Imagineers

I remember stories from script writers who would go into development meetings at Disney and be faced with a room full of “imagineers”. I used to think that the very idea of imagineers was disgusting; the corporatizing of imagination, the conference table creativity, had a dangerous sound to it.

I had forgotten about the imagineers, but lately I’ve noticed in the film world that there has been a devaluation of creativity. It made me think that a corporation that actually has enough respect for imagination to create (and pay) a group of people to sit around and imagine things is something that the world could probably use more of.

I wiki’d the Imagineers, and it turns out that most people who work at Disney are called Imagineers, so that’s an abuse of that term. Disney Imagineering was set up in the 60’s by the big man himself to help him come up with stuff for his theme park. It’s still around and they’ve thought up stuff like Disney Cruises and even consulted with Northwest Airlines to help them come up with new uniforms.

How different is this than having a room of writers, or of “creatives” at an Ad agency? It’s not really, except that the value of imagination as part of the job requirement is implicit in the name. Writers are always devalued in Hollywood. Films are packaged on the names of the actors, not on how much imagination went into the script. A development exec will most likely approach a script with their eyes on the package, and without tapping into their imagination at all – after all, imagination is something like strength, not everyone has it, and even those who have it can lose it, if they don’t work on it.

Imagination is the work of writing. It’s the work of acting. It’s the work of making films. The producers who succeed in making good films value this, and stand by it in the face of an increasingly cynical system.

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