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Creativity Winks.

I’m writing this as I ride a bus on my way to a bookstore in San Francisco, where I’ll be picking up my own copy of Creativity Inc. 

The book is written by Ed Catmull, who you may know as Pixar’s current President, along with Amy Wallace.

It’s a book about creative leadership, or to be more specific, creating an environment that allows people to create. And maybe not just create, but be incredibly creative. You can imagine why Catmull has the authority to write such a book, considering he’s been in charge of one of the most creative companies in the world (and not only when it comes to movies).

creativity winks
You can click the image to purchase the book for yourself and/or read reviews.

So I’m pretty excited to get my hands on the book, as I’m sure it will provide valuable insights into how I can foster a creative environment for myself. Which is why I’m writing this post and titling it “Creativity Winks.”

Because I certainly can’t lend anything as credible or even profound as Catmull or anyone else in Pixar’s leadership. But before I inundate myself with the wisdom of the experts, I do want to share with you my takeaway about what it means to be creative.

And that’s just it right there. Being creative is missing the point entirely. Everyone is creative, especially about things they care about. Some people try to say that “creativity” is being inspiring when it comes to a topic they aren’t passionate about. But that’s definitely not it either (they’re just confusing skill and empathy with originality).

Creativity winks at us. Our minds (depending on who you are) flash brilliant moments of incredible originality almost routinely. It’s just up to us to play those moments out. Or save them for later.

That moment when a catchy tune gets caught in my head – and I realize I’m the one who thought it up – is a “wink” of creativity that will be lost forever in a matter of minutes. Unless I take out my phone and record my humming. A few days later, I’m figuring out the chords for a new ukulele song I’m writing (yes, this is a true story).

Creativity also winks at me when I write fiction. Some of you may follow along with my serial novel, The Pixar Detective, and I’ve been asked routinely how I come up with the story and characters on such a consistent, uninterrupted basis.

Well I’m certain that if I tried to write an entire chapter of The Pixar Detective in one sitting, I’d produce something that isn’t my best work. And that’s because it takes time for flashes of creativity to arrive. For some of us, it can take hours, days, or even weeks.

What I’ve found, though, is that the frequency in which these “winks” arrive is progressively increased as we apply those ideas when they do come.

In other words: the more you create, the more creative you will become. It’s a simple, but hopelessly ignored concept.

So creativity winks at us. And I’ve learned from experience that some of the most brilliant ideas we can come up with are as fleeting as they are wonderful. But if you take the time to write them down and play them out, you’ll immediately set yourself apart.

Thanks for reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.

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It’s OK Not to Dream Big.

Do your goals and ambition control you?

They don’t “control” me, though “control” is a funny word.

My ambitions guide me, and they shape me as I realize them. But they in no way prevent me from enjoying the moment, whichever one that is.

Like any other generation that looks smugly down on the one slightly younger, I routinely roll my eyes at kids and young adults I see on Instagram, Vine and Twitter. The frivolous entitlement, fixation on pop culture (that yes, I share with them) and obsession with selfie-fueled narcissism all make me cringe when I loop that Vine.

But then I am met with the “other” kids who are in a totally different state of mind from their counterparts. These are the selfie kids who just finished school and want to seek wisdom for what they should do next. I love to relate to them because one of my most vivid memories encompasses my first summer after college.

And how absolutely terrified I was.

Life starts with big dreams we haven’t thought through. Life continues on after you’ve realized your dreams will actually take a lot of work (that you may not be willing to do).

My dreams have always been based on values I have. Not fame, and definitely not my career. My dreams aren’t “big” in the conventional sense. I never told myself that someday I’ll change the world. I never promised my family and friends that one day I’ll be the best writer with the best writing job. Mostly because that will never happen.

Instead, I crafted my dreams around what I cherish. My spiritual life. Writing. Changing the worlds of people I love.

I accomplished some of those dreams, and some unexpected things have happened as a result of that.

They didn’t happen because I forced them too. I started a blog because I love to write, not because I wanted to be the next “whoever.” I simply wrote about the things I love and let myself grow.

You’re probably in the same boat, whether you’re a blogger, journalist or just someone with a cool story to tell. Don’t worry about who’s going to read your thoughts. Get over the fact that you probably won’t accomplish every single desire your happiness-starved heart demands of you.

Your passion is way more fulfilling than happiness, after all.

So it is OK to dream big. But it’s also OK to simplify. And it’s way better to dream “well.” You’ll have an easier time weeding out the ones that aren’t worth having.

