It’s easy to forget that “loyalty” includes loyalty down as well as loyalty up. At the Harvard Business Review blog, Stanford’s Bob Sutton reminds us with the awe-inspiring story of how Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith risked everything to protect their team—the Computer Graphics group at Lucasfilm, and future founding employees of Pixar—from counter-productive layoffs.
Entries in Ed Catmull (6)
In response to Gary Pisano’s critique of outsourcing (specifically offshoring) on the Harvard Business Review blog, Ed Catmull calls attention to the losses inherent in moving the design process and the production process away from one another. He uses Pixar, naturally, to make the point that there’s huge value in having both under one roof:
Will a decline in the capabilities of U.S. high tech industries make it difficult for the country to develop and manufacture emerging hot products? From my point of view, the answer is clearly yes.
Between Pixar and Disney we have used a range of production strategies that span everything from complete in-house production to work entirely farmed out, with several mixed strategies in-between. I fully understand both the economic pressures that drive people to outsource work and, of course, the aspirational desires and talent of those doing the work.
Pixar makes its computer-animated films entirely at our studio in Emeryville, California, at what I believe is the highest standard in this industry. But we believe fairly strongly that there’s creativity in every step of our process and that the integration of all those steps – having everyone integrated together and co-located – is what allows us to make exceptional movies. I don’t think we could get to that level of quality if we separated the physical making of the film from the creation of the ideas. If we did, we would not make the same film.
When companies are driven to outsource for economic reasons, there is a disconnect between the creators and makers of products. There is a further disconnect between marketing and the creators. This curious disconnect disproportionately devalues the making and manufacturing of products. I believe that a stronger connection between creators and production leads to much better products.
This also seems to extend into education where shop, art and craftsman-like programs are disappearing in favor of programs to prepare people for the ‘information age.’ Again, this devalues the breadth of activities that make for a healthy society.
The Visual Effects Society announced today that Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, will receive the Society’s George Méliès Award at its next annual awards ceremony in February.
The VES is an organization of visual effects professionals working in film, television, commercials, music videos, and videogames. The George Méliès Award recognizes individuals who have “pioneered a significant and lasting contribution to the art and/or science of the visual effects industry by way of artistry, invention and groundbreaking work.”
John Lasseter won this award a few years ago. Ed’s recognition is well deserved, and maybe overdue, considering his direct role in several key innovations in computer animation (including in digital special effects) and his leadership role in many, many others at Lucasfilm and Pixar.
John Nedwidek, a reader, wrote to share this anecdote from his experience learning Pixar’s Showplace program in the early 1990’s. (Showplace, long since discontinued, was a consumer-oriented program for creating 3D scenes; it was one of several products in Pixar’s effort, pre-Toy Story, to refashion itself from a computer hardware company into a software company.)