Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pixar Storytelling Prompts

Pixar is an entertainment companies that focuses on high quality, full length animated movies using computer generated characters.  Pixar has a successful track record with hits such as Up, Toy Story, Cars, and Brave.

A quick search of "pixar storytelling rules" will return many pages that feature the 22 rules that Pixar uses to create a story. 

My favorite of these rules is one that focuses on the basic structure of the story.  The Pixar story formula is designed to quickly generate a story that can then be developed into a full length movie full of details and subplots.

The Pixar storytelling formula:

  1. Once upon a time there was ____. (character is introduced)
  2. Every day, ____. (the everyday, normal world is explored)
  3. One day, ____. (something happens to interrupt normality)
  4. Because of that, ____. (the character takes steps to restore normality)
  5. Because of that, ____. (instead, the character is drawn into more complexity)
  6. Until finally, ____. (the character conquers whatever he is battling and achieves success)

Star Wars

  1. Once upon a time there was a teenager living on a desert planet.
  2. Every day, he dreamed of adventured, but couldn't find this on the planet.
  3. One day, he discovered that a droid contained a secret message for someone else who lived on the planet.
  4. Because of that, he searched for that person whom he also discovered was of interest to the evil rulers of the empire.
  5. Because of that, the boy's aunt and uncle (with whom he lived) were killed and he was forced to leave the planet in order to save the empire.
  6. Until finally, he successfully destroyed the death star and saved the princess.

The Godfather

  1. Once upon a time there was a son of a mobster.
  2. Every day he dreamed of leaving the "family business" and becoming a successful businessman and politician.  This was his father's dream too.
  3. One day, the father was seriously injured as the result of an attempted assassination.  
  4. Because of that, the son felt compelled to retaliate on behalf of his father.
  5. Because of that, he was drawn in to the family business.
  6. Until finally, in order to assure the family's position within the mafia families, he eliminated all of his enemies and replaced his father as the godfather.

You can also use this technique for a nonfiction story.


  1. Once upon a time there was a group of people who were forced to become slaves for the ruling class.
  2. Every day, they dream of freedom, which was actually prophesied by a patriarch in the past.
  3. One day, to avoid being killed by soldiers who were order to kill all newborn males, a mother hid her baby in a small basket in the river.
  4. Because of that, the princess of the country found the boy, fell in love with him, and adopted him as her own son.  Even though he was now a prince, he still remembered the pain felt by his own people.
  5. Because of that, he killed a man who was attacking one of his own people.  He had to leave the country and stayed away for 40 years.  It was here that he received divine instruction to return to the country.
  6. Until finally, he oversaw several supernatural events and freed his people from oppression.

Finally, this storytelling formula can also be used when making the case for a business process change.

What Happens When You Assume

  1. Once upon a time there was a company where all the employees worked on computers.
  2. Every day, they confidently stored their files on network (cloud) drives so that their files would be protected in the event their computers crashed.
  3. One day, a computer in the server room experienced an electrical failure which generated sufficient smoke to trigger the sprinkler system, which effectively put out the fire, but also damaged the equipment.
  4. Because of that, the IT professionals discovered that that the automatic backup routines had been failing mid-way through all of the employee data.  They always assumed that the routines were working.
  5. Because of that, several employees lost business data that could not be recovered, because it was never actually backed up.
  6. Until finally, IT redesigned is server configuration to provide offsite storage and verification that backup routines were actually running.

Whether you are telling a bedtime story, writing a novel, or developing a business presentation, I encourage you to try this storytelling formula.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Unpacking my Android tablet

A couple of posts ago I discussed the differences between the Google Android and Apple iOS models.  One of the advantages of Google's model is that the software can be used by a number of manufacturers, resulting in inexpensive products.

I purchased a Q8 7-inch tablet with 8GB of memory and 800x480 pixels.  The price was $39.95, but I discovered that I had a PayPal credit for $9.95, thus my total out-of-pocket price was $30.00.  As a bonus I received a stylus (valued at $3.00).

There was no name brand on the box - anywhere!  However, the tablet was packaged well.  The battery was only partially charged, so the first step was allowing the battery to charge to 100%.  The battery charges fast on this particular tablet.  One feature I like about Android is that you can see which apps are contributing to battery usage.  I discovered, for example, that Facebook was continually updated and utilizing 40% of the battery since the previous charge.

