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3 Storytelling Lessons from Disney

Updated: Jun 6

I recently visited Disney World and wanted to learn more about their "magic sauce." What is it that makes Disney so irresistible to millions of people throughout the world? The list of what they do right could fill books. After deliberate observation, I noticed three lessons that are applicable to all kinds of video storytellers.


Story is woven into every ride at Disney World. An attraction there is never just the twists and turns or ups and downs of the track. It's always a journey into someone's imagination and includes elements to take you into that story. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, for examples, includes elements that make you feel like you're entering a mine. Tower of Terror makes you feel like you're strolling into an old Hollywood hotel. And Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run makes you feel like you've entered a base in a galaxy far, far away. In Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, they even went so far as to make Coke bottles look like they're written in a galactic language and in the shape of a thermal detonator. Disney clearly understands the power of story.


When you walk through the lines and enter every ride, you realize that lighting is not an afterthought for Disney's imagineers. Lighting helps set the scene and transport you into the world they're creating. Whether it's dark and mysterious, light and playful, or crisp and modern, lighting is never forgotten. Disney uses illumination to show you what they want you to see and obscure anything that will take away from the story. At times, they make things so dark that you can only catch a faint glimpse, letting your imagination fill in the rest. Imagine the Haunted Mansion or the Tower of Terror with bright lights. Or imagine Toy Story Mania with noir lighting. It wouldn't work without the right lighting. Disney uses lights to set the mood and support the story they're telling.

Sound Design

Sound design is also a critical component to Disney's success. Rides include music or other acoustics that help fully immerse you in the world they've created. You not only see that world, you feel it through the vibrations of the sounds and music around you. Sometimes it's subtle, like the engine rumbles in the background as you board the Millennium Falcon. Other times, it's classic Disney tunes like, "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" in Splash Mountain, or "Heigh Ho" in the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Whether aware of it or not, sound design helps transport you into the story and influences how you feel about the attraction. It helps leave a lasting emotional impression on those who experience it.

Disney's Magic

Without the elements of story, lighting, and sound design, it's unlikely we would be talking about Disney World (or would be willing to spend so much money there!). Disney not only gives us a physical thrill with their fun rides, they take us on memorable emotional journeys into new worlds as masters of storytelling.

Application to Animated Video

As visual storytellers who use animated video as our medium, these same lessons apply. For example, rather than making an explainer video that only lists facts and features, a more impactful approach is to use stories and metaphors to take the audience on a journey that includes the same information. An effective video will take the audience along for the ride as it tells a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. Just as lighting affects the way the audience sees an attraction, colors and art style affect the feel of a video and the way the audience will react to it. And to immerse the audience in the world you've created on screen, it's important to not overlook the sound design. Sound effects and music are a critical way to emotionally connect with the audience.

A well crafted animated explainer video, like a ride at Disney, can build brand loyalty and leave a lasting impact on its audience. So don't overlook these storytelling tricks when making your next video. If you have questions or need help, please reach out to us at Wienot Films. We'd love to help you tell your story!


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