Creative Management


‘Management’ is one of the most popular classes students take. The other day I was doing some research on ‘Organisation and Management of the CCIs’ and I found Pixar as a stunning example.

Pixar started in 1979 as only a Computer Graphic group. It was just part of the computer division of Lucasfilm and in 1986 it became as a corporation. Then Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm’s digital division and founded Pixar. By this time, Pixar was mainly selling computer hardware to Walt Disney Studios. But the company wasn’t doing a good business selling computers. Jobs invested so much money and considered selling it over these 10 years. This corresponds to the lecture saying it takes years and lots of time to foster a master especially in arts field. (I can’t agree with it more since I was trained as a classical musician before this programme for 10 years and I still haven’t mastered anything.)

With the sources I’ve read, I came up with these 6 main principles used by Pixar

1. Challenge the status quo

After Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Disney’s Chief Executive put Directors from Pixar in charge of the Disney animation studios, so directors have more control as collaborators on their projects and to give them the creative freedom to use traditional animation techniques. This idea was opposed to the former Disney’s CEO Eisner’s decision that Disney would do only digital animation. Lack of actual progress despite the technological development was the issue.

2. Hire creative ppl who dare to jump 

The writer and director of The Incredible in 2005. Brad Bird is the 1st Pixar’s outside director. Bird had produced numerous films and tv series but didn’t have prominent success. He wrote the story without knowing the limitations of computer animation, so the movie was the most complex one for Pixar at that time.  Bird won his first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and the screenplay was nominated for Best Original Screenplay!

3. Learning

Employees not only learn the animation sector but also learn about culture and arts. Pixar offers classes for everyone to take and learning generates innovation.

4. Discipline

Story artist, Mr Downing stays inspired by drawing everyday, literally 365 days. He wants to overcome the pattern of creative drawing. So even after work, he draws. Original news is here.

Another example comes from the animation Brave, which just won the Oscar yesterday! The film show remarkable focus on detail, only present products of the utmost quality.‘It’s just a cartoon’ is what we normally think. But not what the artists think.  It must be hard to imagine that the hundreds of characters in the background actually require a ‘crowds’ department to accomplish. The production of a movie takes about 4 to 5 years from conception to a film. And this crowds department takes about two years along with the production process.  For the main character, red and curly haired Merida. The simulation department calculate the volume and weight of her hair and make it look real. They even knew why hair is curly from its biological nature. And they are aware of the water and heat will affect the curls.

Finally, her hair was a huge challenge for the ‘rendering’ department. Every hair isnumbered, in this case, 111,700. It takes hours to animate a single shot of her. In total, it takes three years just to get her hair correct. A very long original report about this.

Look at these fantastic pictures!

5. Dream like a child and put actions to realize it

The Co-Founder and President of Pixar Catmull had his degrees in physics and computer science. He tried to explain geometrical operations in high-school-level math but was discouraged by the professor. “This is ridiculous. I am not going to look at this.” But when he show to others, everyone understand it!

6 Don’t imitate, innovate

The coming short film Blue Umbrella is under the first-time director UnseldThe filmmaker comes from the more technical side of the Pixar division and not from the story department, which is where most of the short film directors originate. It’s the first Pixar film to be done in a completely hyper-real visual style. Unseld explained, “The feeling comes from the fact that we didn’t expect it”. So if the creator make the work stylized and make it formula, it would take away all the surprises. Animation is the magical moment of things coming to life.

We can see the management style is liberal but at the same time the ‘intrinsic’ desire to make a work perfect and the ‘extrinsic’ consideration about its effects on marketing have set extreme difficult standards for the artists to follow. It’s marvellous to see the management of this company and not to forget the hard-working behind splendid screen.