Brainstorming a list of characters, settings, and problems will help to generate a team-based palette of story ideas. Doing this exercise under time constraints (we suggest 15 minutes) makes it great for small groups. If any character/setting/problem combination on your finished list strikes your fancy at this phase, it may be worthy of a short animation.
Why It Is Important
This way of inventing stories is extremely engaging. It diffuses ownership. If three different people generate parts of each idea, negative feelings are avoided when most of the ideas on the list are eventually cut out. All we need is a tiny germ of an idea with a big juicy problem to get the team's creative mojo in motion.