Posts tagged Imagination
The Lion King, The Enneagram, And The Shape Of Our Imaginations

I had a friend tell me the other day that I’m loathe to see my gifts, and naturally I replied that was demonstrably untrue because I readily acknowledge my gift of self-deprecation.

But I’m not actually as callous as that, and I’ve been stewing on his loving correction for a week. Because something definitely has been off in my innards and it’s been spilling over onto the people I love.

So I pulled out a reflection tool today and started running through the questions. Right away I noticed two things: I’m living in fear of what others think of me, and I’m regretting the mistakes (real and imagined) that got me to this point.

I’m Simba!

Ah, the power of imagination. Once I saw myself in the Simba narrative my thoughts crystalized: both in illuminating my false beliefs and behavior, and more importantly the possibilities ahead.

Like Simba I was choosing false peace over true peace. And like Simba I was loathe to see how my own contributions matter. Simba denies his place, denies his responsibility, denies that he offers any hope to Pride Rock. “Hakuna Matata,” one of the most seductive songs in all of the Disney Canon for falsely shaping our imaginations, became Simba’s theme.

Simba was paranoid and mistrustful of what people would think if they found out the truth - or his perceived truth - of the stampede and the fact that he’d been living in self-imposed exile. “No one has to know” he tells Nala when she asks what everyone will think when they find out Simba is alive.

Because of his mistrust he started looking to authorities, but he found that unsatisfying as well. “You said you’d always be there for me!” he screams in frustration to the stars that represent Mufassa and all the great kings of the past.

This all leads to a state of stagnation. Unable to trust himself or authorities to make decisions he gets stuck in a cycle of neglecting facing his problems, covering those problems in the sticky gooey sentimentality of Hakuna Matata, and living in reaction instead of possibility. “You think you can just show up and tell me to live my life?”

By the time Simba does make a decision his home is in ruins. “You want to fight your Uncle for this?” Timone asks incredulously. But by that point Simba has moved back into a healthier place. He’s seeing things not as they are but as they will be. God will be gracious to the land once again.

Psalm 85:1 - 4

You have been gracious to your land, O LORD: you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

You have forgiven the iniquity of your people : and blotted out all their sins.

You have withdrawn all your fury : and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.

Restore us then, O God our Savior : let your anger depart from us.

Close readers whose minds are shaped like mine by the imagination of the Enneagram will see here that Simba’s narrative arc follows very closely that of a nine on an Enneagram. The peacemaker who when unhealthy trades true peace for a facsimile of peace, believes they don’t matter, and moves toward the traits of a six. (Yeah, I just typed a fictional lion, did you expect something else?)

The healing words I needed today, and that maybe you need too are these: If God can withdraw his fury and His indignation toward me, shouldn’t I do the same. If God sees a restored land in the future, not defined by the mistakes of the past, shouldn’t we live in that same hope and possibility.

Shouldn’t we be Simba?
Walt Disney's Alice Comedies And The First Faltering Steps To Blending Live Action And Animation

This is from the failed Laugh-O-Gram studios in Kansas City, a catalyst of sorts for what later became Walt Disney Studios. After making this movie the studio went bankrupt before ever getting it distributed, prompting Walt to leave Missouri and head to California. To borrow a cliché, the rest is history.

Perhaps Walt losing interest in the animation side of his studio shouldn’t be all that surprising; he was always practicing the art of pushing technology into the adjacent possible. He’s certainly doing that here. And, there is a joy in seeing him doing that. Even watching this nearly 100 years on (!) there’s a palpable sense of wonder and energy in those “rubber hose” animations. The Look-What-We-Can-Do playfulness still stirs the imagination, in many ways more effectively than what we see in The Three Caballeros.

Flâneur and Fancy Free

If like me, you became interested in the flâneur after Michial mentioned it here is a rambling post titled Baudelaire, Benjamin and the Birth of the Flâneur from The Psychogeographic Review. I didn't know anything about Flâneur, and so this seemed as good an introduction as any. As Michial pointed out in the episode, there is something more than just being cheerful and lazy in the hobo, or the flâneur- there is a spiritual quality they are pursuing. 

The concept of the flâneur, the casual wanderer, observer and reporter of street-life in the modern city, was first explored, at length, in the writings of Baudelaire. Baudelaire’s flâneur, an aesthete and dandy, wandered the streets and arcades of nineteenth-century Paris looking at and listening to the kaleidoscopic manifestations of the life of a modern city. The flâneur’s method and the meaning of his activities were bound together, one with the other. Indeed...the flâneur is trying to achieve a form of transcendence
— Bobby Seal

And, in our own way Michial and I are picking up the baton of the flâneurs, although instead of wandering through Paris, we're wandering through the Disney Canon. I particularly like this idea:

Benjamin believed that one of the main tasks of his writing was to rescue the cultural heritage of the past in order to understand the present; not just the cultural treasures of the past, but the detritus and other discarded objects...Thus, we create a history which is not just that of the victor.
— Bobby Seal

Certainly we are wandering the cultural treasures (Bambi, Pinnochio) and the detritus (The Three Caballeros). And charitably (assuming you take the heroic view of the flâneur) maybe you could argue that is what Disney Animation Studios was doing in it's own way as well: picking through the stories of the past and repurposing them for their current moment. Making sense of the world through cultural heritage.