My Q8 is about the size of the iPad Mini (approximately 5x7 inches).  I don't have an iPad Mini, but will sneak my Q8 into an Apple store and try to get a picture comparing the sizes.

If you are looking for an inexpensive tablet, either as a second screen or as a starter tablet for your children, definitely consider this one.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review - How To Be Like Walt

Walt Disney is the famous name behind Mickey Mouse, Disney Land, Disney World, and namesake of the Disney company, which includes the ABC and ESPN networks, movie studios, and real estate throughout the world.  When people win a professional sporting event, they often exclaim, "I'm going to Disney World!"

How To Be Like Walt was written by Pat Williams with Jim Denney.  The authors interviewed a variety of people who knew and worked with Walt Disney.  Additionally, the authors reviewed a significant amount of archival material.  While the book is a biography of Walt Disney, the authors gleaned lessons from each of the major milestones in Walt Disney's life.  

Walt was an incredibly driven and creative individual.  He pioneered animation techniques still used today.  Beyond simple animation, he envisioned a time when people would watch full-length animated movies, not just a short cartoon.  This was completely unheard of when Walt started in the animation business.

Early Disney Animated Shorts

Below are two animated shorts created by Walt Disney.  Although known as the creator of Mickey Mouse, Walt created Oswald the Rabbit at an earlier time in his career.

The Disney Approach

Like all of us, his approach and decisions were often based - at least in part - on his personal life experiences. Born in a family with a father who frequently tried and failed at various jobs, Walt was not afraid to start again when a business venture failed.  When Walt was animating Oswald the Rabbit, he became mired in a bad financial deal.  As a result, he vowed to never work for someone else again.  Hence the Disney company was born.

Walt's creativity expanded beyond simple animation and entertainment.  He sought to use entertainment as a vehicle for knowledge.  Thus, early on he envisioned the Epcot City of Tomorrow and used his influence and creativity for educational purposes.

Man in Space

In 1955, after discussing space travel with Wernher Von Braun, one of the architects of Hitler's and subsequently the United States' missile programs, Walt created a movie entitled Man in Space.  This presentation of space travel to the moon was influential in President John F. Kennedy's declared mission to put a man on the moon by 1970. 

Lessons from the book

The authors of How To Be Like Walt devote the end of each chapter to a life lesson drawn from the chapter.  Unlike many books that simply state an obvious lesson at the end of the narrative, these lessons are illustrated by numerous additional examples from Walt's life.  Additionally, there are usually several specific character traits listed to support each lesson.  The lessons are:

  1. Live the adventure.
  2. Be a salesman.
  3. Dare to do the impossible.
  4. Unleash your imagination.
  5. Become an animated leader.
  6. Take a risk!
  7. Deal with loss.
  8. Plus every experience ("plus" was Walt's word for continual quality improvement).
  9. Be a person of stick-to-it-ivity.
  10. Become a sponge for ideas.
  11. Ask yourself "How about tomorrow?"
  12. Live for the next generation.
  13. Build complimentary partnerships.
  14. Stay focused!
  15. Accept your mortality.
  16. Make family your top priority.
  17. Be the person God made you to be.

If you are interested in examples of creativity, inspiration for life, motivation for success, or simply enjoy a good story, I encourage you to read How To Be Like Walt.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Cheap Android Tablet

When I was in 8th grade I took a computer class.  The nature of topics covered in elementary computer classes varies from generation to generation as technological innovation keeps advancing.  My computer class was in 1984, so we had limited technology - compared to today - and used BASIC programming language.

Recently I met one of my classmates from 8th grade.  He told me that back in 8th grade, I pointed to all the computers and said, "One day, you'll have a device in your pocket that is able to do a lot more than these computers."  I wish I had pursued that dream, because I'd be a billionaire today. 

The tablet - between the laptop and the phone

The best working definition of a tablet that I've seen is from Walmart:
Tablet PCs are compact, ultra-portable entertainment devices that let you read email, surf the internet, read eBooks, view photos, play games, listen to music and watch video files. Most tablets are based on a smaller operating system, which allows you to purchase and download additional applications from supported stores. 

 The vast majority of tablet computers, or tablets, either use the Apple's iOS operating software or Google's Android software.  The approaches of the two companies is completely different and the result has been a transformation of how we approach portable computing.

