Story inspiration can be tough to come across.
Whether you’re new to creating or a seasoned author, story inspiration is the bread and butter of staying relevant and active in publishing.
There’s lots of advice out there for getting the creative mind going, but actually finding story inspiration boils down to one thing—asking a question you can answer in your own way.
Read on to see how Disney applied this single-step story inspiration process to great effect with their Jungle Cruise movie.
Some Jungle Cruise Background
For those of you who haven’t been to Disney or who haven’t ridden the Jungle Cruise ride, a quick introduction. Jungle Cruise is located in Adventure Land of several Disney parks, including Walt Disney World in Florida and Disney Land in California. It debuted in 1955 as a take on Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventure series of films and simulates rides down major rivers in South America, Asia, and Africa. Today, the ride is probably best known for the script recited by the “skipper” cast member, which leans heavily on campy jokes that are truly eye-roll worthy, if also kind of cute.
Now, What About Jungle Cruise the Movie?
The movie, which runs a whopping 2 hours and 7 minutes, was released in July of 2021. It stars the Rock as the joke-wielding Skipper Frank and Emily Blunt as the sharp-talking, highly intelligent Dr. Lilly Houghton, who enlists the Rock’s aid to find a magical tree hidden deep along the Amazon River. What follows is a 120-minute death-defying journey as the good guys brave raging rapids, angry natives, and the long-dormant spirits of angry Spanish conquistadors. As for the ending, I’ll leave it up to you to watch the movie, which I suggest doing because it really was a good time.
Jungle Cruise: Ride Meets Movie
If you’re thinking that the above description for the movie sounds like something Indiana Jones might do, you wouldn’t be far off. I got some major Indi vibes while watching it, and I was thoroughly impressed with the odds the characters survived. Blunt’s character, in addition to being a doctor of botany, also comes pre-loaded with lockpicking skills, a “strong form” for punching, and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound (this may be a slight exaggeration, but she’s pretty kick-butt). Other than the running litany of bad jokes that persists throughout the film, the only real nod to the ride comes at the very beginning, when Skipper Frank takes a boat full of hesitant tourists on a joke-laden, “cruise” of a stretch of the Amazon.
So, What Does Jungle Cruise Have to Do with Story Inspiration?
I’m so glad you asked! Here’s that one thing that had to happen for this movie to exist. In the last section, I mentioned that the only real nod to the Jungle Cruise ride came at the beginning of the film, and therein lies the connection to story inspiration. Someone had to ask the question “what’s the story behind this 7-minute ride?”
Forget production, script-writing, casting, all of it. That came later after that one critical story inspiration moment where someone asked “what’s the story behind this 7-minute ride?”
And…boom! A story idea was born.
The Big Message About Story Inspiration
Story inspiration doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to take a long time. It doesn’t have to hide behind calming walks through nature or bubble baths or death-defying adventures that get your adrenalin pumping. (That said, if these things work for you and you want to do them—go for it.) Story inspiration can be as simple as asking a question you can answer in your own unique way. “What’s the story behind this 7-minute ride?” could have a multitude of answers—a journey down the early 1900s Amazon that’s steeped in legend is only one possibility.
Now, unless you want to get permission from Disney, I wouldn’t suggest writing a story that is so closely based off something they own, but rights and permissions aren’t the point of this post. The point is that, whether it’s a question about a beloved Disney attraction or the spoon you stirred your coffee with, you can ask any question about anything and strike an idea that sparks a story inspiration flame.
- “What would a world be like where we drank coffee out of flasks?”
- “What would happen if lip balm gave the temporary power of telepathy?”
- “How would things be different if we could buy love on the internet?”
You get the idea.
And if you’re thinking “But, Mary, I’ve seen these questions before,” I’m not surprised. I can’t be the only one who’s thought of them. But regardless of whether you’ve seen these before or not, you can answer each in a way no one else can—not exactly, anyway.
So find a question that strikes your story inspiration and write that book. If that happens to be one of my questions above, I only ask that you let me know when you publish because I want to read that. 😊
Want more writing advice featuring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson? Check out my post on sequel writing with some help from Jumanji.
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