The Pixar Detective, Chapter 8: The Hexagon

Hey everyone! Welcome to The Pixar Detective, a serial novel I put together based on the Pixar Theory. The following is a fictional story that explains the theory that all of the Pixar movies are connected and exist within the same universe, using original characters and artwork. The story answers a lot of questions you may have about this theory, but through its own ongoing narrative.

The story originally launched in April, and we’ve recently completed Part 1!

It is available as an iBook on iTunes, which you can check out here. If you can’t use iBooks, you can also download the PDF version. 

Once you’re finished, check back to our Table of Contents, where we’ll be continuing the story through Part 2. A new chapter is released every two weeks on Tuesdays. And please be sure to leave your feedback in the comments for us to read through. Enjoy!

pixar detective chapter 8

 

PREVIOUSLY, ON THE PIXAR DETECTIVE!

Stevin, Alec and Wallaby continue their perilous search for Mary, who has presumably gotten lost in time. Along the way, our gang finds themselves in 1935, tracking down the past version of the only person who left a trace in Mary’s room, where she was last seen.

pixar detective
Mr. Sumner.

Only, it’s not a person. Our heroes have found someone who claims to be a monster from another world. His name is Mr. Sumner, and he claims that in a mysterious government facility, he was forced to engage in experiments meant to transcend time. To find out what happened to Mary, the gang must take Mr. Sumner to this facility and find a way to communicate with his future self.

pixar detective
Willem (left) with Sadie, the first super.

Meanwhile, a villainous mastermind who simply goes by “The Maestro” is concocting a plan to create an army of “supers.” His prime research subject is a young girl named Sadie, who has a mysterious power known as Dominion. The Maestro has placed three new agents on an unknown mission surrounding this experiment: Willem, Flo, and Peaches. And, of course, their mission takes place within the same government facility our heroes are about to invade: the Hexagon.

Extra Credit!

Why is this government facility called “The Hexagon?” You may have guessed that it has a lot in common with “The Pentagon,” which is the real-life headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. Of course, the Pentagon itself wasn’t built until the 1940s, as opposed to the fictional Hexagon that takes place within a city called Metroville (sound familiar?) in 1935.

Use the prompt on the sidebar to subscribe for updates or just follow me and Kayla on Twitter to stay connected – @JonNegroni – @KaylaTheSavage

Why I Won’t Be Watching ‘Lucy’ (The Scarlett Johansson Superhero Movie)

I rarely delve into negative articles about avoiding movies. I usually like to talk about all of the things I love and find interesting about movies, both good and bad. And then movies like Lucy pop up.

The film, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, is about a woman who is accidentally exposed to a street drug that allows her to “transcend” her brain’s normal limitations. This gives her incredible psychic powers that eventually progress to become capable of bending reality itself.

There are some cool things the movie has going for it. Scarlett Johansson is a fun actor. I won’t say she’s great, because I hesitated when I considered that (which is a sign that an actor probably isn’t that great).

I’ll say that I enjoy her performances for the most part, especially in Woody Allen movies. Seriously, have you seen Match Point?

lucy match point

Another positive for Lucy is that even though the film is yet another superhero movie coming out in a year crowded with superhero movies, it at least seems fresh because it’s a French film directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element). It’s not Marvel. It’s not DC.

But then we get to what the movie is actually about. And it’s terrible. For the millionth time in the history of pop culture, people are trying to tell us that we would gain superpowers if we could just gain access to 100% of our brain’s “potential,” but we’re cursed with only being able to use 10%.

Great TV shows and movies have gone down this road, including Fringe and Limitless. But before we get into it, here’s the trailer (in case you haven’t seen it yet or need a refresher):

The entire premise is a laughably dumb fallacy, and the trailer flaunts it, giving us progress reports of where the main character falls on the brain percentage scale. Johannson at one point actually says something along the lines of, “I just hit blah blah percent” like it’s her Twitter feed.

The worst offense of all? They dared to involve the great Morgan Freeman in this mess. Hearing him give a lecture in a college about this actually caused me emotional pain.

Because no, you don’t only use 10% of your brain. The weird thing is plenty of people know that this is a false concept, but it’s still purported like it’s true, anyway.

To be more accurate, you’re only using around 10% of your brain’s functions at any one time. It’s like how you don’t use the full capacity of all of your muscles at any one time. Because you don’t need to. Using 100% of your brain’s functions goes by another name: a seizure.

But not according to Lucy. It causes you to have wicket hand multiplication powers.

lucy movie

Plenty of people have given a pass to shows and movies that try to shove this misconception down our throats. I’m one of them. I still enjoyed Limitless, mostly because the movie didn’t base its entire story around the idea. Unlike Lucy, it was more about the main character. At least in the trailer.

