Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull speaks about the meaning of creativity

Kelsee Brady, Campus Carrier Staff Writer

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Photo by Andrea Hill | Campus Carrier

Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull spoke at Berry College to students, faculty, and the community about “What Makes Creative People Tick?” in the 2019 Gloria Shatto Lecture.

Prior to the lecture, Ed Catmull interacted with students at Hackberry Lab, where they were encouraged to ask questions. These students were selected by Provost Mary Boyd and had to submit questions to attend the session.

Junior Caroline Parrish attended this meeting and walked away with a positive perspective.

“It was really inspiring that he was able to pursue such an out-of-the-box career and make something so big of himself,” Parrish said.

Overall, Parrish was excited about being given the opportunity to meet such an influential figure.

“He was extremely down to earth and very personable. He was very interested in what we had to say and what we had to talk about,” Parrish said. “He was able to take our questions, and expand on them.”

Senior Katy Felker was the student moderator at Hackberry. She was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting.

“Leading up to it, they (the Provost’s Office) were like ‘do you mind leading a question and answer with the students,’ and I also got to go pick him up from his hotel,” Felker said. “The question and answer time was really fun. We arrived and I had a list of questions from the students, and I would pick out ones that seemed really good or would have really good answers.”

The buildup and interest that accompanies a title like Pixar co-founder led to a full audience in the Cage Center Arena waiting to hear about the biggest secrets behind Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. The main focus of the lecture was the barriers to creative success and the techniques and strategies employed by the studios to facilitate creativity.

“Creativity is the process by which we solve problems whether, they are in story or business or relationships between family members, partners, customers, or adversaries,” Catmull said.

Catmull then went on to describe the many barriers that can hinder creativity, such as power structures and the perception of errors. He also discussed the ways in which Pixar discovered and developed ideas. The process involved a simple meeting structure, in which everyone is on the same level, gives honest opinions, and allows even the lowest-ranking employees to have a voice.

Senior Jasmine Johnson, found this portion of the lecture to be informative and helpful for everyone.

“I think the way he broke down hierarchies in his work was very inspiring and eye opening as to how we should work in the future or in our daily lives,” Johnson said.

The next segment of the lecture discussed how Catmull built his companies. He described them as “tentpoles” and detailed the ways in which these qualities allowed him to build Pixar and restructure Disney.

The first tentpole was to determine what kind of effect does a company want its work to have. The second was to ask how to support each other during the process. Finally, the third was to consider how to respond to the changing world.

During part of the lecture, Catmull discussed ideas and the process behind developing them.

“Ideas are fragile. Initially, all of our movies suck at first, and I don’t mean this in the sense that I’m being self-defacing or modest. I mean it in the sense that they suck,” Catmull said.

The movie “Up” went through multiple rewrites according to Catmull, and the only similar aspect between the first pitch and the final product was the title. Catmull encouraged the audience to pursue their ideas despite the risks and to push for success and creativity.

Catmull wrapped up the lecture with some audience questions submitted earlier in the day. However, one question left some students disappointed with the answer. When asked which movie was Catmull’s favorite, Catmull stated that similar to asking a parent which child is their favorite, all of his movies were his favorite. In his book, however, he hints at what may be the answer.

In “Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration,” Catmull writes “On a personal level, Toy Story represented the fulfillment of a goal I had pursued for more than two decades and had dreamed about since I was a boy (p. xi).”

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