THE PIXAR STORY
Have you dreamt, as you pursue your animation career, that one day you would become an entrepreneur? Probably have a studio-be it animation or design, of your own? Sounds too impossible right? Despite the fact that almost all of us know that Animation is the in thing today, most of us hesitate when it comes to thinking out of the box in setting up our own studios. As students pursuing either a degree or diploma or even a certificate course, we would be quite content to land a job upon completion of our chosen course. Some of us wouldn’t mind burning the midnight oil and work under somebody or in studios as long as our basic necessities are met. But how many of us would come out of the comfort zone and decide to go ahead to start something of our own from scratch? Three inspiring examples of ‘individuals who dared’ is described here not only to inspire you but also to serve as case studies for budding and aspiring animators’.
A leading name that one can associate with animation is PIXAR studios. Does it sound new to you? Few weeks back, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ released to packed houses all over! For those caught up in the distant past Toy Story, Ratatouille would be enough to jog your memory about movies that this versatile studio has produced over the years. But if they are able to consistently rake over US$ 5 billion at the box office, there must be some secret that they have been using all these years. To know about this, we need to travel back to the early 1980’s when Edwin Earl ‘Ed’ Catmull along with George Lucas decided to incorporate what we know today as PIXAR studios. Right from his childhood days, Catmull was keen on animation and wanted to be the next Walt Disney as he regarded him as one of his childhood heroes. This was the same sentiment that John Lasseter, the CEO of PIXAR had during his interactions with Catmull and Lucas.
At this juncture, one would have to mention the name of Steve as he along with Catmull and Lucas is credited for the inception of PIXAR. All these three were smart enough to understand what it took to be creative. Even if they felt that they were not ‘smart’ enough, they did not mind, as Catmull believed, “Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you”. But to make everyone ‘rise up to the occasion’, Lasseter made a policy wherein everyone associated with the company-be it a janitor, domestic or manager-they had to learn to DRAW! By this, the work load on the animators drastically reduced. Lasseter’s policy also ensured that the story board artists and the animators learn beyond what was expected of their trade. For instance, all those who were associated with the 2003 hit ‘Finding Nemo’ were trained in scuba diving! Almost four years later when Ratatouille was being planned, the crew were made to master their culinary skills!
Despite all the success that PIXAR has managed to get over the years, the journey has not been entirely smooth. Failures have been a part of the learning curve and have been taken in stride so that the mistakes don’t get repeated in forthcoming movies. Surely all of us must have enjoyed the 2010 release Toy Story 2. But do you know that it underwent massive rewrites and drawings? This is because PIXAR firmly believes that if something is not working right, it is better to abandon it completely and start afresh. Also, the management believes in taking chances to make films that are not only good, but also are liked by the masses.
Though PIXAR was bought over by DISNEY STUDIOS in 2007, there were many changes that happened at the senior management level. Catmull was made to head Disney Animation whereas Lasseter became the Chief Creative Officer. Jobs had exited from PIXAR to found Apple Inc. Yet his role in making PIXAR a multi-billion dollar enterprise is acknowledged till to this day. In conclusion, the secret of PIXAR being able to succeed has been attributed to just five secrets! These were revealed by Oren Jacob who served as the CTO for close to two and half decades. Jacob joined PIXAR when it barely had 50 on roll. The employee strength had multiplied 30 times when he left!
According to him, the secrets are:
- When it sucks, say so.
- Defend your opinion, then hit play quickly.
- Look upstream for the source of the problem.
- Match the medium to the message.
- Hire for excellence.
Animaster Academy expresses utmost appreciation to the alumni of this animation college who have shared their knowledge and experience to garner this review to the readers.
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