what are still good presentation foundations today, but were unmatched in the mid 1960s when it was shot.

The first part (about 5 minutes, embedded below or use this link), establishes Disney's credibility in urban design, transportation, and a few other areas. It says to its audience, "we know what we're doing" without being condescending, which is a key part to any idea you want to get across to someone else.




The second part (about 10 minutes, embedded below or use this link) introduces Walt Disney in the exact same manner that he was introduced on TV every Sunday night with even the same voice-over actor being used. This is intentional, as it puts the audience at ease with this familiar face. Notice how Walt begins to explain his extremely complicated concept of a prototypical city in very plain language. He introduces the EPCOT acronym and explains where it comes from multiple times. Remember too that this was made at the height of the Cold War and is the reason for him bringing up American ingenuity multiple times in an effort to make his points more sympathetic against the unmentioned common foe of communism.



The third part (another 10 minutes or so, embedded below or use this link) goes into the details of what EPCOT is with video effects that perhaps only Disney was capable of at the time. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a demo is worth a million. Walt's animators and concept artists demonstrate the ideas of a futuristic city in a way that anybody can understand.



Overall, a lot can be learned from this video. It does a great job of establishing credibility of the Disney company in urban development, citing several external sources in the process. Then the plan is laid out in concept first before details are presented with the help of compelling animation. That's not to say you should bone up on your cartooning skills for your next presentation to management, but analyze how this video approached its very complicated problem and held its audiences hand through the argument being made. That's where you can take something away from this and apply it to your job right now.

As an epilogue, it's worth noting that as a direct result of this video, the Reedy Creek Improvement District was created to govern the land Walt Disney World sits on. The original concept of EPCOT was morphed into the theme park of the same name and a much smaller housing development called Celebration, Florida was eventually built instead.

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posted by Pete Johnson @ 6:05 AM   1 comments links to this post

1 Comments:

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Jan Karlsbjerg said...

It does a great job of establishing credibility of the Disney company in urban development

I think that credibility has gone out the window with their recent objections against the low-rent housing near their Anaheim park (housing that their own $10/hour employees could actually afford).

 

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