And even though Limitless was a silly premise, we had a good time watching it.

Movies are about escapism, after all. They don’t have to be scientifically accurate in order for us to enjoy them. But I’m going to point out that there’s a line. When you have a movie that’s being this blatant about its flawed premise, I just can’t get behind it. I’m going to pass on Lucy.

Could I change my mind? Maybe if it looked like a better movie. Maybe if it wasn’t another superhero movie that would push me further to a state of mind in which I’m actually sick of this genre (which I really hope won’t happen).

lucy movie

To be clear, I don’t discourage anyone else from going out and enjoying this film. I’m sure it will make plenty of money and entertain millions. I just know I wouldn’t be one of them. I’d rather watch a movie about talking apes.

Thanks for reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.

The Pixar Detective: Table of Contents

Pixar Detective table of contents

Welcome to The Pixar Detective! This is a serial novel that tells a new story within the background of the Pixar movies.

Part 1 and Part 2 are now e-books with all of their chapters in one place. If you’re using a Mac or iPad, you can view and download both of them on the iTunes store by clicking here.

If you’re using something else, you can download the PDF versions with any device you want (they still look pretty cool, thankfully). Just click the images below to get started!

Part 1: Chapters 1-10 

part 1 pixar detective

Part 2: Chapters 11-20

The Pixar Detective Part 2

 Chapter 21: Hidden Wonders

chapter 21 pixar detective

Chapter 22: The Unforgivables

pixar detective chapter 22

Chapter 23: And Beyond

pixar detective chapter 23

Chapter 24: Anyone Can’t Cook

chapter 24 pixar detective

Chapter 25: Torn by Pride

chapter 25 pixar detective

Chapter 26: Nomanisan

pixar detective chapter 26

Chapter 27: The Wilderness Explorer

pixar detective chapter 27

Chapter 28: The Magic Words

pixar detective chapter 28

Chapter 29: The Woodcarver

chapter 29 pixar

 

Chapter 30: Detective Parker

chapter 30 pixar detective

You can use the prompt on the sidebar to subscribe for updates or just follow me and Kayla on Twitter to stay connected – @JonNegroni – @KaylaTheSavage

6 TV Shows & Movies That Would Make Incredible Video Games

Listen, I love movies. I also love television. They’re fantastic mediums that provide the world with a seemingly endless supply of great entertainment. But the real potential is in the world of video games. The world of truly interactive entertainment.

The main difference between these three mediums is the fact that video games haven’t been around quite as long. They have immense room to grow, even as the way we experience games continues to shift toward the smart phone in contrast to the blockbuster console.

That said, too many websites and smart discussions decide to talk about how “cool” it would be for so-and-so video game to become a movie. And I get that. I’ve talked before about how great it would be to see more of the Mass Effect universe on the big screen (though it would likely fail if it centered around Commander Shepard).

But for whatever reason, people default to a supposed need for making a movie out of something we already enjoy as gamers. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I think so. Here are a few of the best examples I can think of (for now):

[Note: I’m excluding the topic of licensed games from this discussion. No one likes them. We already know why. Let’s just not talk about it.]

 

6. Inception

inception video game

The idea of translating the Christopher Nolan “dream-within-a-dream” universe seems like a natural step forward for an indicate, complex plot that almost demands user interaction.

Exotic locations that are tied to one narrative structure without feeling forced? Check. Varied combat that is put on its head by gravity-bending mechanics related to other plot points within the story? Got it. Compelling characters working together via a heist mode that is both unexplored and familiar at the same time? Hey, Grand Theft Auto 5 already showed us how to do it.

I’m not a gaming insider by any stretch of the imagination, so I’m completely unaware if someone out there is already working to make this happen. If so, then they have my support.

 

5. Avatar: The Last Airbender

avatar video game

Yes, ATLA already has a trilogy of video games based on the popular TV series. They were nothing special, to be clear, and I think it would be a waste of time and money to retread that story, or even the sequel series, Legend of Korra.

No, the real potential lies in Wan, who is the first Avatar. Revealed in a special two-part event during Book 2 of LOK, Wan’s story is one that takes place in a world that is reminiscent of Miyazaki (intentionally), and his journey to becoming the first Avatar completely lends itself to the structure of storytelling we see in gaming. Wan learns each of the elements by traveling the Spirit World and grows stronger as he realizes his destiny. Perfect.

Of course, that’s just one rabbit hole for a game developer to go down. Thanks to ATLA’s attention to world-building and beautiful combat (a weird combination of words, but totally accurate), crafting a video game that is both creative and fun to play would be a cakewalk if taken seriously.

