Pyramid Pairings #1: It All Begins with a Story / Creative Intent


Pyramid Pairings are specific pairs of Imagineering Pyramid principles and how they work together.

The first Pyramid Pairing we’re going to look at is It All Begins with a Story and Creative Intent. It All Begins with a Story naturally pairs with nearly all of the other principles in the Imagineering Pyramid – your story or subject matter will likely play a big part in how you employ the other principles. We’ll see more examples of this in more detail in future It All Begins with a Story pairing posts, but for now, let’s look at how it pairs with Creative Intent.

Let’s start with a refresher on these principles, from The Imagineering Pyramid.

It All Begins with a Story is described on page 25:

…“it all begins with a story” means using your subject matter to inform all decisions about your project.

Creative Intent is described on page 31:

…focusing on creative intent means staying focused on your objective.

The relationship between It All Begins with a Story and Creative Intent is a fairly straight-forward one. An attraction’s creative intent is always strongly related to its story. In fact, an attraction’s creative intent can sometimes be thought of as a specific treatment of its story. Likewise, your story or subject matter will always relate to your objective and the experience you want your audience to have.

Let’s look at an example from the Disney parks, and how an attraction’s story relates to the experience the Imagineers want their Guests to have.

The story of Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom surrounds the “Himalayan Escapes – Tours and Expeditions” tour company, located in the Tibetan village of Serka Zong, which takes thrill seekers across the Forbidden Mountain, home to the legendary Yeti, to the base of Mount Everest where they can begin their ascent to the mountain’s peak.

The creative intent of Expedition Everest is succinctly summarized by its description on the Disney park’s website: “Careen through the Himalayan mountains on a speeding train while avoiding the clutches of the mythic Abominable Snowman.” After passing through a temple and museum dedicated to the Yeti, Guests board a train and the begin their journey across Forbidden Mountain peacefully enough, but soon discover that the Yeti has ripped up the tracks, and their train hurtles backwards into the mountain where they narrowly escape the Yeti’s grasp before returning safely to the train station where they began. This experience is built entirely upon the story of the “Himalayan Escapes – Tours and Expeditions” tour company and its efforts to bring guests across Forbidden Mountain to Mount Everest.

It All Begins with a Story and Creative Intent also work together in fields “beyond the berm”. In any field or when working on any creative idea, your subject matter should be a primary source when developing and clarifying your objective. In the “Imagineering Game Design” and “Imagineering Management and Leadership” chapters of The Imagineering Pyramid, I noted that these two principles (along with The Art of the Show) form a sort of “continuum of narrowing focus” with which you can zero in on the specifics of a creative project. I also offered the following sets of questions to help navigate along this continuum.

Game design questions:

  • What type of game am I designing? (show)
  • ƒƒWhat is my game about? (story)
  • ƒƒWhat is the experience I want players of my game to have? (creative intent)

Management and leadership questions:

  • ƒƒWhat is is our mission? What do we do? (show)
  • ƒƒWhat is our specific job in fulfilling our mission? (story)
  • ƒƒWhat are we working on now? (creative intent)

Imagineering Pyramid Checklist Questions

Beyond the above questions, some other questions you might use to focus on this pair include:

  • How do my subject matter and objective relate to each other?
  • How can I strengthen or emphasize that relationship?
  • Am I basing decisions about my objective on my subject matter?


So that’s our first Pyramid Pairing. As I said, this pairing is pretty straight-forward. As we move through the various Pyramid Pairings that we’ll explore, I expect we’ll find some that will require a bit more discussion.

Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!



One thought on “Pyramid Pairings #1: It All Begins with a Story / Creative Intent

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