When Creativity and the Ability to Sell Don’t Mix
Disney has produced some truly wonderful material over its decades of operation. Even so, I can’t help but notice that Disney tends not to move away from general plots. For example, in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo dreams about leaving the confines of his church and being free to do bigger and better things. In Aladdin, Aladdin dreams about leaving behind the thief’s life for bigger and better things. In Hercules, Hercules asserts that, even though everyone else has quit or failed before, he will “go the distance”, become a hero and….you guessed it, go on to bigger and better things. Not exactly an ode to creativity, is it?
Now, I’m not knocking Disney alone here. A lack of truly new content is a problem just about everywhere writing appears. People craft even reality TV around roughly the same ideas.
An easy answer is just that we aren’t very creative anymore, or that we’re just plain lazy. After all, writing something of quality takes incredible effort. The process can take months, if not years.
I don’t think this is the entire story, though. I think that the negative view we have of writing and the arts links more to money. When a producer is putting down millions of dollars, for instance, they want to reduce investment risks. One way of doing that is falling back on something that has proven itself before. So we get the impression that creativity isn’t there in the world, just because we see only a small fraction of what people actually are thinking and making.
Balancing creativity and scalability is a delicate but necessary dance
Any number of plots or characters might stimulate particular emotional responses in an audience. But as writers, we have to find the balance between unleashing our creativity and accepting what others have branded as salable. That is no easy feat.