Category Archives: Studio

"Exercise or Not, Sitting at a Desk All Day is Bad for You"

“It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting – in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home – you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.”
$20 Cintiq Solution (standing allows an ecstatic jig once in a while too; unstained yet)
Update: slip a manual treadmill beneath the stand (such as this $120 version from Wallmart); 
throw away its vertical supports…set it on a lower wooded frame and 
you’re walking while drawing!!  The best ever!!). 
Update: an $800 electric powered seated/standing adjustable desk…for which I cannot envision spending $800, ever.
Update: “Inactivity boosts cancer risk, research finds,” Washington Post: “…among post-menopausal women, taking frequent breaks from sitting was associated with smaller waist circumference and lower risk of some cancers. Even short periods of light activity — frequently standing up and walking for as little as a minute at time — reduced risk for such biomarkers as large waist circumference, elevated triglyceride levels and increased insulin resistance, which are linked to heightened cardiovascular disease but might also boost cancer risk.”

Collective Intelligence: Number of Women in Group Linked to Effectiveness…

“We set out to test the hypothesis that groups, like individuals, have a consistent ability to perform across different kinds of tasks.  We found that there is a group collective intelligence which predicts a group’s performance in many situations.

In groups where one person dominated, the group was less intelligent than those where the conversational turns were more evenly distributed.” Teams containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity and in turn greater collective intelligence compared to teams containing fewer women.

“Imagine if you could give a one-hour test to a top management team or a product development team that would allow you to predict how flexibly that group of people would respond to a wide range of problems. That would be an interesting application. We also think it’s possible to improve the intelligence of a group by changing the members, teaching them better ways of interacting, or giving them better electronic collaboration tools.”

“Having a bunch of smart people in a group doesn’t necessarily make the group smart. The whole adds up to something other than the sum of its parts.”

Ed Catmull Economist Interview (transcript by Scott Berkun)

Quotes transcribed by Scott Berkun from Ed Catmull’s talk at The Economist:

On the Socratic ideal of admitting ignorance:
“We’ve got these successful things going on and we mis-perceive how we got there. Or who the influences are. And we draw these wrong ideas and we then make a series of mistakes which are not well grounded in reality. Which means the things that are happening now that are wrong at Pixar are already happening and I can’t see them. And I have to start with that premise. And through all the history.. there is something going on here and I don’t know what it is.”

On secrets and ‘the management’:
Part of the behavior is I don’t know the answers. And at first that seems a little bit glib. But after awhile people get that I really don’t know the answer to a lot of these things. So we set it up so that the management really doesn’t tell people what to do. We discuss, we debate, [but] people start to refer to ‘the management’, and I say come on guys, there’s three of us, we’re all in this together, and then we’re very open and honest about the problems. Everyone feels like they own it, secrecy is very good at Pixar, it doesn’t get out into the blogs because they all know what’s wrong and it would be an act of betrayal because they want to participate in the discussionand I want them to.

On protecting a vision:
I do believe you want a vision, so you start off with a person who has a vision for a story. And we do things to try and protect that vision and its not easy to protect it, because they feel these pressures. They also have misconceptions about the creative process sometimes. We do have these people who we give a chance to on the belief they’re right, and can rise to the occasion, and we are wrong sometimes, because we can’t see what goes on in their heads. And our measure, because we can’t see inside people’s heads, is the team. If the team is functioning well, and healthy, it will solve the problem.

The process of giving feedback:
One of the protections is the notion that they have the final say so. Now this is a very hard thing to say because we say we are filmmaker led. The reason its hard is if they can’t lead the team, we will actually remove the person from it. That’s our version of what a failure is… it’s hard because it’s a personal thing. Until you reach that breaking point, you have to do everything you can.. sometimes its adding people to the team, sometimes its removing them, but as leaders we don’t tell them what to do. We have a structure so they get their feedback from their peers… every two or three months they present *the film* to the other filmmakers… and they will go through, and they will tear the film apart. And it’s very important for that dynamic to work, because it could be a brutal process, there needs to be the feeling they are all helping each other who wants that help. In order for that to work its important that no one in the room has the authority to tell the director they have to take their notes [make changes]. So no-one is taking a list of what you have to do to fix the film. All we can do is give the feedback and he goes off with the feedback… our job as leaders is to protect the dynamic in the room so that they’re honest with each other.

