Friday, July 13, 2012


Society, of any sort, cannot exist without collaboration. Every organization from a family unit to an international corporation, from city government to military services depend on collaboration. Any economy would disintegrate without collaboration. Collaboration is a given in our world—taken for granted usually, but is constantly forming and reforming.

Collaborations start with individuals, those willing to see the large picture and participate in it, knowing that they, too, will benefit from their efforts. Units then work together so that collectively they can achieve more than one individual can.

If you think of each entity as a circle, then we could show circles by the millions, overlapping other circles that overlap larger circles that continue to overlap to a world-wide scale.

One form of collaboration that presents itself in an obvious way is the end-credit scroll for modern movies. It is asTONishing to see how many individuals come together to make, oh, say, an Avengers movie, or Lord of the Rings. It is a small army in itself that has come together with a single mission to accomplish: to bring a movie to the screen, so that WE can collaborate and pay them for their time and effort, so they can go do it again and again.

Usually, such collaborations as movies are led by one individual, akin to a general, with a staff of other leaders, directing divisions, battalions, companies, platoons and squads—right down to the feller that sets out the napkins for the lunch trollies.

Movie auteurs, the ones with stars on their shoulders, pretty much started with Charlie Chaplin and expanded exponentially over the decades. Walt Disney was one that led his army of artists, storytellers, technicians and financial soldiers to battle again and again, gaining many milestones along the way.

Music has always been a part of the movies, but Disney's Fantasia made a star out of music by collaborating with the musical world in innovative and entertaining ways.

The Disney Studios also collaborated with the US military during WWII. The military more-or-less blitzkrieged the partnership by moving onto the studio lots the day after Pear Harbor. But Disney's people greatly aided the war effort with educational and propaganda films, as well as hundreds of insignia designed for troop morale. One of the films, starring Donald Duck, even went so far as to persuade citizens to pay their taxes in a timely manner, so that the war chest could maintain its flow.

Anonymous rendering of Walt Disney as he frequently looked
when his staff wasn't quite on the mark with what he wanted.

Disney Studios in 1930s, with Walt and Mickey flanked by his battalion. Of course the numbers would ultimately be an army.

Original program cover for Fantasia, one of the industry's
great collaborations, initial 'flop' that it was.

Uncle Walt in storyboard conference with Leopold Stokowsky
and Deems Taylor, collaborating between the arts.

General Disney in conference for a war-time movie with
Commander "Hutch" Hutchinson, USN and Ub Iwerks.

Insignia for Aviation Cadet Detachment, WWII.

Insignia for Commander Carrier Division 24, WWII

Isolated graphic from Victory Through Air Power,
demonstrating the value of strategic bombing, 1943.

In the midst of the Disney organization expanding its world, creative individuals evolved into an organization of Imagineers, an elite force that conceptualized and engineered most of the magic in the magical kingdoms of Disney. One definition of the Imagineers was 'when science collided with art'. Through their efforts, and the work force that followed their leads, major accomplishments in entertainment were made and are enjoyed by millions.

Imagine if we, those who look to the future, had imagineers of sorts to help design educational ways and means in imaginative ways—helping our kids to think and act in innovative ways . . . what might be accomplished?


Eric said...

By pure chance, I started reading this article while scanning a Walt Kelly sketch from FANTASIA.

Annie said...

Hi Thom,

This is a great overview article. It is incredible to think how the vision of one person can be brought to life through the work of individuals responsible for each component, each person contributing the best of themselves and committed to the final product. Without the work of many, the vision could not be realized. It's one thing to create a world through fiction and art, and another to create it through motion pictures, an orchestral arrangement, or an enterprise. Both are equally valid, and the scope of creativity can be intimate or vast.

Daniel [] said...

It's no merely that collaboration is necessary for society or for an economy; a society or an economy is a collaboration.

The classic example is the manufacture of a pencil. While it would be theoretically possible for Robinson Crusoe to make a pencil, in the real world pencils are actually made with an intertanglement of processes whose full extent is known to no one. (Whence came the saw that cut the tree?)

The problems arise with presumptions and understandings about the basis of that collaboration. (For example, does someone who wants to make an animated cartoon get to force you to participate in that because you enjoy benefits of some other sort of collaboration directly involving him or her? How about military programmes or how about health-care?)