Courageous Creativity Conference Report

posted Jun 23, 2018, 7:07 AM by Kevin Roughton
I'm freshly home from my second big conference this year and I can't wait to talk about it! 

Courageous Creativity is a conference put on by The California Arts Project. It was largely the brain child of Disney Legend Marty Sklar who left us last year. I learned about it from Marty's book Dream It, Do It! and, despite not being an art teacher of any sort, was very eager to attend. (Come on, I teach the Renaissance for 3 weeks, I'm qualified.) It was held at the Disney Paradise Pier hotel so, worth case scenario, I'm at the Disney Paradise Pier hotel. Just like with the earlier social studies conference I paid my own way. I'll leave you to mull over what that says.

The conference began with a mad rush to sign up for the desired tours. Multiple tours of Disneyland were offered ranging from tours of the Hyperion Theater to a new Horticulture tour of the parks.  They all sounded amazing but I honestly didn't read any of the descriptions as soon as I saw the tour that took us behind the scenes (quite literally) of Soarin' Over the World - the best attraction on the planet. I could not pass that up. We also signed up for our breakout sessions where I chose The Art of Movie Trailers and Art as Civic Engagement.

That evening began with dinner - which was delicious. The Disney service staff was prompt and courteous. The meal was so fancy that I figured this was the main event. Any food from here would be day old pastries and boxed sandwich lunches. We heard the keynote speaker which I already wrote about. I picked up so many great, inspirational nuggets and plenty of great Disney insights to annoy my family with when we visit the parks. Still, the line that sticks with me most is "No experience is too small to be excellent."

I went up to my room which overlooked Disney California Adventure and watched the fireworks show (complete with audio track from the TV - Disney just does things so right) from my window. Great start!

The next morning we started at 7:00 AM with breakfast. It was a full buffet spread with eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, pastries and fruit. Honestly, I'm shocked this was included in our registration. It definitely made me feel appreciated and cared for (Disney just does things so right.)

My 1st breakout session followed. We heard from Garrett Lambert, the senior trailer editor at Universal Pictures. My first major takeaway: there is a senior trailer editor at Universal pictures. This was a huge "ah ha!" for me as an AVID teacher. We always do a big careers unit with our AVID kids and I'm going to really focus on the "unseen" jobs next year. There's so many awesome jobs out there that I know my kids have never thought of. This was a great example.

The second takeaway was Garrett's own story and journey. He was a great student, football player, ASB president and came from a great family. He seemed to have it all together. As he said though "I had no clue what I was doing."  Garrett was largely left to his own devices in terms of figuring out life after high school because he seemed to know his path. This really stuck with me because I share a similar story (minus the football and ASB part of course...) I remember, vividly, the last day of high school and how terrified I was. I chose my college because my friend was going there - I hadn't ever even seen the campus. I had no idea what I was doing and most of my teachers just assumed I did because I did well in school. Now I look back over my recent students and wonder how many Garretts I've let slip by because I could. I need to give those kids just as much of my time and effort as those who are struggling.

Next was my tour of Soarin'. It began with a presentation by Mark Sumner - one of the head engineers on the attraction. He explained how it was made and the challenge of integrating show with engineering. We went backstage on the ride (where we saw Mickey walking to his break trailer, still "on stage" for his guests!) and learned a bit more about it. We then were taken the load area for the ride (no lines for us!) and I had the surreal moment of standing there, surrounded by other park guests, with Mr. Sumner standing right there with us. Aside from his Imagineering name badge he looked like any other guest. Nobody in line had a clue who was standing there with them. 

After riding we were taken back behind the projection screen to watch the engineering of the attraction. It was incredible to see how deep the screen truly is (it's basically a hemisphere) and watch all the parts in motion. We finished by heading down into the bowels of the attraction where we saw Mark's picture posted on the wall. We were given miniature copies of the Soarin' itinerary which I will be turning into a lesson on Latitude and Longitude for next year.  Amazing experience all around.

Lunch was next, which again was provided (and delicious.)

That was followed by a presentation from a game designer. It was the first presentation to use bullet points which really stood out (more on this later.) It was fine but for someone like me who follows the game industry to an unhealthy degree there wasn't much new. Many of the people in the room with less experience loved it. 

My 2nd breakout was next and let's just say I didn't make it. I did however take a great nap!

That night we gathered and were taken into Disneyland to see the new fireworks spectacular (it's not just a show!) We were taken to a VIP viewing area and left to enjoy it. Our tour guides left after leaving us there which allowed us to remain in the park until closing. I, of course, took full advantage of my "free" time in the park by immediately getting on the Monorail to return to the hotel to sleep.

I wanted to get to sleep because the next morning we started at 6:45 for "light breakfast and an adventure." The light breakfast appeared to be coffee and juice. We were led as a group again back to Disneyland - well before park opening. We got to see the horticulture team replacing plants that had been damaged the day before (which they apparently do every single night.) We saw the cleaning teams and delivery teams working frantically. For a Disney nut like myself this was magic. I took pictures of Main Street without a single person in it. Just think about that for a minute...

They took us to the French Market for our actual "light breakfast" which included burritos, fruit, pastries, yogurt and cereal. Light indeed. We then were taken on the newly updated Pirates of the Caribbean attraction (which has more updates than Redd!) As we were led out of the park we were given some time to take pictures in front of the still-empty Castle. We saw the crowds lined up at the ropes ready to get in. We were on the IN side of the ropes already. Teachers being treated like VIPS? What a world!

We returned to the hotel for a panel discussion with a group of imagineers. They focused on their varying stories of how they ended up at Imagineering. Most were artists but one came up through a temp agency as an administrator - so there's still hope for me. The highlight for me was Amber Samdahl who talked about the value of play. I'll write more about this panel on it's own soon. There was just so much said that was memorable and inspirational.

We then had yet another meal (southwest salad, carnitas, carne asada, and a ridiculous tres leches cake) that left me more than satisfied. We closed with a discussion among the participants of our big takeaways from the event. I was reminded of many of the great things that I didn't have time to write down throughout the conference. This was a great recap of the event and I'm glad I stayed for it (even if it meant an ugly drive home in Friday afternoon traffic.)

I left the event feeling more appreciated in those 3 days than I have in my 15 year career. Disney applied their magic of guest relations on us for 3 straight days and it was wonderful. As one participant noted "we're all leaving ready to go back to work tomorrow with all these ideas and inspiration, it's a shame we have to wait 2 months!" You know the conference was effective when it left us wishing Summer was already over. 

Thank you to the entire Disney staff who treated us like VIPs. Thank you to the TCAP team who planned the whole event. It was truly magical.

I leave you with this little comparison of conferences.
                       

  AVID Summer Institute Courageous Creativity
 Cost $675 $525
 Days 3 3
 Meals Provided .5 (one boxed lunch) 5
 Ridiculous Mandates 3-5 per year 0
 Trips to Disneyland 0 3
Imagineers 0 8
 Disney Magic 0 Tons

Hopefully it will be clear why I've stopped going to the AVID conference...

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