The Pixar Braintrust – An Excerpt from Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. and Announcing Our Pixar Book Club

Ed Catmull Creativity Inc The Brain Trust excerpt

The image of Buzz Lightyear conducting an orchestra is a perfect choice for the cover of Ed Catmull’s upcoming book, Creativity, Inc. – symbolically representing Catmull as one of the many leaders within Pixar’s walls which helped direct and shape the company into what it is today. Creativity, Inc. (released on April 8, 2014) is pitched as “a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation”. 

What this means to me is that whether you’re seeking motivation, management skills, or just want to learn more about the beloved company, this book will be a great fit. In fact, if you look at some of the early reviews on Amazon the general consensus is that the book is perfectly geared towards fans of Pixar more so than solely being a management-centric book.

Pixar Post Insider and the Pixar Book Club

The release of this book has actually motivated us to start a Pixar Book Club which will be available to members of Pixar Post Insider (Additional details coming soon). In the meantime be sure to preorder your copy of Creativity, Inc. and get ready to discuss the book from cover to cover soon! The book will be available upon release in hardcover, digital formats as well as an audiobook.

Excerpt from Creativity, Inc.

Just a few days ago, the team at Fast Company posted an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming book alongside two additional conversations with the Pixar and Disney Animation Studio President. I cannot recommend reading the full excerpt enough to our readers – plainly spoken, it provides amazing insights into the development of the Pixar Braintrust, development of a creative culture, and even takes a look at a brain trust meeting itself (for Inside Out). It covers amazing moments in the development of WALL•E as well as the development of the pivotal moment from Toy Story 3 where Lotso is overthrown by Big Baby.

Below are a few of my favorite portions of the Fast Company excerpt – 

Candor

Candor could not be more crucial to our creative process. Why? Because early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions really are. I’m not trying to be modest or self-effacing. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them so–to go, as I say, “from suck to not-suck.”

Addressing Problems With the Film

How do you get a director to address a problem he or she cannot see? The answer depends, of course, on the situation. The director may be right about the potential impact of his central idea, but maybe he simply hasn’t set it up well enough for the Braintrust. Maybe he doesn’t realize that much of what he thinks is visible on-screen is only visible in his own head. Or maybe the ideas presented in the reels he shows the Braintrust won’t ever work, and the only path forward is to blow something up or start over. No matter what, the process of coming to clarity takes patience and candor.

Brad Bird’s Comment To Pete Docter Regarding ‘Inside Out’

“Pete, I want to give you a huge round of applause: This is a frickin’ big idea to try to make a movie about,” Brad continued, his voice full of affection. “I’ve said to you on previous films, ‘You’re trying to do a triple backflip into a gale-force wind, and you’re mad at yourself for not sticking the landing. Like, it’s amazing you’re alive.’ This film is the same. So, a huge round of applause.” Everyone clapped. Then Brad added, “And you’re in for a world of hurt.”


I was also pleased that there were a few unknown pieces of information regarding the 2015 release, Inside Out. For instance, I wasn’t aware that the character design for the emotion of sadness was based on a teardrop (you can see it if you turn her character upside down). Additionally, the excerpt also mentions how much Pete Docter loves the way that the film opens.

Inside Out characters concept art in headquarters

Fast Company also has two additional articles which highlight how Pixar used their creative structure to help guide Disney to success with Frozen as well as a great discussion in which Catmull talks about how Pixar will hit roadblocks no matter how prepared they may be.

REVIEW – UPDATED

Updated – the book has come out – read our review here.

Comments 3
  1. Just read all the full articles…Wow, great stuff! Everyone for sure needs to read them. Such amazing insights on how they truly work together as a team and encourage creativity in one another. I knew how collaborative they are there at Pixar but it was really cool to read more about they're creative process as a braintrust and read about some of their conversations in regards to the story, the audience (what they want to see, what's believable to them), what works, what doesn't, etc…I of course also loved the additional details of Inside Out! I can't even describe how excited I am to see how they accomplish this complex film. I know it will be great, especially after reading this. I loved reading how they worked out the problems and how Pixar almost always knows when an idea doesn't sit right and they do everything they can to fix it. Bring on a trailer! Hoping for one in June at least since Pixar teasers are consistently released 1 year prior to the film's release. Also excited about hearing more info about your book club and the Pixar Post Insider! Bring it on.

  2. Woo Hoo – Thanks Dan! We're excited to announce more details for Pixar Post Insider as well as the Book Club soon…plus, we (of course) can't agree more about Inside Out – it just has to be amazing!

  3. Totally agree with everything you said, Dan. Inside Out is surely the one I'm most excited for– I still can't get used to just the IDEA of it… Also, the openings of Monsters, inc. and Up were both really great, so it doesn't surprise me that Inside Out will have a great one, too, since he directed those as well. I wasn't really sure if it was worth it to get Creativity, Inc, at first, because I'm not really looking to start my own company. But hearing now it is more of a behind-the-scenes type of thing, I'm all for it. Just think about The Art of Inside Out book… It will be just amazing:)

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