Creativity overflows when we allow risk


Aren’t animated movies incredible? The work it takes to produce a “Finding Nemo” or “Toy Story” is astounding, given the complexities of the artistry, the story-telling, then the distribution, and that’s just scratching the surface.

I don’t know a lot about the movie industry, but my son, Esten, has shown an interest in animation. Last summer, we took him to get a taste of it in San Francisco at the Walt Disney Family Museum’s “Sketch to Screen” camp, where they learned the basics of storyboarding and other skills used in film production.

I recently purchased a copy of “Creativity, Inc.” for him, a book written by Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. But I found myself borrowing it from his room because of the business advice and how it translates to running a successful business, while maintaining a good amount of creativity.

In its pages is a lot of information about his time coming up in this burgeoning industry, and how to apply the creativity often reserved for art to business ventures.

Catmull graduated from the University of Utah with a double major in physics and computer science, which was beginning to emerge as a field for multiple uses. In the early 1970s, people were beginning to make digital pictures out of numbers or data that could be manipulated.

At that time, the field was in its infancy, but he studied under Professor Ivan Sutherland, a pioneer of interactive computer graphics, who had devised “Sketchpad,” a computer program that allowed figures to be drawn, copied, moved, rotated and resized, all while maintaining their basic properties. This was an advancement over teams of animators who sat at drawing desks tracing and making subjects move, just as in “Fantasia” and other early animation works.

As computers improved, so did animation. Pixar became known for quality short films, then had a huge hit with “Toy Story.” Animation got better and better over the past three decades, and Pixar and Disney led the way. Pixar was the leader and did incredible work, animating their characters down to their individual hair (or fur) strands in “Monsters, Inc.” and light rays going through water in “Finding Nemo.”


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