The book is a collection of wisdoms and stories that Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar Animation. He talks about his experiences accumulated over his long career of establishing and maintaining a successful creative company. Above all, it tells a story about how to run a company (Pixar Animation) in the film industry. It covers three major elements: creativity, leadership and business. Furthermore, the whole plot is presented in an intriguing and inspiring form which can be easily digested by non-business related readers.
In the first 4 chapters, Ed Catmull tells how he set up the business. What principles he had at that stage and so on. I was really astonished by the freedom that the company offered in comparison with other organisations which I have already known. Consequently, there are some brilliant ideas that I think could be useful for anybody working in a creative field or environment. In this part, he also details how he created the first animated feature film completely from computer graphics – Toy Story, which also became an immediate box office success. In contrast, this success left him with “no sense of purpose” as it was his childhood dream. This may seem strange, but in reality, that’s what happens to a lot of us when we’ve focused single-mindedly on one goal.
Next, he shares his two major rules in his company – “trust the process” and “the story is king” which means that the creation of a riveting plot is paramount of any project. In this part, he describes how brainstorm sessions were conducted which, later on, were copied by other companies. He talks about how great ideas are born. It’s almost always that many people add onto an idea that eventually makes it great. In a part of the book, Catmull explored how many of the films they made, the ideas, in the beginning, were just terrible. That’s a great perspective to have as it can increase the value of teamwork and collaborative approaches.
It was a great pleasure to read the book as it is full of stories connected with Toy Story, how challenging it was, not only for them but for the whole industry as it offered completely new experiences. Hence, this part deals with risk and, generally speaking, the unknown.
Finally, Ed goes through the merger with Disney. It was a very demanding and fragile process as Disney was a buyer, however, it was Pixar Animation which had its unique know-how and culture to be propagated. This chapter talks more about the clash of cultures, values, behaviours and visions. I would really recommend this part to people who would like to deep dive into the process of merging two different companies, where the superiority is not so clearly defined.
In conclusion, many people believe that every story of a successful enterprise is exhaustively written in advance. The only thing you have to do next is focusing on execution. In reality, in many cases, you cannot predict the future. You have to be dedicated to your values/beliefs. Be persistent to some extent and finally be ready to expose yourself to risk by taking decisions solely based on your gut feeling.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace
Size: 368 pages
Other information and reviews of this book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18077903-creativity-inc