Creativity: The Pixar Process

Featuring Ed Catmull


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Program Highlights

  • What you do when the baby is ugly, and why early versions of the best films actually tend to “suck.”
  • Why your goal is not to avoid errors, but to remain in the dynamic middle of the “dumb quotient.”
  • The best mix for your team: experienced members who can recognize a mistake and new ones who introduce the element of risk.
When your goal is to lead a more creative team, your job is not to make your people more creative. Your job is to remove the barriers that get in the way of each individual’s original ideas and natural desire to contribute. This starts with observing the dynamics of your team before you judge the merits of their work. Is there grandstanding? Discouragement of negative input? Concern about looking stupid? Magic will only happen when the group is so focused on a problem that everyone forgets about their standing in the room. It doesn’t matter if they start heading off in the wrong direction at times. If the team is functioning well, they will end up in a better place even if they are making mistakes along the way.

With fascinating insights about the creative process at Pixar and Disney, Ed Catmull recounts lessons learned from working with Steve Jobs, speaks to the real dangers, and importance, of failure, and reminds us that whatever conclusions we have drawn, we need to hold them lightly. Though they may have been right at one time, that doesn’t mean they are right today. Just because you are successful, that doesn’t mean you should keep doing what you’re doing. And while efficiencies that make your processes less expensive and better are all critical to protect your future, they can’t be the goal. Excellence has to be the goal—or you won’t have a future to protect.

Ed Catmull is a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios. He has received five Academy Awards, including the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for lifetime achievement in the field of computer graphics. Among many notable achievements in both shorts and feature films, Pixar’s “Toy Story 2” was the first film to be entirely created, mastered and exhibited digitally, and “Toy Story 3” was the first animated film to gross a billion dollars.

Creativity: The Pixar Process

Ed Catmull

President, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios


53 Minutes

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