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Disney Pixar

Inspiring humanity through the power of storytelling

Pixar creates the world’s most loved movies. Creating animations is relatively slow and costly, but with a focus on character building and incredible storytelling, the brand has created hit after hit. It’s creative process – based around ideas and stories – is a great model for any type of brand building and communication.

Realizing that he could not draw, aspiring animator Ed Catmull decided to change his academic focus to physics and computer science. He joined a small off-shoot of George Lucas’ filmmaking empire, Graphics Groups which actually made visual technology products for healthcare. Combining science and art, Catmull drove the creation of “PhotoRealistic Renderman”, an image-rendering process used to generate high-quality images. It was a business that intrigued Steve Jobs, who bought the business from LucasFilm in 1985.

Whilst the technology was cutting edge, it wasn’t a good business, and to stay afloat, Catmull started making short animated commercials. John Lasseter, a creative director soon joined to help. Out of financial necessity emerged one of the most imaginative movies of all time, Toy Story. It was the beginning of a long sequence of award-winning success.  Both Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 are among the 50 highest grossing films of all time,  with Toy Story 3 being the all-time highest, grossing over $1 billion worldwide.

The Walt Disney Company bought Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion, but retained its independence, allowing the creativity and technological inventiveness (perhaps best articulated in Wall-E) to flourish without the distractions of a big business. Pixar’s movies and licensed characters continued to be loved by children – and adults – across the world. Steve Jobs loved the brand so much, that even when he didn’t own it anymore, he still used his Pixar email address rather than Apple’s address, “because it’s much cooler”.

Pixar’s “Braintrust” meets once every few months, putting its smartest, most passionate people together in a room for the day to think bigger ideas, solve the most difficult problems, and do what individuals can’t or daren’t. Ed Catmull says “a hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms”. Pixar finds that decision making is better when it draws on the collective knowledge and candid opinions of the Braintrust group, finding that straight talking encourages collaboration and more daring creativity.

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