In fact, Benjamin also drew a parallel between the experinence of being a flâneur and theatrical entertainment, and I do not think that is coincidental. In a very real sense theater and movies are always collecting, cutting, pasting and remixing life in order to make sense of the world. This is why they possess a deeper truth; they are a distillation of truth. And the process by which we access that truth is our collective imaginations.

By describing the flâneur’s vision of the city as phantasmagoric, Benjamin seems to suggest that it is a dream-like vision akin to that provided in theatrical entertainment. He also reminds us of Marx’s metaphorical description of the commodity as having the power of a religious fetish; an item that owes its magical status to the imaginative power of the human brain which confers magical powers upon it, at the same time as venerating the fetish, as an autonomous object. Phantasmagoric experiences, therefore, are created by humans, but have the appearance of seeming to possess a life of their own.
— Bobby Seal

Not unlike Happy Valley coming to life through the combined work of both Edger Bergen as the story teller and Luana's imagination, which of course does lead to Willy having on a life of his own beyond Edger's conception. 

Breaking Down Media Stereotypes of Persons With A Disability

If you are interested in going deeper on the topic of media representation of persons with a disability, Colin Barnes' report is an excellent jumping off point. He breaks down twelve commonly recurring media stereotypes. I noticed Dumbo fits a couple of the categories: Disabled Person as Object of Ridicule, Disabled Person as Pitiable and Pathetic, and Disabled Person as Super Cripple. 

He also attempts to "formulate a set of principles which will enable all those who work in the media eliminate disablist imagery and so redress the balance." For example, he nails Dumbo with this one: "Resist presenting disabled characters with extra-ordinary abilities or attributes. To do so is to suggest that a disabled individual must over compensate and become super human to be accepted by society."

Knowing and thinking through these common representations helps us guard against the media inappropriately shaping our own imaginations about persons with a disability. And for those of us who are creators, it's a good checklist to avoid disablist imagery in our own work.

Lots more resources in the Appendix as well.

Read the whole thing here.

Imagination and Idealism in John Updike's Fiction by Michial Farmer

Sure Michial says not to buy it and that he hates it - but Stravinsky was also busy selling the rights for Renard, Fireworks, and The Firebird to Walt Disney as he panned Fantasia - so, you know, words aren't everything. As far as I'm concerned, it is THE book on John Updike.

Journey Into Imagination - Our Key to Unlock the Hidden Wonders of Our World
At the end, Dreamfinder told Figment and the guests that Imagination is our key to unlock the hidden wonders of our world. The guests then entered the final show scene as their picture was taken. In the following room, Figment stood in the center of a giant film canister, surrounded by several movie screens of him being a scientist, a mountain climber, a pirate, a superhero, a tap dancer, a ship captain, a cowboy and an athlete. Dreamfinder, sitting behind a movie camera, gave one last inspiring message and told guests to use their newly-found sparks of inspiration in the Image Works and the on-ride photo was shown to the guests on a screen next to Dreamfinder.

The ride closed on October 10, 1998 to the dismay of numerous fans.
Our Understanding of Dinosaurs Has Changed Since The Rite of Spring - But Imagination Was and Is Still Totally Involved.

During our conversation on The Rite of Spring, I mentioned reading an article at one time that discussed how the mounting of dinosaurs in museums has effected our imaginations. (I didn't find it - but this FAQ on dinosaur mounts is fascinating). I would still love to reread that article; if you've seen it send it my way! However, in my process of looking for it, I found some other really interesting things I can direct you to. What's interesting to me is how the art has complimented the science, and the imagination has even outpaced the science. Sorry, Deems Taylor. 

Artistic Depictions of Dinosaurs Have Undergone Two Revolutions

More than any other single person, Greg Paul has had a major influence on how Mesozoic dinosaurs are imagined by other palaeoartists, by scientists, and by the public.

Darren Naish's article in Scientific American discusses dinosaur's move from "flabby" (as in Rite of Spring) to "sprightly" and from there to feathery and soft.

Paleoart Shows Dinosaurs Weren't the Terrible Lizards of Your Fantasies

Naish's article also mentions paleoartist John Conway.

Dinosaur fossils have been catching up with paleoart — and that’s quite nice, that the fossil evidence actually is lagging behind the art,
— John Conway

Conway spoke to Jacqueline Ronson at Inverse. Ronson gives a nice rundown of the interaction between art and science.

if you want to come close to the truth, you’d better bring your imagination.
— Jacqueline Ronson

Walt Disney's Dinosaurs: The Story of the Rite of Spring

Which brings us back to Disney and the work he and the studio were doing to advance science through their work on Fantasia. 

From the very start of preproduction on Fantasia in September 1938 Disney wanted to include a prehistoric sequence that would serve as “a coldly accurate reproduction of what science thinks went on during the first few billion years of this planet’s existence” (Fantasia). So he brought on Julian Huxley, Barnum “Mr. Bones” Brown, and Roy Chapman Andrews as scientific consultants for the project, along with Edwin Hubble.
— Jillian Noyes

Noyes posits that the accurate art ignited the imagination and inspired more people to join the field of paleontology.