Auteurship at Pixar: Great Ideas Come From Great People

Inside Out This year, the Dent Library included the new book Creativity, Inc, and it’s one of the best business books I’ve ever read. Every time I finish a chapter I feel like I’ve gotten a book’s worth of knowledge out of it.

It’s also full of insights into the movie making process and Pixar, and one thing that strikes me about their approach is that Pixar really builds movies through auteurship, probably more than almost any other studio. Which means: the movie is really, substantially the vision of the director — the director keeps the ultimate artistic vision for the film. Sure, the brass can cancel or greenlight it, but the don’t provide story input.

Yesterday evening I went to see the latest Pixar release, Inside Out, which reminded me a lot of Up and Monsters, Inc. — which were the other two Pixar movies he directed. And since Pete is from Minnesota, and I assume moved to San Francisco to work at Pixar, the movie may even be a bit autobiographical in some ways.

In Creativity, Inc, Catmull says he never understood why people debated over the dichotomy between a great idea and a great team. Ideas (he reasons) come from people, so great ideas come from great people… so there’s no debate.

It seems to me like Pixar, as an experiment in finding and enabling great people, is a wonderful success story. Because apparently we needed proof to know that committees can kill creativity 😉