IF THERE IS MORE TRUTH IN THE HALLWAYS than in meetings, you have a problem... Ed Catmull, Pixar

If there is more truth in the hallways
than in meetings,
you have a

Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation
and Disney Animation


ED: A HALLMARK OF A HEALTHY CREATIVE CULTURE IS THAT PEOPLE FEEL FREE to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Our decision making is better when we draw on the collective knowledge and unvarnished opinions of the group. Candor is the key to collaborating effectively. Lack of candor leads to dysfunctional environments.

So how can a manager ensure that his or her working group, department, or company embraces candor? By putting mechanisms in place that explicitly say it is valuable.

One of Pixar's key mechanisms is the Braintrust, which we rely on to push us toward excellence and to root out mediocrity. It is our primary delivery system for straight talk.

The Braintrust meets every few months or so to assess each movie we're making. Its premise is simple: Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid.

The Braintrust is not foolproof, but when we get it right, the results are phenomenal.

...You don't have to work at Pixar to create a Braintrust. Every creative person can draft into service those around them who exhibit the right mixture of intelligence, insight, and grace.

Here are the qualifications: The people you choose must (a) make you think smarter and (b) put lots of solutions on the table in a short amount of time. I don't care who it is, the janitor, the intern or one of your most-trusted lieutenants: If they can help you do that, they should be at the table.

Ed Catmull, excerpted from Creativity Inc. in Fast Company



Early in life, Ed Catmull was inspired by Disney movies such as Peter Pan and Pinocchio and dreamed of becoming a feature film animator. However, he assessed his chances realistically and decided that his talents lay elsewhere. Instead of pursuing a career in the movie industry, he used his talent in math and studied physics and computer science at the University of Utah.

One day Catmull tried an early computer drawing program and realized it was a way to combine his love of animation and computer science. His ambition became to make a computer-animated movie.

Years later, Catmull attracted the attention of some big names in Hollywood, including George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. In 1979, Catmull became Vice President at the seminal Industrial Light & Magic computer graphics division at Lucasfilm.

In 1986, Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm's digital division and foundedPixar, where Catmull became Chief Technical Officer and developer of software used in Toy Story and Finding Nemo. 

After Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, Disney Chief Executive Bog Iger put Catmull and John Lasseter in charge of reinvigorating the Disney animation studios.

Pixar has produced a total of 17 feature films beginning with Toy Story (1995), which was the first-ever computer-animated feature film, and its most recent being Finding Dory (2016).

As of June 2016, its feature films have made over $10.1 billion worldwide. Thirteen of Pixar's films are among the 50 highest-grossing animated films.

The studio earned sixteen Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards and eleven Grammy Awards. Most of Pixar's films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, with eight winning.