One of the best movies I have seen in the last years regarding creativity was “Meet the Robinsons“. Sure, it’s fiction (it’s a movie) and creativity does work differently in real life, but some of the aspects it did show in the movie were close to home. Especially the following:
The right environment: From the meager beginnings in the orphanage to the mayor room in the observatory at the end Lewis has a place where he can be creative. Other people either accept him acting this way (the director of the orphanage; his roommate) or support him (his teacher).
The role of associations: At multiple points in the movie the characters get new ideas because they see associations between objects, e.g., Lewis when trying to find a way to remember his mother and first sees the “Remember” advertisement and then the “Brain Scanners from Mars” advertisement, or Goob, when he sees “Little Doris” over a hedge cut in the shape of a T-Rex.
Failing and Mistakes: I think learning to deal with failures is one of the hardest things to learn if you want to be creative, because you will fail — often.
One of the nicest moments was when Lewis fails the second time to fix his P.B. and J. machine. Instead of freaking out like the would-be parents in the orphanage his (future) family cheers him for having the guts to fail and remind him of the Robinson’s Motto: “Keep Moving Forward”.
Lewis also seems to have found a nice way to deal with his failures — apparently he keeps them as a reminder (e.g., the nut that remained from the first time machine prototype — and whatever remained from the other ones) and he even keeps inventions that have gone seriously wrong (like DOR-15 or Doris). After all, in many cases his road that is plastered with failures leads to working solutions in the end, and he has the failures to remind him of that in future work, and to remember him what to avoid.
Motivation: Given that people often fail when being creative, there is a need for a strong drive. This was also beautifully conveyed in the movie — first by Lewis drawing of him and his mother, then by his vision of the future. In both cases the prospect of a better life (with his family) motivated him and drove him to invent.
Setting your own standards/being yourself: Meet the Robinsons is full of … let’s say people you would lock up in our society. From Bud with a face drawn on the back of his head, his wife giving a Kung-Fu Style performance with her brother on the dinner table or teaching frogs how to sing, two uncles who spend much time in garden pots — it’s a child’s dreamworld. But only the dreamworld of a child? I think it was an impressive display of family values and the right environment to be different, to be creative — and in this environment, to improve something.
The role of hard work: Sure it was a time montage but at different times you could see just how much work being creative is. And yes, I also think that “unlocking the secrets of the brain [takes] a lot longer than […] expected” 😉
The double role of creativity: Both versions of the future, Lewis apparent Utopia and Goob’s inadvertently created DORIS mind-controlled future, show what creativity can do. Creativity has the ability to change things — not necessarily for the better. And Lewis also spook the words that some inventors would probably wish to have said: “I am never going to invent you.”. The world turned out better without that invention — he invented enough awesome things anyway.
In short, it’s a really good and funny movie.
Note: All cuts from the movie “Meet the Robinsons”, Copyright by Walt Disney Pictures. No copyright infringement intended.