Pixar are known for many things; desk lamp playing with a ball and Buzz Lightyear spring to mind, also synonymous with Pixar is the idea of success.
Possibly the only studio to have a 100% flop-free streak with continual commercial success, how has this level been achieved? Perhaps, more importantly, how is it maintained?
Of course, some films are more popular than others but Pixar are still yet to produce a movie that has failed to earn money at the box office – Let’s take a look at some of the lessons learned from this exemplary team and how their creative process ensures a winner every time.
Not a particular favourite of mine from the 15 released to date (another 7 are in production – I hasten to add), regardless of the ability to win this blogger over, ‘Cars’ managed to draw in $462 million at the box office. One of factors attributed to this success is the research phase implemented to help respond to the challenges set by the design. The research team were not afraid to go the extra mile (or 250); before even taking a glance as vehicle designs, the team took a trip down LA’s historic Route 66 (also taken by the characters in the film). They gathered soil samples, ate at classic diners and purchased the cheesiest of tourist postcards along the way.
One of the undoubtedly inspiring elements of the film was the breath-taking landscape and surroundings in which the story took part. Pixar’s man at the top, John Lasseter tells a similar story researching ‘A Bug’s Life’ by crawling through long grass with a camera on the floor to capture the world through the eyes of an insect.
Another piece of the Pixar puzzle is the incredible chemistry shared by its employees, many ‘brain trusts’ take place in which many creative people from different groups work together to troubleshoot and perfect ideas. This practice is not exclusive to the storyboarding team but also occurs across many steps of the design process from beginning to end. When working on the film ‘Up’, sketches were constantly passed back and forth between teams with each person suggesting notes for enhancement, even as particular as how to make the bricks more realistic or how the pipes should look in the bottom of the house.
Attention To Detail
It is the hour spent nit-picking over the bricks looking authentic enough and the correct way to show a balloon floating in the air that give the films that verisimilitude and suck the reader into their carefully crafted world. The details poured into the first 15 minutes of ‘Up’ give the sequence that credibility and make it that bit more heart breaking due to the believability. When Pixar artists create characters, it’s not a matter of one artist sketching out how one person feels a character should look. They all sit around a table, each drawing ideas, putting them in the middle, and others taking those ideas and playing off them. Dozens and dozens of sketches come out from this process, until the best design is found. This method builds individuals creativity on that of everyone else.