The creative lab behind Pixar

Have you ever had an article or magazine that you wanted to read, only to have it fall under a stack of papers never to be seen again? I have many times. With my PR job I get countless magazines, and rarely read them, unless it’s to see where an article I placed ran.


Well way back in September, a copy of the Harvard Business Review crossed my desk and had an intriguing cover that caught my eye. On the left were Pixar’s light icon and the phrase: Creativity at PIXAR. This company has fascinated me for years and I was determined to check out the article and see what kind of creativity – aside from the movies smartass – was lurking behind their animated gates.

Well as you can see by the date, days turned into months and the magazine was lost in a scrap/trash pile never to be heard from again, until at the end of January, my team had to move our location. Thus forcing the cleaning process, it was here that the magazine popped back up. While a month may have passed before I got the chance to give it a read, the wait was well worth it.

The article is penned by Ed Catmull a cofounder of Pixar and current president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. The first person narrative goes on to show what makes Pixar so special as a company. Again, more than the movies, the company relies on innovation and creative thinking to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Teamwork and a nurturing & creative environment allows for the company to have everyone make a difference in a movie. Pixar’s goal to always one-up themselves is only matched by their ability to grow/learn from a failure while not settling for anything less.

We all know that their movies have been box office successes, however the one thing that the movie-going public will never see is the behind the scenes postmortems where the crew lays out what went wrong and what they can do better rather than being content to have a product out the door. This kind of thinking has not only elevated them to a top-tier theatrical company, but also may have saved Disney’s movies from the straight-to-DVD imposed hell.

The key takeaway from the article is not only the nurturing of talent and cultivating a goal orientated team, but also the three core principles of the company.

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 the academic community

I would suggest checking out the article, found in its entirety here, for anyone looking for ways to motivate their direct reports or team, HR reps or anyone like me who is a five-year old caught in a adult’s body who loves movies.

Random Tangent

My only wonder is why we never saw this Pixar commercial during the World Series?


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