 

4. Firefly

firefly video game

I’m not even sure why this infamous cult-classic hasn’t already been transformed into a video game, but here we are. I suspect that the idea has been tossed around quite a bit already in the right board rooms.

Many would agree that this Joss Whedon-built space western has the depth and real estate to give gamers a fun tour of what lies beyond Alliance Control. Sadly, I doubt it would work to bring back the original cast for a continuation of the short-lived TV Show and its subsequent movie, but a good team of writers could easily breathe new life into the franchise through video games.

 

3. Game of Thrones

game of thrones video game

Can I just say it? We’re sick of Lord of the Rings as the go-to franchise for medieval mayhem (OK, that’s an exaggeration). One world we’ve yet to see play out in video games is the 7 Kingdoms of Westeros.

[Note: there’s a licensed Game of Thrones already. And it sucks. We want the real deal.]

Of course, there are two options. You could either develop an open world game a la Skyrim that tells a brand-new story within George R.R. Martin’s carefully crafted world of dragons and others, or you could do what the show has done – but with more faithfulness to the source material.

If you’re unaware, the HBO series known as “Game of Thrones” (which is based on the series of novels by Martin called A Song of Ice and Fire) is only loosely based on its source material. It makes for great television, but the expanded possibilities of side quests and drawn out storytelling could bring the world of Westeros into a full picture of what it’s meant to be.

 

2. Pacific Rim

pacific rim video game
This is another movie on this list that has already had the video game treatment attempted. And again. It sucked.

But a Pacific Rim video game that was conceived and executed from the ground up? One that was built to be a self-contained world with blockbuster graphics? That could definitely work, and it would be a great way to tell the story of the first battles between the Kaijus and the Jaegers. A story that was only briefly explained in expository dialogue.

Also, giant robots.

 

1. The Mask of Zorro

mask of zorro video game

I’m not putting this as #1 because it is objectively the best idea on this list (truthfully, I didn’t order these by which would be “best”).

No, I’m putting this as #1 because I am a well-known fanboy of anything “Zorro.” And yes, The Mask of Zorro is my favorite film of all time. Judge away.

But I believe a video game centering around the Fox would make for some great entertainment, regardless of my bias. Assassin’s Creed has already shown us how impactful and thrilling it can be to sword-fight our way through fully realized historical settings.

Though Zorro the character isn’t based on real history, careful attention to the setting (California, or Spain if the game would be based on the novels, instead) and rich echelon of characters that made the film great would translate beautifully to interactive storytelling.

Plus, with two new Zorro films planned to release in the coming years, the Zorro hype is about to reach its hype. Take notes game developers!

 

Honorable mentions (because opinions)

  • Bladerunner – bringing this up is basically required.
  • District 9 – but with more of what we saw in the third act.
  • Almost Human – overblown TV show, but great candidate for gaming.
  • Elysium – see District 9.
  • In Time – I can’t be the only person who liked this movie.
  • Hunger Games – prequel anyone?
  • Peter Pan – Neverland deserves the open-world treatment.

Yes, I know I didn’t get to the wealth of other examples. If you think of any ideas, sound off in the comments!

Thanks for reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.

The Pixar Detective, Chapter 7: The First Super

Hey everyone! Welcome to The Pixar Detective, a serial novel I put together based on the Pixar Theory. The following is a fictional story that explains the theory that all of the Pixar movies are connected and exist within the same universe, using original characters and artwork. The story answers a lot of questions you may have about this theory, but through its own ongoing narrative.

The story originally launched in April, and we’ve recently completed Part 1!

It is available as an iBook on iTunes, which you can check out here. If you can’t use iBooks, you can also download the PDF version. 

Once you’re finished, check back to our Table of Contents, where we’ll be continuing the story through Part 2. A new chapter is released every two weeks on Tuesdays. And please be sure to leave your feedback in the comments for us to read through. Enjoy!

The Pixar Detective Chapter 7

 

PREVIOUSLY ON THE PIXAR DETECTIVE!

The year is 1935. And according to the mysterious, purple monster who calls himself Mr. Sumner, the key to finding Mary rests within the well-guarded government agency known as “The Hexagon.”pixar detective

The agency holds many secrets. Some of which are guarded by a team led by a man named Willem. Serious and detached, Willem commands two other agents: Florence, a schizophrenic eccentric who worships her job, and Peaches, the new recruit who has way too much confidence for her own good.

 

Use the prompt on the sidebar to subscribe for updates or just follow me and Kayla on Twitter to stay connected – @JonNegroni – @KaylaTheSavage

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