The Big Draw Festival 2019: Drawn To Life is well underway around the globe and as Festival organisers fling open their doors to visitors who love to draw and to those who think they can’t, we chat to the Big Draw Co-creators who are joining us in debunking the ‘I can’t draw’ myth and eliminating barriers to creative learning through their Big Draw Festival events.
The Walt Disney Family Museum's Big Draw event is fast approaching, and we were thrilled to steal a few moments with Tracie Timmer, Senior Public Programs Coordinator at WDFM.
Hi Tracie! Thanks so much for talking to us today. Could you start by telling us a bit about The Walt Disney Family Museum (WDFM), and your work as Senior Public Programs Coordinator?
The Walt Disney Family Museum tells the story of Walt Disney’s amazing life, both personally and professionally, and takes you through the defining moments of his lifetime gallery by gallery. I work on the Public Programs team, where we create and host talks, community days, workshops, and exhibition activities that honor the innovation and spirit of Walt.
Walt Disney made incredible contributions to the world of art and drawing. We believe that drawing can be life changing; it's an amazing tool for communication, invention and expression. What role does drawing play in your everyday life, and your work at WDFM?
I trained as an illustrator before working at WDFM, so drawing has a huge influence on my life in the sense that I do a lot of it! I also very much enjoy doing it, as it is therapeutic for me. In regards to the museum, The Walt Disney Studios was founded on the love of drawing and storytelling, so naturally it’s a huge part of everything we do here.
Whilst we’re on the topic of drawing, I understand that storyboards were not only crucial in the development of plotlines at The Walt Disney Studios, but they were in fact invented at the Studios! Storyboards were used to visualise, shuffle and swap out story sketches until the plot was just right. Do you think that Disney would agree with The Big Draw’s mantra: “it’s all about drawing to learn, not learning to draw?”
I can’t speak for Walt, but I would think so! He once said “You can’t write the kinds of stories we do with the cartoons. You have to draw ‘em.” The invention of storyboards, credited to Disney storyman Webb Smith, proved that the only way to truly know if a story had the right pace or tone was to visually map it out. In our galleries, we tell the story of Disney Legend Ward Kimball and his Soup Sequence for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) that was cut after eight months of development, and how that was instrumental in keeping the pace of the film perfect. The gags worked, but the pencil test told Walt all he needed to know about its lack of necessity to the overall story. That’s drawing to learn.
This is the fourth year that WDFM has been involved with The Big Draw Festival. Your event, held on the 5th of October, will be a playful and exciting opportunity for people of all ages to participate, observe, and enjoy drawing and storytelling in new and unusual ways. Can you tell us a little more about what people can expect from this year’s event?
This year, we honor the theme “Drawn to Life” with activities that help our guests explore the positive benefits of drawing and creativity, and how we can use it to make positive changes in both our lives and the world around us. We are centering an activity around the Disney-Pixar film Inside Out (2015), which is about the transformations that occur in the mind of an 11-year old girl after a big move to San Francisco. Additionally, we are partnering with Jane Goodall’s foundation Roots and Shoots, which focuses on fostering respect and compassion for all living things through the actions of individuals passionate about protecting our environment. We will be doing some fun art activities with Roots and Shoots and film screenings of Chimpanzee (2012) and Inside Out, as well as showcasing Walt Disney’s contributions to the arts and the world of drawing. For this special day, we will be offering free museum and special admission entry for youths aged 17 and under.
One of the main components of our work here at The Big Draw is encouraging people not to fear failure—to embrace their inner child, get creative, and enjoy those happy accidents along the way! Walt Disney famously said: “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young.” Do agree with this? Furthermore, do you believe there is such a thing as a ‘happy accident’ in the creative process?
I do believe in this, and it’s a quote we use often here at the museum—you can even hear it directly from Walt in our galleries. While the quote was in regards specifically to Walt leaving Kansas City for Hollywood, Walt experienced many setbacks even as an established Hollywood filmmaker and never stopped learning. Learning from your mistakes is the only way any of us can grow, both artistically and as humans. There are happy accidents in the creative process—sometimes a mistake may turn into a new art technique, or maybe you end up liking the mistake better than your original idea. In the earlier example, if Ward Kimball hadn’t had his Soup Sequence removed from Snow White, he likely would not have gotten the assignment to design Jiminy Cricket, an iconic character from Pinocchio (1942)! There’s a world of possibilities that come from happy accidents.
Here at The Big Draw we believe that art has an incredible power on both our mental and physical health, hence this year’s Festival theme “Drawn to Life.” Recent research has found that taking part in creative activities caused a staggering 71% decrease in anxiety and a 73% fall in depression. You spoke about how WDFM will be embracing “Drawn to Life” in your events this year - it sounds fantastic! Could you elaborate any more on this, and perhaps tell us a bit about how this theme relates to your own life and work outside of the Festival?
We are basing most of our programming around this central theme “Drawn to Life,” and are pushing the boundaries of how we can use drawing to make a positive change in our world. Given current environmental issues, not to mention that our museum is located on a beautiful national park surrounded by preserved nature, we decided to partner with an organization that is taking action to make a positive impact in our environment, and discovered Jane Goodall’s Foundation Roots and Shoots. We are thrilled to be collaborating with them on both an activity and a film screening happening for The Big Draw.
My own personal artistic endeavours play a huge role in my mental health, in that I couldn’t function without some kind of creative outlet! Additionally, having a passion for art and creativity has connected me with many people in the art world that serve as both inspirations and as best friends, and I believe having a creative circle of people around you is extremely beneficial for mental health.
Many Big Draw Organisers, including WDFM, run intergenerational events that inspire older generations to take part and engage with the arts, which is something that we encourage wholeheartedly! Disneyland was part of Walt Disney’s dream to create somewhere for kids and big kids alike to enjoy, “a family park where parents and children could have fun—together.” Why do you think it’s important to encourage intergenerational involvement in fun and creative activities?
As you said, a huge part of Walt’s passion for building Disneyland came from the fact that there weren’t many activities during that time that adults could enjoy with their children, and he wanted to create something magical that everyone could enjoy together. I believe providing family activities where adults and children can enjoy the process of creating something together is far more beneficial than the alternative, and is a great learning experience for both kids and adults. We all lead busy lives and it’s often hard to find places or times that we can all come together and participate in something as a family. It’s important for attractions and institutions to provide creative opportunities for kids and adults alike.
What are some of the benefits you see of taking part in The Big Draw Festival? Is there any advice or guidance you would give to those that are uncertain about registering to put on their own event?
One of the major benefits to us is attracting a new and engaged audience who might not have visited on a regular museum day. We get many more families looking for ways to engage their children in a meaningful way, and The Big Draw provides us with an opportunity and a direction in which we can offer creative programming that everyone can participate in. The Big Draw provides a theme, consistent communication, education, and helpful ideas about ways to incorporate drawing into a bigger picture that would be a huge benefit for any institution looking to expand their family programming.
Thank you Tracie and the team at Walt Disney Family Museum!
Walt Disney Family Museum is one of our Big Draw Festival 2019 Sponsor Partners.
Have you been inspired by Tracie's interview and The Big Draw Festival 2019 theme: #DrawntoLife? Why not join our global Festival in 2019? Registration is now open! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.