Apple only uses the iOS operating system in its own devices.  At the time of this writing those include the various models of iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, and iPad Mini tablets.  The advantage of this closed system is that the quality of software is more consistent and higher.  Additionally, because Apple manufactures its own products, the products are usually more technologically advanced with better cameras, touch surfaces, and so on.

Google has licensed Android so that anyone can use it with a device.  While the standard software works the same on any Android Device, the price can vary based on the quality of materials used to manufacture the tablet products.  Lower-priced tablets can be expected to have fewer features such as a high-resolution camera, storage space, or stronger case.

Cheap tablets

Not too long ago I received an e-mail from Walmart listing a variety of tablets in the $70 range.  I was intrigued and performed some online searches for Android tablets.  I was surprised to find tablets as low as $30.  I purchased one, which I will be describing in a future post.  Below are the results from two companies, T-mart (where I purchased my tablet) and Amazon.

For the price of dinner out for a family, you can own a tablet.  This has a lot of potential because now this technology can be available to almost anyone. 

I will be sharing my experience with my $30 tablet and comparing it with my higher-functioning iPad tablet.  For me, learning about the Android tablet is new, and each software approaches tasks differently.  Additionally, I expect that there will be a difference in the capabilities of my new tablet when compared to the iPad. 

Note:  I am an affiliate for Tmart, so if you purchase from there, I will earn a small commission. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We are the music makers

Not too long ago, I watched the 40th anniversary edition of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As a child, I attended a summer camp, and this movie was the Saturday night feature at the end of a week filled with activity.

The basic plot of the movie is that a candy maker, Willy Wonka, has offered a free tour for five children and their chaperones. One by one the children are forced to exit the tour prematurely because they make some blunder inside the chocolate factory, largely because they don't listen to instructions. Inside the factory are outrageously fantastic designs such as a chocolate river, candies that last forever, and other treats beyond imagination.

In one scene, the remaining children are taken into a special room where Mr. Wonka has developed the technology to take a massive bar of chocolate, teleport it across the room while reducing the size, and have it be available for eating at the opposite side of the room. He calls it "WonkaVision." One of the parent chaperones asks, "Why would you want to do that?"

Mr. Wonka's answer is the source of today's post: "We are the music makers and we are the dreams of dreams."

In yesterday's post, I shared some techniques for brainstorming using self-adhesive notes and an app to brainstorm on your computer. I hope you will check it out or look for your own resources on how to be more creative in your life, both personally and professionally. Modern Mind Mapping by Tony Buzan is another excellent resource, as it introduces mind mapping concepts within the concept of enhancing creativity.

A key ingredient of creativity is more flexibility. You can start today by taking a different route home or to the store or to somewhere. Do things differently and you just may become one of the "dreamers of dreams."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Video review of StickyBoard2 app

A few posts ago I summarized a great resource, How to Become a StickyNote Ninja.  Using Post-it notes (also generically known as "self-adhesive notes") are an incredibly useful tool for brainstorming, planning, creative thinking, and storyboarding.


A search of Apple's app store will yield several possible apps designed to replicate Post-it notes.  In my video review below, you will see the highlights of StickyBoard2, which comes the closest the experience of organizing notes on a whiteboard.

StickyBoard2 is what I use to plan this blog as well as my food blog, www.EatAtHome.info

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Posting stats for Personal Change

As I have written about before, collecting and analyzing information about yourself can be helpful in determining future strategic directions both personally and professionally.

This is my fourth year of writing posts for this site.  While I love the idea of posting every day, it has not worked out that way for me in the past as you can see from this set of sparklines, one for each year, and a longer sparkline showing all four years.

Blogging inspiration

In March, I wrote a post about a webinar on blogging.  The featured presenter was master blogger Ray Higdon, who posts regularly on network marketing related topics.  His webinar inspired to reorganize my blog and develop a plan for posting.  Another avid blogger that I follow is Sacha Chua.  She has been writing her "Living An Awesome Life" blog since 2003 and has almost 7,000 posts. 

Future direction

In thinking about the future of Personal Change, I have identified the following goals for the remainder of 2014.
  • Post four times per week - Monday to Thursday
  • Maintain a posting schedule for planning
  • Balance the post categories

Whether you write one post a month, once a week, every day, or more, I encourage you to start a blog and experiment with capturing your thoughts and ideas.