Tag Archives: Disney

Pixar Storytelling: Rules for Effective Storytelling Based on Pixar’s Greatest Films by Dean Movshovitz

Summary
  1. Examines Pixar’s storytelling techniques to uncover the techniques and mechanisms which make them so successful
Key Takeaways
  1. Emotionally committed when characters get out of their comfort zone which forces them to grow and change. Best do this by exploiting existing flaw or problem
  2. Great characters deeply care about something, anything. We care because they care. Strong opinions about things and past experiences amplify the drama
  3. 3 liking levels – external / superficial, deeper, empathy (where their wins equal your wins and the character serves as your proxy for success and emotions)
    1. Put the character in harm’s way and let them fight their way out of it and never give up (unless they have tried absolutely everything!)
  4. Conflict evolves out of something the character stands to lose
  5. ‘Construction’ necessary – character changes some deep part of themselves which helps them achieve their goal
    1. Change is the measuring unit of conflict
  6. No such thing as small characters
  7. Never choose anything over honesty
  8. All villains have a value system that makes them believe their actions are right
  9. Avoid consequences when storytelling
What I got out of it
  1. Quick read with good examples from actual Pixar movies to bring it to life

The Pixar Touch by David Price

Summary
  1. A comprehensive overview of Pixar’s history, it’s storytelling process, its relationship with Disney and more
Key Takeaways
  1. Lasseter was at Disney sweeping streets as a teenager and later as a guide on Jungle Cruise
  2. Pixar began as a hardware company but struggled and eventually started selling animation software
  3. Bob Iger’s purchase of Pixar is legendary – Disney brand failing as indicated by mothers trusting Pixar brand more than Disney. Pixar movies also made up 45% of Disney’s operating revenues before being bought
  4. Selling Pixar gave Lasseter freedom to make movies he wanted to make
  5. Ed Catmull helped launch and revolutionize the computer animation industry – first through his work at New York Institute of Technology, then while at Lucasfilm and of course through his time and research at Pixar
    1. Alex Schure was a visionary millionaire who sponsored and brought together one of the finest computer animation teams in the world at NYIT
  6. Jobs bought Pixar from Lucasfilm in 1986 for $5m and put over $50m into it over the next 10+ years but bought into the mission wholly (although he did lose some confidence at points as indicated by his desire to try to sell Pixar to Microsoft and other companies).
  7. Alvy Ray Smith, along with Catmull and Lasseter, is the third founder of Pixar and worked with Catmull while at NYIT
  8. Regardless of how advanced the technology is, story is always the most important.
  9. Fostering a cool place to work always attracts top talent more than money alone
  10. Catmull – animation has to meet people’s experience from everyday life. Sometimes more important to not be 100% realistic if it makes the shot more believable for whatever reason
  11. Lasseter started at Disney during its dormancy phase when the most favored expression of Disney executives was, “As Walt used to say…”
    1. While Lasseter was at Disney, Tron convinced him that computer animation was the next revolution in animation and tried to convince Disney to invest more. Disney was not so sure, promptly fired him and was then hired to Pixar at Lucasfilm
    2. Lasseter’s greatest gift is his ability to give inanimate objects life and personality
    3. George Lucas was skeptical of computer animation at first, as was Frank Thomas at Disney. Lucas eventually spun off Pixar which was a hardware group at that time (although Catmull and Smith always had the vision of creating movies)
      1. Jobs’ vision with Apple was always to bring high-end computing to the masses –  “Our computers were born not out of greed or ego but in the revolutionary spirit of helping common people rise above the most powerful institutions.”
  12. People will always use tools in ways the toolmaker never thought possible
  13. Luxo, Jr. a hit for the actual and emotional realism it was able to portray through an inanimate object. Tin Toy was the first animation to win an Oscar
  14. Jobs and Smith clashed to the point that Smith eventually left to found Altamira. Jobs went overboard and at one point rescinded all employee’s stock options which obviously angered many people
  15. Lasseter has an uncanny ability to shift between the macro level of the entire film and the micro level of whatever detail he was dealing with at the moment. He would always be aware of a frame’s role in the larger context of storytelling
  16. Pixar’s massively successful first release, Toy Story, convinced Jobs and others that there was true potential in computer animation. Jobs decided to give himself and the company some liquidity and soon after Toy Story’s release, Pixar went public
  17. “When Disney gets behind something, look out.” – Steve Jobs
  18. Employee loyalty and bucking normal trends – “Catmull had rejected Hollywood-style run-of-style employment, believing that steady employment relationships would help the company hold on to its invaluable talent.”
What I got out of it
  1. It requires doing something different in order to get results different than the average. Pixar’s leaders, their process, their focus, ability and willingness to be different all help them achieve creative and financial results which have never before been seen in entertainment.

