Co-founder of Pixar Ed Catmull let students, faculty and community members in on some of the magic behind Pixar Animation Studios on Thursday in the Berry College Cage Center.
“Children live in an adult world and they are wired to figure things out. It is the creative child inside each of us that is what we (Pixar) are appealing to,” Catmull said.
Catmull began his lecture by reminding the audience that creativity is simply the process in which we solve problems. This process may hit a few bumps along the way, but how the obstacles that block creativity are dealt with is at the heart of Pixar, he said.
The initial Braintrust group, the creative masterminds of Pixar, consisted of six people but have since evolved to Braintrust meetings. Essentially, these meetings are where the magic happens and to do so, Catmull explained, the four principles that must be upheld.
The principles are to have a peer-to-peer mentality, the power structure of the room must be removed, everyone must give and listen to honest notes, and the dynamic of the room must be evaluated to conclude if it is working. When these principles are in place, Catmull said that every once in a while, magic happens.
Catmull also discussed the “tent poles” of Pixar, saying that they strive to make great movies, create safe environments and utilize the best technology. He used personal examples from his work in the studio on some of Pixar’s well-known movies such as “Up,” “Toy Story” and “Tangled” to illustrate what these “tent poles” mean to the company.
He also touched on the importance of how to respond to failure. He explained how Pixar is made up of risk-takers who take failure as a powerful learning experience.
“Failure is asymmetrical in respect to time,” Catmull said.
Prior to the lecture, creative technology major Katy Felker led a discussion alongside Catmull to a class of students.
“He would listen to the students’ question, kind of look off to the side and think for a second, and then respond with these incredible and mind-blowing answers,” Felker said. “You can tell that he had put a lot of thought into his opinions and his experiences and what they’ve taught him. It was really fun leading a discussion with him.”
Catmull left with a call to action for everyone to reflect on how they treat others and then ask themselves if their actions are making the world a better place.
“I learned to look at people not as competition, but as colleagues in the bigger picture of life,” Felker said.
She asked him for some advice, and he emphasized what he stated at the conclusion of his lecture.
“Do something good. It doesn’t have to be big, it can be small, but do something good,” Catmull said. “The greatest people I know are people who are doing good things.”
Catmull was invited to speak at Berry as part of the Gloria Shatto Lecture Series which honors the memory of Georgia’s first female college president. Gloria Shatto, who served Berry from 1980-1998, believed strongly that there is more to a college education than what can be learned in the classroom.