While Ed Catmull may not be a household name, chances are most of us will be familiar with the companies he runs. As co-founder of Pixar and president of both Pixar and Disney he provides the leadership for two of the most exciting, inspirational companies that exist today and is uniquely placed to give an insider’s insight into how these creative powerhouses tick. Creativity, Inc. draws upon his experiences with both of these companies to provide a fascinating, thought-provoking read that’s equal parts autobiography, history of Pixar and management bible.
Unlike many ‘inside story’ books that promise much but end up just adding to the mystique and opacity of the companies they’re claiming to explore, this book throws open the doors to Pixar HQ and takes us on a warts and all tour of the inner workings. Along the way we see Pixar’s progression from a branch of Lucasfilm, to specialist hardware retailer, to legendary animation studio alongside Catmull’s own growth from wannabe animator to visionary leader via physics, computer science and a whole lot of inspired thinking. There’s also the small matter of a chap called Steve Jobs and his involvement in the creation, development and safeguarding of Pixar as well as the smart business dealings that led to its current relationship with Disney.
Any one aspect of this book would have made it a valuable read; animation fans looking for a potted history of Pixar or an understanding of how the Disney merger came about will find it fascinating, while the beautiful concepts that lie behind so many of Pixar’s internal processes and structures are staggering in their simplicity and inspirational in both their aims and their results. For anyone who leads a team of people or runs a business, or indeed for anyone who aspires to do so, there is so much to take in that multiple readings are practically essential. What really makes this book special however is the clear vision, pride and joy that shine through from Catmull, in the way that he and the senior team at Pixar (and now Disney) aspire to continuously improve, to be the best they can and to lead and motivate their staff to want the same things. It’s no wonder that Pixar produce the standard of films they do, or that since 2006 (when Catmull and John Lasseter took over the running of Disney) the standard and success of Disney films have gone through the roof.
If ever there was a company to aspire to work for, surely it must be Pixar. If ever there was an unsung hero, an inspirational figure to look up to and compare oneself against, it surely should be Ed Catmull.