Pixar has inspired the masses with movie magic.
Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Incredible, Edna Mode, Doug the Dog… just a few Pixar characters that sparked imagination, wonder, and laughter. Maybe my toy collectables really are talking, mingling, and ruining their mint condition when I’m not around. Maybe there are superheroes living amongst us. Maybe my pet fish was kidnapped and sold into the pet fish black market. These characters are the centerpiece of a showcase that flaunts the apparently limitless possibilities of digital animation. These movies are so well crafted, with smart storylines and crisp, colorful animation that forged the way for Pixar to become the biggest name in a pretty polarizing animation biz.
While competitors desperately try to reverse-engineer their success, we’ve got some insight into how they’ve continued to skirt the competition without compromising ethics or quality. In the words of my favorite fashion designer Edna Mode, “Yes, words are useless! Gobble, gobble, gobble… too much, darling, too much! That is why I show you my work; that is why you are HERE!”
“When faced with a challenge, get smarter.”Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar
Presenting Pixar’s 5 pillars of success that will have your business soaring. Remember… no capes!
In Pixar’s earliest days, they were more or less a special effects house derived from LucasFilm’s Industrial Light and Magic. With Steve Jobs as an early founder, it would’ve been easy for Pixar to remain what it used to be — “the graphics group.” But the core team saw something more and pushed their goals as far as they could reach – starting with short animated films, leading to features, and now their range is diverse and seemingly limitless.
Drive has been an essential tool for me to keep moving and growing. If I hadn’t had my drive, I would still be playing guitar in my best friend’s basement, hoping for a big break. My drive is what lead to my next big project, which lead to the next, and so on and so forth until here I am now. I don’t plan to stay comfortable in one spot for too long. Without drive, there would be no “next step.” Without drive, I would still be playing it safe down in the basement. It just goes to show you that if you keep pushing the limits of your passion, you’ll discover what you’re truly capable of.
The Pixar story isn’t without its failures. At one point in the late ‘80s, they tried their hand at being a computer company, selling the Pixar Image Computer to digital animators. During this time they chugged along, producing animated content for Tropicana, Listerine, and Life Savers. Being self-reliant means being able to problem-solve effectively.
For the most part, I have always worked alone; I am an introvert in that area. I like having full control over my future plans. Along the way, I have teamed up with partners and team members but staying educated about the ins and outs of the business keeps me self-reliant. While you will need to relinquish tasks to someone else if you want to expand and scale, making sure you have the say in your company is paramount to your success. If you’re working in a way that forces you to consult someone with every step you take, you may find yourself struggling to ever lift your idea off the ground.
“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offence when they are challenged.”Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar
The key to any successful business venture is mastering patience. An aggravating saying you’ve probably heard is, “You’re almost never done with an idea.” Whether you’re writing a movie, crafting the prototype for a new product, or pitching a new business to investors, you’ll soon discover that just about anything could use another coat of polish. Behind every Pixar movie is years of development ranging from a couple of years of hard work all the way up to a decade of refining. The end result, however, is that the flicks always seem effortless. That kind of skill only comes with mastering the art of patience. Learn to watch great ideas rise to the surface, and allow the project to slowly take on its shape.
Full disclosure: I am not a patient person. I get an idea and I am ready to make it happen within 24 hours. I know this is not always possible, but I still push to get what I want. I am also extremely picky, so just when my team thinks they’re about done with a project — BAM! — I come at them with a 180. I know what I want. I am good at finding what works and I will always fix something that doesn’t feel quite right. I am not so impatient that I would put out a less than stellar product. I have learned to go with the process. Trends, demands, and society are always changing, and it is fair to be open to tweaking one of your products that could use a facelift to meet new needs. True entrepreneurial victories are rarely, if ever, instant.
You may have heard of PIxar’s “braintrust,” comprised of John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton and a slew of other creative minds behind some of their greatest hits. Originally the “trust” was a few key members, but eventually it grew into a community of Pixar players who work together constantly to make sure all projects stay on point. Communication is key when you’re maneuvering a big ship like Pixar, and it’s this characteristic that has led them to victory time and time again.
Communication is huge for my company. I have team members that are located all across the globe, so using killer apps for communication is at the top of our priority list. If there is a breakdown in communication, the whole system goes haywire. The business gets messed up, which could create a negative impression on potential clients. I have found that communication is the first brick you lay down when building a solid business foundation. When you don’t communicate well, you fail. Your empire will come crumbling down faster than Riley’s islands of personality in Inside Out. You have to appreciate candor, convey your passion and be the kind of listener who really hears what your team is saying if you want to make things happen.
“The past should be our teacher, not our master.”Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar
You might have guessed this one, but in the end it was passion that sparked Pixar’s start way back when, and it’s what keeps their momentum to this day. Without passion, you have no product; without passion, there would be no Pixar. According to Steve Jobs, one of Pixar’s most famous founders, “If you really look at the ones that ended up being ‘successful’ in the eyes of the society and the ones that didn’t, oftentimes it’s the ones [who] were successful, loved what they did, so they could persevere when it got really tough.”
Passion is what should lead you through the start and end of every day, as it did for so many of the successful individuals who drove Pixar to become the entertainment juggernaut it is today. Lead with that spark, that feeling that drove you to be an entrepreneur in the first place.
- Drive. Keep pushing your limits and discover what you’re truly capable of.
- Self-Reliance. Being self-reliant means being able to problem-solve effectively. If you’re working in a way that forces you to consult someone with each step you take, you may find you’re struggling to lift your idea off the ground.
- Patience. When you master patience, you open yourself up to the world instead of closing yourself off with a rushed attempt. True entrepreneurial victories are rarely, if ever, instant.
- Communication. You have to be able to convey your passion and,, above all, be the kind of listener who really hears what’s going on in order to make change happen.
- Passion. Lead with the spark that drove you to become an entrepreneur in the first place; in time, you’ll receive all the benefits you deserve.
The key to Pixar’s success is character.
For more than two decades, Pixar has dominated the field by crafting films that not only resonate with viewers with messages of heart, but also by speeding ahead of the competition with technically innovative style and a pioneering approach to digital animation. Pixar lives by all those sappy quotes they put in their movies. Use your drive to get you where you want to go. You’re never going to get where you want to be if you’re not self reliant and patient. Patience is a virtue, after all! Pixar would be nowhere without an amazing ability to communicate with their team, which is one of the most important elements of my business as well. Last but not least, keep the passion that started it all alive and well. Keep these traits at the heart of your business and watch your enterprise soar to infinity and beyond.