The idea of honesty as an abstraction easy to ignore:
They don’t want to walk in and embarrass themselves, they don’t want to say anything stupid, they don’t want to offend anyone, so these personal pressures and responses start to emerge. So I do see it happen, and it happened fairly recently, and I walked out, andI knew they weren’t honest. So then you call them in, maybe two or three people, and say why didn’t you say what you thought.And it’s a personal thing. So we have to change the dynamic.  When we have something tricky and that’s holding things back, we have to have a four person or five person meeting, where the dynamics are different. And sometimes where things are actually going pretty well, then you want to have a room of 25 people, see how it works, and let them express themselves and have them grow. But if you have 25 people in the room some of them then start to perform, rather than participate.So there is this balance, what is the state of the thing… we need to have honesty, we want to have honesty, but honest is a buzzword. Its one of these things we hear, everyone nods their head on, ‘it’s all true’, [but] the gap between the abstractions and where people actually do it is enormous. And people fill it in with all sorts of crap.

On the limits of platitudes:
I don’t like hard rules at all. I think they’re all bullshit.

Dealing with tough, competing constraints:
If I look at the range, you’ve got one [constraint] that is art school, I’m doing this for arts sake, Ratatouille and WALL-E clearly fall more on that side,  the other is the purely commercial side, where you’ve got a lot of films that are made purely for following a trend, if you go entirely for the art side then eventually you fail economically. if you go purely commercially then I think you fail from a soul point of view… we’ve got these elements pulling on both sides, the art side and the commercial side… and the the trick is not to let one side win.  That fundamentally successful companies are unstable. And where we have to operate is in that unstable place. And the forces of conservatism which are very strong and they want to go to a safe place. I want to go to the same place for money, I want to go and be wild and creative, or I want to have enough time for this, and each one of those guys are pulling, and if any one of them wins, we lose. And i just want to stay right there in the middle.

On firing creative geniuses:
[At Pixar] there is very high tolerance for eccentricity, very creative, and to the point where some are strange…but there are a small number of people who are socially dysfunctional [and] very creative – we get rid of them. If we don’t have a healthy group then it isn’t going to work. There is this illusion that this person is creative and has all this stuff, well the fact is there are literally thousands of ideas involved in putting something like this together. And the notion of ideas as this singular thing is a fundamental flaw. There are so many ideas that what you need is that group behaving creatively. And the person with the vision I think is unique, there are very few people who have that vision.. but if they are not drawing the best out of people then they will fail.

We will support the leader for as long and as hard as we can, but the thing we can not overcome is if they have lost the crew. It’s when the crew says we are not following that person. We say we are director led, which implies they make all the final decisions, [but] what it means to us is the director has to lead.. and the way we can tell when they are not leading is if people say ‘we are not following’.

On managers self-destructive tendencies for creative work:
The notion that you’re trying to control the process and prevent error screws things up. We all know the saying it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. And everyone knows that, but I Think there is a corollary: if everyone is trying to prevent error, it screws things up. It’s better to fix problems than to prevent them. And the natural tendency for managers is to try and prevent error and over plan things.

Ed Catmull on How Pixar Creates Stories

This is my favorite quote by anyone involved in animation, it is INCREDIBLY liberating (inasmuch as you do not need to write for sappy parental approval):

“As far as heading for an audience? We don’t target a group — in particular we don’t go after kids, alright…it’s a bad idea to target films for little kids.  Two reasons.  One is, essentially it is talking down to them. And if you talk down to them, they don’t like it that much. And for adults its very boring.  The truth is, children live in an adult world, and they’re used to hearing things they don’t understand.  So our approach is, we want to make movies that we enjoy. There’s a physical humor and physical comedy that comes from acting from animation that kids do enjoy. So there’s a thing that they do like. And obviously, we don’t put in things into our movies that would offend families or their children.  But, we write the dialogue and the story for us. We want them to be meaningful for us. And that’s how we think about it.”

One wonders if supposedly loud vulgar blood-thirsty leaders like Genghis Kahn or King Leonidas (see below) were actually more straight-forward, level-headed, well-spoken strategists with good ideas like Ed Catmull.

Ed Catmull’s presentation to the 2007 Entrepreneurship Conference at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (key points in the video: 43 minute mark and the second to last sentence, in true Genghis fashion, “Then they can burn and die.” Go Ed!!!! )

Imperfect Transcript,founderofpixar

Update: Pixar Artist (of 20+ years), Craig Good, expresses a similar sentiment:

“We don’t make movies for kids. We make movies for adults, actually ourselves, and then just make sure there’s nothing in them that the little ones shouldn’t see. The local cineplex is littered with movies made by studios who want to second-guess what the audience wants. We find we get better results by making what we want, and then assuming that there are other people like us out there. If audiences in general are underestimated, kids really get the patronizing treatment. Two things are often forgotten about kids. One: They have no taste. They will watch just about anything. This is normal and healthy. Taste comes later. Two: They are not stupid! Kids are born intelligent, and there’s no good reason to make dumbed-down entertainment for them.”

Additional thoughts by Catmull:

“We work hard on culture here,” explained the animation studio’s co-founder and president Edwin Catmull. “When you go into other studios, you’ll find that most are either artistically driven or technically driven. We’ve tried hard to make sure that our technical people and creative people are peers. We’ve found that when the technology is strong, it inspires the artists. And when the artists are strong, they challenge the technology. The result is that our artists and technical people appreciate each other talents.” One of the ways the animation studio sets about establishing a sense of camaraderie is through education.

