Sunday, February 28, 2010

Disney Inspirations

I am currently wearing a sweatshirt, winter vest and long pants on our family vacation in Kissimee Florida. It is like a Canadian spring here weather-wise, but there is hope that the heat will appear on Monday. Our frost-bitten fingers and toes are crossed.

My first trip to the Magic Kingdom was when I was 26 with a group of buddies after a week partying in Daytona. Since that first visit I have tried to return as often as possible to gain inspiration, direction and motivation for my own creative projects and schemes. There is something about Walt's world that helps me to re-focus and puts me in the right (childlike?) frame of mind to unlock my creativity. Oh, and the kids seem to be enjoying themselves as well.

I thought I would share two things that inspired me this week in the hope that it might inspire you as well. One thing came from a quote that I saw displayed on a wall in the one of the parks. It's from Walt Disney himself and is ridiculously simple, direct and practical.

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
-Walt Disney

To be honest there are several things on my mental project 'shelf' that are waiting to be brought to life, realized and frankly exorcised from my brain! I have been talking about them, pre-planning their birth and fantasizing about what they could be without doing anything to make them a reality. Now is the time. No more procrastinating. No more talking. It's time to begin doing.

My other inspiration came from a documentary about the creation of Disney World entitled Magic Kingdom - Imagineering the Magic. It's a DVD I picked up at one of the parks and watched on my laptop in my room last night. It was during one of the interviews with Tony Baxter who is currently the Senior Vice President of Creative Development with Walt Disney Imagineering, that I heard something that struck a chord. He was talking about the numerous ideas, concepts and projects that had never seen the light of day for a variety of reasons. Whether it was a ride, an audio-animatronic, a original song composition, etc. He said that every good idea never dies. Eventually they put every workable thing to work somewhere at sometime.

For the past three years (wow!) Richard Sanders and I have been working together on magic projects and tools for magicians to use. Check it out here:
The thing that hit home about Baxter's interview was that Rich and I have come up with literally dozens and dozens of great ideas. In and of themselves they are not yet worthy of any project, routine or product BUT they will continue to exist in the back of our minds, written in notebooks, on audio files recorded on an iPhone, in email exchanges, etc. What I have learned is that some ideas can only be 'worked' for a limited amount of time before the excitement and motivation behind the idea eventually dies. It's what you do as a creator at this point that can either make or break the creative energy. You can soldier on and continue to hash it out until you have something that may look like something half decent OR you can shelve it (mentally or physically) and come back to it when the time is right. It is the latter action that I have learned in the past year, to be the best way to put ideas to work and to save your sanity (and partnership!). If you beat an idea into submission, after losing your excitement for it, you lose the joy of the creative process and subsequently the idea will not be as great as it could have been. By putting it aside for a time the idea is allowed to distill and grow on it's own. At the right time (something that is felt rather than decided) the idea will come to fruition on it's own and present itself ready. Sounds like a zen thing. And I think it kind of is.

Anyways, I have to get out of the room and get on some rides. I hope something inspires you.

Until next time, think GREAT thoughts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

February PRO-TIP for Customize Your Smart Ass

February's Bill Abbott Magic PRO-TIP is a full routine using Customize Your Smart Ass found here on my website.


I first started to use a customizable Smart Ass deck shortly after I had created the original Smart Ass deck. I wanted a large scale stage prediction that didn't have the limitations that many of the marketed and published versions currently available, seem to have. I wanted something portable, fairly inexpensive, reusable, and with a finale that played to an audience of 3,000, if needed. That's when I put together the All-Inclusive Vacation Prediction, which is one of the several routines detailed in the Customize Your Smart Ass booklet that comes with the deck. The AIVP has the decided advantage of being truly predicted in advance, with no double-writing, carbon impressions or a difficult to read finale. Although I will not tip the method(s) here, anyone with some background in magic and mentalism should be able to piece it together. The complete version is in the Customize Your Smart Ass booklet found here.


At the end of your show you explain that due to an incredible sales year at company XYZ (insert client’s company name here), the upper management has agreed to arrange for an all-expenses paid vacation for everyone to anywhere in the world. They have left the choice up to us to choose the destination, time of departure and the form of transportation to the destination. You take off your watch and ask a volunteer in the front row to stand up and show them that you want them to wind your watch changing the time with each turn of the stem. To make this a random procedure ask them to do this while the watch face is face down in their hand.

While they are doing this you ask anyone to call out vacation destinations. As they do, you pull out a pad of paper and begin to write down each destination per piece of paper, folding them twice and dropping them one at a time onto an empty table or chair. Once you have 10-12 names you ask a volunteer to join you on stage. You ask them to select any slip of paper from the random ones on the table/chair and to pocket it. Once this is done you invite them to take a seat on a chair beside you.

You remove a pack of blank backed cards that have various forms of transportation on one side of them. MOPED, STREETCAR, KAYAK, ON FOOT, SNOWMOBILE, DOG SLED, ONE HORSE OPEN SLEIGH, etc. are some of the options. You hand them the pack and proceed with the 'Smart Ass' elimination procedure concluding with a final selection which you tell your participant to pocket along with the destination. Finally you tell your ‘watch winding’ assistant to stop his winding and to push the stem of the watch in, turn the watch over and call out the random time. You write the time on a large black/ white board, thank the volunteer and take back your watch.

Instruct your on stage volunteer to remove the mystery destination slip and transportation card from their pocket and call both out while you write them on the board below the departure time. Take back the card and slip and ask the volunteer to take their seat. You ask the event organizer to come on stage and to bring ‘the package’. They come to the stage bringing a long mailing tube. Ask them to verify that they received this package two weeks before the performance and have not opened or tampered with it in anyway. Ask them to open it and remove the contents. Inside there are is a large scroll of paper. You ask them to take one free end while you let it unroll from the ‘scroll’. Slowly the departure time, form of transportation and exact destination is revealed in a banner that boldly proclaims a 100% accurate prediction that eventually fills the entire stage.


You do not have to mail out the prediction ahead of time, but it does lend itself to a more dramatic and suspenseful conclusion. I have had a professionally printed banner printed on vinyl that, when unrolled, opens to a whopping 25 feet across and 3 feet wide. This fits into a mailing tube which I seal and mail to the client previous to the event with the instruction to bring it to the show. You could do this cost-effectively using your own printer, or simply take a roll of paper and write out your prediction with a large marker.

Have Fun!

Until next time, think nice thoughts.