Part business manual, part origin story, Creativity Inc. dives into the inner workings of Pixar Animation to understand how to balance creativity and a sustainable business model.
If you’re a Disney or Pixar fan, you may be searching for more behind the scenes content on your favorite stories. If you’re a writer, you may wonder what it takes to finish projects at the efficiency of the storytellers at Pixar. If you’re a manager, you may wonder how to manage a team without stifling creativity. If any of those apply to you, Creativity Inc. would be a very fascinating read for you.
Ed Catmull, president of both Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, takes us behind the scenes at the conception and development of Pixar as a company, their successes as well as failures. Even for those not managing a creative business, Catmull’s focus on the importance of storytelling appeals to writers and artists alike. The strategies on boosting creativity including “Braintrust” meetings, which sound a lot like writing workshops, help writers and writing programs better offer feedback for a project and understand when the project is finished.
What may appeal to even non-writers are the examples Catmull gives, basing them on the movies we know and love, a little behind the scenes treat to those who are paying attention. Here’s an excerpt from Monster’s Inc. and Mike and Sully’s chase after Boo in the first movie:
“As the monsters try to contain her, she wanders up to two towering piles of compact discs—more than ninety in all. ‘Don’t touch those!” Mike screams as she grabs a CD case from the bottom, sending the piles crashing to the floor. “Aw, those were alphabetized,” Mike complains as she waddles away. The moment is over in three seconds, and during it, only a few of the CD cases are at all visible. But for every one of those CDs, Pixar artists created not just at CD cover but a shader—a program that calculates how an object’s rendering changes as it moves.”
One of the most exciting chapters in the book are when Catmull tests if the culture of Pixar can be implemented in another company: Disney Animation. There’s a difference between establishing a culture in-house and seeing if the strategies developed within that culture can be applied in other companies. The success of Pixar’s strategies implemented in Disney Animation added much more credibility to the processes, knowing that they work even outside of Pixar’s culture and helped Disney Animation thrive.
I’ve been reading this book over the course of a year, and although I finally reached the back cover, I know I will be visiting this book again and again.