“Another thing we do when people [artists and technicians] come on board is send them to Pixar University,” revealed Catmull. “This is a ten-week classroom program to teach people how to use our tools and to cross-train them. So we’ve got classes in filmmaking, sculpting, drawing, painting, and improvisation.” The benefits of the unique initiative have proven to be indispensable.

“One of the effects Pixar University has on the culture is that it makes people less self-conscious about their work and gets them comfortable with being publicly reviewed.”

Like a Wise Older Brother

“Never in the history of cinema has a movie been entertaining to an audience because of the technology. It is what you do with the technology.  It is what you do with the media that’s so special.”  Quoting Andrew Stanton, “2D animation became the scapegoat for bad storytelling.”
If John Lasseter intimidates you just think of him as a wise older brother looking out for your best interests — with a proven history of being right. : )
Archived on Factual Fiction’s Art Garden, here:
Full clip and many, many other essential teachings are on the DisneyPixar, here:

The Importance of Play to Creativity

“In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie’s budget–but never shows up in a budget–is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.”
Andrew Stanton

“Every time I’d have to show Up! to John Lasseter or Andrew Stanton, I would hate it because I just want to be left alone and make the movie. And yet when once I do show it to them, it made it so much better, especially hearing their comments. They’re great filmmakers themselves, and we have this great system at Pixar where we show each other our work about every four or five months and get feedback from all those guys. They’re such amazing filmmakers. To get comments from them is fantastic.” Peter Docter
” It’s very supportive, although it’s not always easy, because we’re all very honest with each other with constructive criticism. It’s like we’re all on the same team, and if the whole team wins, then a place like Pixar will not have to go away. We all get together every 4-6 months to look at each other’s films. It’s not some sort of tribunal or anything. It’s almost like a writers’ room kind of feel, where you get a chance for objectivity from others. If you work on something alone too long, it’s like staring at yourself in the mirror—you stare too long, and you start seeing a million things wrong, and you start changing things just because you can. So you need your peers—somebody you can trust creatively—who can say, “I think this is great, don’t change it,” or, “This is not working as much as you think so change it.” Andrew Stanton
“I also like a comment I’ve heard Andrew Stanton say, which is “talent isn’t fair.” I’m lucky enough to work at a company where I don’t have a chance of being the smartest person in the room, and I like it that way. I won’t lie; it’s hard to work with so many talented people, you have to have a certain diamond hard sense of self or you can come home bummed out after a hard day at work. But it does cause you to bring your A game. Luckily, we tend to do a very good job of hiring people that are actually nice, and really want to work with other people.” Michael B. Johnson
“We’re not supervised. We’re sort of allowed, like an independent filmmaker, to do what we want. You don’t get that freedom anywhere else. And this is the only studio outside of Disney, when Walt Disney ran it, where an artist runs the whole place. Here, it’s John Lasseter, and that trickles down.” Andrew Stanton
“My motto has always been, ‘Be wrong as fast as you can’. Which basically tells you that we know that the process involves messiness and risk-taking, but that’s what art is. Art is not doing the same thing twice, art is not playing it safe; art is taking risks….”
Andrew Stanton
“The one thing that I’m very proud of about Pixar, that I think does make a difference, is that it’s not some “Nirvana”, Willy Wonka chocolate-river-place where everybody walks around with great ideas and we just make them. It’s a bunch of hard-working guys that really know that, like, it’s all about getting on your bike and falling over as often as you can. What Pixar does really well is… make it a supportive atmosphere to make mistakes… In a weird way, the process is dependent on you making mistakes… That’s how we find a lot of freshness to things.” Andrew Stanton

Playful Narrative as an Educational Tool

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

“In play our burdens feel lighter and we are opened to new possibilities. But play goes even deeper – it shapes our brains to make us smarter and more able to adapt to situations.
Our success as an innovative culture rests first, on our recognizing the importance of play, then on our allowing play into daily living. 

The National Institute for Play believes that as play is woven into the fabric of social practices, we will dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, the education we provide our children and the capacity of our corporations to innovate. ” The National Institute for Play

Isn’t it strange there is an “Institute for Play”?!? : )))))
Stuart Brown on how humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.
Ken Robinson on the topic: “Creativity is as important in education as literacy.”

Disney/Pixar YouTube Channel Up and Running…

Pixar just started a YouTube Channel! The coolest thing about it are verrrrrrry personal, verrry intimate mind-meld interviews with John Lasseter. Amazing. Much more informative and interesting than articles or conference presentations…he really comes across as a genuine, smart, uplifting person. Check out this interview on the role of storytelling at Pixar: