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How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity

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Bobby Sullivan

on 6 November 2013

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Transcript of How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity

"How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity"
Unexpected Ideas
Pixar Employs These 5 Principles For Managing Their Creative Organization:
1) Empower Your Creatives
2) Create a Peer Culture
3) Free Up Communication
4) Craft a Learning Environment
5) Get More Out of Post-mortems
"Collective Creativity" at Pixar- What is it?
A long, arduous process that takes four to five years.
Tens of thousand of ideas for a single movie.
Intellectual contributions of 200-250 people.
Courage to take risks, explore novel ideas.
Talented people working effectively with one another.
2) Create a Peer Culture
*Support- everyone is fully invested in helping everyone else turn out the best work.

"The Brain Trust"
Group consisting of Producer and all 8 Directors.
Whenever advice is needed, this "super-group" is convened to solve the problems.
Works because of complete trust and respect, there is no embarassment.

"The Dailies"
Whole animation crew shows their days work, director makes decision, everyone offers suggestions.
Several Benefits:
1) Helps people to be more creative.
2) Increases communication between everybody.
3) People learn from and inspire each other.
The Toy Story 2 Crisis
A robot falls in love in a post-apocalyptic world.
A French rat sets out to become a chef.
A suburban family of superheroes defeats a power-hungry villain.
How does Pixar come up with these ideas?

How do they turn them into blockbuster films?
What is Pixar?
Started in 1986 as a computer-animated movie production company.

In 1990's Pixar was the leading technological pioneer in computer animation.

In 1995 released Toy Story, the world's first computer-animated feature film.

In the following 13 years, released 8 other films.
A Bug's Life; Toy Story 2; Monster, Inc.; Finding Nemo; The Incredibles; Cars; Ratatouille; WALL-E.

2006 merged with the Walt Disney Company

Have never purchased scripts or movie ideas, everything is created internally.
Collective Creativity
4) Craft a Learning Environment
1) Empower Your Creatives
*Provide support without undermining authority.
-Goal of development department is to help directors refine their own ideas, not to come up with ideas themselves. "Filmmaker Led"

"You get great creative people, you bet big on them, you give them enormous leeway and support, and you provide them with an environment in which they can get honest feedback from everyone"
3) Free Up Communication
Technology + Art = Magic
"Technology inspires art, and art challenges the technology"
-Not just words, a way of life at Pixar Studios

Pixar's Operating Principles:
1) Everyone must have the freedom to communicate with anyone.
2) It must be safe for everyone to offer ideas.
3) We must stay close to innovations happening in our academic community.
*Many companies have failed because they were not introspective and they failed to analyze themselves.

*Solution = Project Post-Mortems

Nobody likes talking about what went wrong.
So, structure post-mortems to stimulate discussion
"List top 5 things you would, and wouldn't, do again"
Positive-Negative balance creates a safe and honest environment.
Incorporate fresh, interesting data to support discussion.

"Pixar University" trains people in multiple skills to become better rounded.

Also offers optional courses in screenplay writing, drawing, sculpting, etc.
People from different disciplines can interact and gain appreciation for each other.
5) Get More Out of Post-Mortems
Presentation By:
Lauren Gorey
McKenzie Davis
Robert Sullivan
Production of Toy Story 2 began during the production of A Bug's Life.
Toy Story 1's creative team was busy, had to form a brand new creative team.
New team had good initial ideas, but were now stumped and running out of time!
The ending was too predictable!
New team couldn't figure out how to add the "edge" to the film.
There was no emotional connection.
Didn't meet Pixar's standards
The "Defining Moment" for Pixar Studios
A Bug's Life was finished, the original team took over Toy Story 2.
Needed 18 months to finish, only had 8!
Entire team worked at an incredible rate, using Collective Creativity.
Introduced several new emotional elements to the story.
Toy Story 2 became a great critical and commercial success.
Lesson Learned:
"If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up; if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something that works"
Dr. Ed Catmull
One of 3 Founding Fathers of Pixar.

Former President and CTO of Pixar.

Current President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios
Article By:
"Where great people are always better than great ideas!"
How Pixar Deals With ...
Pixar is constantly changing which makes it easy for them to accept newcomers.

They are used to change and have an open culture.
The Problem:
Getting the new employees to voice their opinions.
They lack confidence and are often intimidated.

The Solution
Pixar holds Newcomer Orientation Sessions to break down barriers and emphasize the ability to learn from mistakes.
New Employees
Full transcript