Bumping the Lamp

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One of the most innovative movies of the 80’s – and one of my all-time favourites – is the Amblin/Disney movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. If you haven’t seen it, press the power button on your phone/computer right now and find it.

As is typical of Robert Zemeckis movies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit changed film making by almost seamlessly melding live action with animated characters. Sure, this technique had been used in the past in films like Song of the South and Mary Poppins, but never so effectively. WFRR featured real life characters not only talking to animated characters, but they interacted with them. Touched them. Punched them. Picked them up and even kissed them.

Bumping the lamp

But there’s one scene in particular that really highlights the amazing effort and attention to detail that Disney in particular is known for.

In this scene Bob Hoskins’ character Eddie comes crashing into a dark room holding Roger. They violently bump into a lamp, which when turned on begins to sway. As the lamp moves, so to do the shadows that touch every object in the room. The colours of every single object change – ever so slightly – multiple times per second.

Roger however, was an animated rabbit. Bright, loud and at the very heart of almost every scene. He didn’t look real, because he wasn’t meant to. He was a cartoon after all. The laws of physics didn’t apply to him and his Toon friends. But he did exist in a real world, and the audience was expected to believe he existed there. As the light swayed, the shadows and lighting in the room bounced around as per the real world. It would’ve been completely feasible if Roger – being the cartoon he was – stayed bright and illuminated as a cartoon should. But instead, the filmmakers put in that extra effort to shade every color on every cel of his character uniquely so the real life light bounced off him the same way it would a real life object. 24 frames per second over 1minute and 3 seconds = 1512 images re-colored by hand!

It’s a minor detail that an audience probably won’t even consciously notice. But with this extra effort, the filmmakers ensured that an animated rabbit interacting with real life was still completely believable to the audience watching. It kept the audience within that world and gave them one more subconscious reason to believe. It’s a single minor detail that made that experience so much better.

This moment would earn its place in the very fabric of Disney’s customer experience ethos and create a core question that would be asked of every Disney creation from that day on:

What happens when you bump the lamp?

disney manholeDisney is probably the greatest company ever at creating customer experiences. Spend a day in one of their parks and note the intricate detail they put into every element.

From the popcorn carts that great you at the entrance of the park that cook fresh popcorn all day/night to give every visitor the nostalgic feeling of walking in to a movie theatre, to the manhole covers with the tiny Mickey Mouse logo’s on them. Their attention to detail and effort they apply to create a superb customer experience is second to none.

The thinking and effort put into making sure that the experience is wonderful for not only the 100,000 people that interact with a particular element, but also to ensure that should just 1 out of 100,000 people ‘bump the lamp’ during one of their experiences, that that person is not penalised and taken out of the world that they’ve create specifically for them.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Of course, this way of thinking isn’t – and shouldn’t be – reserved purely for businesses who offer experiences at a scale like Disney do. Making the experiences you create amazing should underpin the effort applied to every project undertaken by a business or individual.

The 1 percenters matter. Hell, even the 0.001 percenters matter.

It’s the little bounce that’s added to a web widget opening or the hover state of that purchase button.
It’s the smile you gave someone as they entered the room for that meeting.
It’s the 10 second conversation you had with a client about Masterchef last night because you know they love that show or the way your voice pitch rose when you’re discussing something that’s exciting to you and them.

It’s the elements that occur in a split second that your audience may not even consciously notice that culminate to an overall, great experience. Perhaps it made them smile just one more time than they would’ve without that effort. Or maybe it gave them that one little ounce more of immeasurable reassurance. It made the experience that fraction better.

Keep on adding the fractions, and always, always be asking yourself what happens if they bump they lamp?

The little details are often the ones that really count.

Author

Who the hell is Daylan Pearce?

Daylan is a digital strategist for branding agency Principals. Looking after digital and customer experience projects, Daylan has been featured in The New York Times, News.com.au, B&T, ProBlogger and more. He once ate 13 McDonald's cheeseburgers in under 5 minutes, but strongly advises against anyone else ever trying that. He also feels slightly odd when writing about himself in the third person for blog biography summaries.

 

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