Innovate The Pixar Way by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson

Summary

  1. Quick book describing some of the attitudes, beliefs, practices and more that set Pixar apart and give it the best shot to keep innovating and producing the highest quality movies

Key Takeaways

  1. Ed Catmull’s own hero is Disney himself – collective creativity within a corporate culture is never an accident. It begins with creative leadership that is trustworthy and in turn trusts others to accomplish big dreams. They refuse to take shortcuts and truly embody and live by the ideal that “quality is the best business plan of all”
  2. One of Pixar’s greatest attributes is their ability to view the world through the eyes of a child
    1. Helps create culture which rewards and cherishes imagination. Try new things and don’t fear results that are different from what you expected them to be
    2. Dream. Believe. Dare. Do
    3. Innovate. Don’t imitate!
  3. Childlike dreamers, producers of “good show”, champions of artists and protectors of an innovative culture are characteristics that Walt embedded in Disney and that Pixar also exhibits more than any other studio
  4. Instead of “meeting customer expectations,” start fulfilling their dreams
  5. “Give us the black sheep” – Brad Bird on who he wanted to work with on The Incredibles because they would most likely be the most frustrated and most passionate to make something great
  6. Short-term mindset and need for instant gratification stifles innovation
  7. Ultimate test of success is prosperity in long-term after original leader or founder is gone
  8. Dreams really can come true if you keep a long-term focus
  9. On Leadership – “The ability to establish and manage a creative climate in which individuals and teams are self-motivated to the successful achievement of long-term goals in an environment of mutual respect and trust.” – Walt Disney
  10. Creatives flourish when they unite to forge new frontiers and when they refuse to compromise their values – even if it means pushing back on unyielding, high-ranking bullies
  11. Encourage culture of failure to team
    1. Celebrate failure with the same intensity that you celebrate success
    2. Become a prototype junky
    3. Develop your own “skunk works”
    4. Dream BIG
    5. Don’t cry poor – find ways to be innovative even without a big budget
    6. Planning is OK but don’t be a slave to the plan
    7. Visually track and display progress
    8. Forget about long planning meetings and reports
    9. Easier to ask for forgiveness than permission
    10. You need a soul mate – find customer or supplier who is willing to refine prototypes and ideas
  12. Important of play – can’t get the most out of people long-term without burning out if don’t give enough breaks and have fun DURING the process
  13. Muhammad Ali and the “lonely hours” – the hours put in before sunrise, when no one is around, when you don’t have to train, are the hours that separate you and make you great
  14. Must have dignity and mutual respect from all sides in order to prosper as a firm
  15. Technology inspires art and art challenges technology
  16. Keys to innovation – story is king, displayed thinking techniques (storyboarding), improvise, “plus-ing” (as long as you keep pleasantly surprising the customer, the more they’ll keep coming back. If they ever stop coming, it’ll cost 10x as much to get them back), internal collaboration, external collaboration, prototype. try. learn. try again., work on cool projects (all about selling the dream), extensive training, fun and play, transparency from every level, celebrate (reward excellent failure and punish mediocre successes), establish a brain trust, the most successful are dreamers with deadlines, enact postmortems, quality is the best business plan
  17. Other innovative companies – Google, Griffin Hospital, Nike, Target, Zappos

What I got out of it

  1. Good, short, fun book on what it takes to be innovative

Inside the Magic Kingdom by Tom Connellan

Summary

  1. Through a fictional narrative, Connellan describes what makes Disney great and how some of those learnings can be implemented into a variety of different businesses

Key Takeaways

  1. Disney, above all else, is centered around customer satisfaction
  2. Disney is tough business-wise but warm and welcoming with customers
  3. For software, a 1% rise in customer retention leads to 7%+ rise in profits
  4. 7 key lessons
    1. The competition is anyone the customer compares you with – Competition is anyone who raises customer expectations – if they satisfy customers better than you, you suffer by comparison
    2. Pay fantastic attention to detail
    3. Everyone walks the talk
    4. Everything walks the talk
    5. Customers are best heard through many ears
    6. Reward, recognize and celebrate
    7. Xvxryonx makxs a diffxrncx – the idea that if just one employee, or one key on a keyboard, stops working, it can make all the difference
  5. Disney considers customer’s guests, employees cast members and orientation as passing down traditions
  6. Real key is turning common sense to common practice
  7. 5 standards of service – always make eye contact and smile, exceed guest expectations and seek out guest contacts, always give outstanding quality service, greet and welcome each and every guest, maintain a personal standard of quality in your work
  8. 4 guidelines for teamwork – go beyond the call of duty, demonstrate strong team initiative, communicate aggressively with guests and fellow cast members, preserve the magical guest experience
  9. There are definite correlations between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction
  10. Two most common byproducts of great success are arrogance and complacency
  11. Strong correlation between employee training spend and corporate profits
  12. Must consider both share of customer and share of market – more important to acquire customers who count that it is to count the customers you acquire
  13. Quality is not about limited possibilities. Quality is about unlimited possibilities. If you start thinking about quality in terms of unlimited possibilities, it changes the way you think

What I got out of it

  1. A quick read on Disney’s key differentiators put into an engaging narrative