Book Review: Creativity, Inc.

Ed Catmull explores the secret of Pixar’s success in Creativity, Inc. (Random House) with a managerial insight that’s applicable to everyone. Reminiscent of John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success,” the Yoda of Pixar has presided over the industry’s animation leader with a winning philosophy that delicately balances individual talent and chemistry with team leadership and a dynamic vision.

Early on, Catmull was dedicated to nurturing and preserving Pixar’s creative culture, and he imparts his wisdom in this must-read book with the help of journalist Amy Wallace. It wasn’t enough to embrace the two guiding principles, “Story Is King” or “Trust the Process” (which turned out to be a flawed concept). No, while great storytelling and bravura animation have certainly led to an unprecedented string of 14 well-crafted hits, the true meaning of Pixar’s success has been its ethos that people are more important than ideas. And managing the people at Pixar and Disney has been quite a journey for Catmull, who’s managed to tap into left and right brain capability as well as anyone in the industry.

Indeed, you can trace a through line from Toy Story through Monsters University as a result of this people first/technology serving storytelling philosophy. From the top down, Steve Jobs enabled the sandbox of creativity, John Lasseter has led the troops with passion and clarity, Andrew Stanton has provided “deep insight into story structure,” Pete Docter has offered “a knack for capturing emotion on screen, Joe Ranft introduced “a warm and twisted sense of humor,” and Brad Bird appeared as a rebel with a cause.

And yet Pixar has endured its share of ups and downs, with Stanton suggesting that the clearest path to success is confronting failure as early and as quickly as possible. The first hurdle, of course, occurred during the infamous “Black Friday” when Toy Story was shut down. Jeffrey Katzenberg suggested an edgier Woody and Pixar made the mistake of obliging and made him mean-spirited and unlikable. Lasseter and company didn’t trust their instincts but went back to the drawing board to make the movie they wanted, with more innocence, charm, and wit. It was a valuable lesson that launched an identity.

Read the rest at Animation Scoop/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Books, Movies, previs, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

Add a Comment