Reader Review: Ed Catmull & Pete Docter Speak at the Berkeley Art Museum Theater about Creativity, Inc.

Ed Catmull and Pete Docter

With Ed Catmull’s newly released Creativity, Inc., many Pixar fans have been excited to finally pick up their own copy of this highly anticipated book. In addition to the book’s release, Catmull is scheduled to appear at various speaking events as well as book signings through April (as well as one in June). Our friend and reader, James Dempsey was lucky enough to be in attendance for one of the events at the Berkeley Art Museum theater (April 7) where not only was Ed Catmull present, but Pete Docter was on hand for the event as well.

Below, James briefly shares his experience and thoughts on the event:

On a beautiful California night at the Berkeley Art Museum theater, just a few miles from the Pixar studio, Pete Docter sat down with Ed Catmull to talk about Ed’s new book Creativity, Inc. 

The sold-out crowd of over 200 listened intently as Pete interviewed Ed. The questions led Ed to talk about various topics from the book, with Pete jumping in at times noting supporting stories and insights. The audience was truly listening in on two accomplished colleagues having a casual chat about Pixar and creativity. 

Pixar Creativity Inc Book by Ed Catmull

Ed said he believes all people are creative in their own way. If Ed were to ask an audience to raise their hands if they have a “really good idea to make people more creative”, very few hands would go up. But, if he asked for ideas on how creativity can be stifled, just about every hand would go up. From his perspective, it’s not about making people more creative, but about getting rid of the things that stifle the creativity that is already there. 

As an example of the unpredictable path of the creative process, Pete described the many story changes of Up – with the story initially being about a king and his two sons in a flying castle (at war with the kingdom on the ground). The story (obviously) went through many changes before reaching its final form.

Ed also talked about Steve Jobs and how well he connected with the film directors – both having a quality of committing 100% to the idea they were pitching at the moment, but also able and willing to change their minds quickly to throw out whatever they had just pitched if a better idea was suggested.

Pixar Creativity Inc Book Cover by Ed Catmull

A theme that came up a few times during the evening was the idea of the ‘messy place in the middle’ – that a solution is very rarely found at one extreme or another, but somewhere in the middle. Although that place can sometimes be uncomfortable, it is where creativity lives and usually where solutions are found. 

For example, in the Q&A after the talk, one question was “How far along does a movie need to be before you can know its release date?”

Ed first relayed John Lasseter’s statement that a film doesn’t get finished, it just gets released’. Ed then said that you can hurt a film by being too schedule-driven earlier in the process and being too indulgent later in the process. Somewhere in that ‘messy middle’ the needs of the film change, but there is no precise formula. 

The evening ended with Ed Catmull signing copies of Creativity, Inc.. It was inspiring to hear Ed speak about what he has observed and learned through the years – it’s also a great benefit to all that he is willing to share those thoughts with a wide audience.

Thanks again to James Dempsey for taking the time to write up a brief review of the amazing speaking event between Ed and Pete. We have previously written a post about James’ Pixar and Disney movie tracker iPhone app, Watched Animation List Tracker (WALT) – read our full review.

Additionally, remember that Ed still has several speaking engagements scheduled through April (and one in June) so be sure to check if he’ll be speaking in your area (list of locations at the bottom of our Creativity, Inc. book review).

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