It’s About the Story, Not the Technology

by David Heitman

In a recent interview with Marketplace, Pixar chief Ed Catmull shared some insights that anyone in the creative or marketing fields would find valuable. Despite Pixar’s renown as digital animators and the producers of the first feature-length, digitally created movie—Toy Story in 1995—Catmull plays down the role of the computer in the Pixar process.


Some highlights from the interview:

It’s About the Story, Not the Technology

“It’s not about the technology,” Catmull says. “We use the technology, we develop it, we love it, [but] it’s about the story.”

Be Open (and Humble) About Changes to the Original Vision

It’s vital, Catmull points out, to be prepared to deviate from the original creative: “Every one of our films, when we start off, they suck… our job is to take it from something that sucks to something that doesn’t suck. That’s the hard part.”

A Pivot is the Shortest Path to Success

Sometimes, those “deviations” are more like “overhauls”: “Almost half our movies have gone through complete restarts,” Catmull adds. “The trick is, in everything we do, there are things we love. And sometimes the things we love get us stuck. And it’s only if we let go of some of those things that we free the movie up to become greater.”

Listening to him, you get a sense that creative success comes through a noble struggle, not easily; through finding good partners to work with and a healthy dose of dissatisfaction. Catmull’s new book, Creativity, Inc. has a subtitle that says it all: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

This is our experience at The Creative Alliance as well. We work with clients who have a story, a mission, a passion that infuses their brands with meaning. We’ve also noticed that the most effective business leaders and the best marketing professionals are the ones who are quick to embrace a new, better idea, even if that means slaying a sacred cow or two along the way.

Humility…humanity…humor. The things that make a great Pixar film also make for great marketing.