While at the Beachwood Library returning some music and movies, I noticed the prominently displayed title “Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Pixar Co-founder and president Ed Catmull. It’s got a immediately noticeable cover image of Buzz Lightyear holding a conductors baton in the pose reminiscent of Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in the classic Disney Animation film “Fantasia.” I checked it out immediately.
The 2014 copyright book is a very interesting and stimulating read. It’s focus is on management and creativity in a large organization. Makes sense as the author, Ed Catmull has over 40 years of management experience working in the creative industry. He also has a PH.D in Computer Science from the University of Utah. His classmates there include John Warnock, co-founder of Adobe. Catmull joined Lucasfilm in 1979 and became President of Pixar in 1986 when it was spun off from Lucasfilm and acquired by Steve Jobs. He is now President of DisneyToon Studios which includes Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studio, and DisneyToon.
For Steve Jobs junkies, there are references to him throughout the book. The book is even dedicated to Steve Jobs. And there’s also a 17 page “Afterword: The Steve We Knew” section which discusses Steve in great detail. Catmull and has a perspective that is an interesting change from that of the Walter Isaacson biography. He acknowledges the negative traits of his personality, but balances those with a positive and rounded description of what it was like to work with Steve for 26 years. And he describes the roll of Pixar in the development of younger Steve to older and wiser Steve.
The book is loosely chronological, but also is divided into sections discussing different management approaches necessary in maintaining a productive creative culture. These components include ideas like establishing Pixar’s identity, honesty and candor, fear and failure, change and randomness, and the hidden. References to films we know and love, along with plentiful examples help communicate these rather vague and abstract concepts in an understandable way. Don’t ask me to interpret them though.
I found the book a fast and stimulating read. I would have gotten through it much quicker, but the references to films motivated me to watch Toy Story 1, 2, 3, and Monsters Inc. at the same time as reading the book. Some of scenes took a more significant meaning when their importance to the idea of “Story is King” and as solutions to creative problems were described. I’ll be making my way through the remainder of the Pixar catalog during the rest of the summer.
Chagrin Falls native Lee Unkrich and Toy Story 3 Director is mentioned seven times. Toy Story 3 won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. CDPUG members Henry Lee, Terry Taggart, and myself met Lee at the 2011 Chagrin Falls Blossom Time Festival where he was Grand Marshal, and hosted a “Behind the Scenes: Making of ‘Toy Story 3’” question and answer session. I cherish that Lee autographed my iPad and a DVD of Toy Story 3. His mom still lives in Chagrin Falls and is a Mac user and active in Mac User groups.
The only element of the book that disappointed me was that music was only mentioned once, and its role in the creative process was never discussed. As a big Randy Newman fan since his early days when he wrote a song about the Cuyahoga River, it was surprising he was not in the Index even once. Especially since after watching Toy Story, I had a “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” earworm for a few days. At least it’s a good song if you have to catch an earworm.
I recommend reading “Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.” Besides motivating me to re-watch Pixar films, the book inspired me to look into other similar titles. There are a lot of titles on Pixar and a lot of titles on Creativity on Amazon. “To Infinity and Beyond!”
CDPUG Director of Programming