Category Archives: Ed Catmull

Pixar’s Inside Out – and a Second Thought on Joy & Sadness

Blog - Inside Out - Theology of Sadness -

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.Psalm 30:5

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.Matthew 5:4

My husband and I watched Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out this weekend. It was so stressful. We wondered how children managed coping with the anxiousness of the story. Riley, the heroine of the film, is an 11y/o who moved with her parents far away from her hometown. The story tells how she deals with that move with the help of her emotions (5 in particular – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust).

Happy, happy, happy little Joy is the moon-faced, darling emotion of Riley’s. The tension in the story is Joy’s attempt at damage control as little Sadness begins coloring some of Riley’s happy memories “blue”. The plot twists and turns as Joy tries to right Riley’s world.  She is pulled into a journey with Sadness alongside and spends most of the film trying to get back to Riley’s “presence of mind”. Meanwhile, Anger, Fear, and Disgust do what they can to help Riley maneuver through her day…without Joy and Sadness’s help. It’s a scary prospect.

I’m thinking children must get caught up in the adventure, the mesmerizing visuals and the familiar faces of these emotions. For me, it was just stressful.

I have a huge respect and admiration for Ed Catmull after hearing him speak at Global Leadership Summit 2015. Catmull heads the work of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios. Dave recently read his book Creativity, Inc. and so enjoyed it that I’m reading it also.

Blog - GLobal Leadership Summit - Ed Catmull by brainpickings.orgPhoto Credit:

Watching Inside Out, my mind wandered to the creative teams at Disney/Pixar. What were they thinking?! Then later, I had second thoughts on the film…after watching bits again as our youngest son, visiting over the weekend, watched it on pay-per-view.

He, too, also thought it was stressful, but as I watched his face, watching the film…I saw what we might have missed as older ones watching. Wonder, surprise, vexation, empathy. In the strong face of this young man, I saw the response to the film maybe hoped for by the creators. The audience identifying with the film…and in the end…understanding and a sweet resolution of the seeming conflict between Joy and Sadness.

On that second watching (both the film and watching my son watching), I liked Inside Out much better. It helped me to Google that great “Aha!” moment of Joy’s – when she discovered:

“Sadness…Mom and Dad, the team…they came to help because of sadness.”

No spoilers for those of you who haven’t seen the film, but for me, a couple of articles really resonated (see below). I struggle personally with sadness which shades the joy I also experience.  Then that same joy re-colors the sadness, bringing perspective and healing. Josh Larsen, in an article on the Think Christian website, wrote beautifully about this film’s message (at a deeper level):

It’s a rich subject – one mined with Pixar’s usual combination of wit, intelligence and emotional resonance – and also one that echoes a Christian understanding of the human experience. Christianity, after all, is an expression of joy in response to – not in denial of – deep sadness…we can’t fully understand our place in God’s story unless we’ve experienced sadness of some sort. It isn’t until we recognize the deep sorrow of this world – the Fall, and our perpetuation of its effects – that we can fully appreciate the almost laughable generosity of Christ’s redemptive act. And only then will we know true joy, the fairy-tale ending that is God’s restoration of His creation. – Josh Larsen

Toward the end of the film, there’s a lovely moment between Riley and her parents. She finally comes to terms with her deep sadness in moving away from home. It’s a place all of us have been if we linger with a person grieving…a person who knows we love them.

I was reminded how sadness sometimes  overtakes us and it’s best confronted head-on in all its real…on-another’s-shoulder…Riley, tears spilling down her face, doesn’t hold back as she pours out her grief to her parents. As they cradle her into their arms they, too, confess their own sadness.  Then it happens…that last wet-faced shudder into Daddy’s chest; that deep sigh…all cried out.

That’s what we love about Disney/Pixar…and the God-given emotions of joy and sadness…especially when love is in the mix.

Inside Out and a Theology of Sadness – Josh Larsen, Think Christian

Many critics love Pixar’s ‘Inside Out.’ Not this guy.

Inside Out Quotes

All 15 Pixar Movies, Ranked From Worst to Best

Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull’s Story of Pixar, Working with Creatives, & Steve Jobs

untitledIMG_0223Photo Credit: (l) & Deb Mills (r)

Dave, the husband in my story, has always pointed me in the direction of transformative books and learning experiences. That path converged with this year’s Global Leadership Summit and Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc.

Bill Hybels interviewed Ed Catmull about his role in co-founding Pixar Animation Studios and pioneering the field of computer animation. Now President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, he has an extraordinary story to tell of leading creatives in innovative film-making. Mr. Catmull’s wisdom and humility can be well-applied in any workplace situation.Blog - GLobal Leadership Summit - Ed Catmull by brainpickings.orgPhoto Credit:

“Science and art are not incongruous. Art isn’t about drawing; it’s about learning to see. Which business or professions do you not want to have enhanced ability to see?”

During this interview at GLS15, he talked about the business processes he uses in film-making. We can relate this level and quality of  accountability in any organization or company:

  1. Teams working together (using a Brain Trust – a group of colleagues all acting as peers, with vested interest, giving feedback;
  2. When failures happen in production – embracing [failure] but at the same time dealing with it with both total candor and kindness; and
  3. Operating within constraints (a budget) – actually pushes creativity higher and delivers better outcomes.

“Stories influence the world. We want to use story-telling for good.”

Listening to Ed Catmull talk about leading at Pixar and Disney whetted our appetites to read his book Creativity, Inc.

Originally, Mr. Catmull worked in the computer graphics department of Lucasfilm, in the beginning years of computer animation. In his book, he tells about his incredible journey in those early years right through to today. It was a wildly bumpy road at first and the work was almost sidelined had it not been for Steve Jobs buying Pixar from Lucasfilm.

Toward the end of the book, Catmull writes about Steve Jobs. They worked together for over 25 years, and the Jobs he knew was a much more complex and lovely man than who we knew through other media. A tribute full of “candor and kindness” – as much about how Ed Catmull sees people as about the amazing leader that was Steve Jobs.

Whatever your work, you want to read this book. Catmull describes how he modeled openness, confidence in, and care for his employees. There are trust builders and wide gates for innovation woven into Pixar’s business processes. Whatever our sphere of influence is, we can all learn to be more effective leaders as we think through how Catmull leads.

At the end of Creativity, Inc., there are 5 pages of bulleted principles that Mr. Catmull encourages as starting points for critical thinking. Here are just a few:

  • If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose. Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources. Inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere.
  • It’s isn’t enough merely to be open to ideas from others. Engaging the collective brainpower of the people you work with is an active, ongoing process. As a manager, you must coax ideas out of your staff and constantly push them to contribute.
  • There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.
  • If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.
  • Change and uncertainty are part of life. Our job is not to resist them but to build the capability to recover when unexpected events occur. If you don’t always try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.

Creativity, Inc. is not just a book for whom we now consider “creatives”. It’s a book for any of us who want to employ and empower people to grow personally and in community and to produce in ways that yield great products/services.

We all have stories that can influence the world for good…if we grow a work culture where those stories matter and can be freely explored.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Global Leadership Summit – 7 Take-Aways from Day One of #GLS15

YouTube Video – Steve Jobs Remembered by Larry Ellison and Pixar’s Ed Catmull

YouTube Video – Ed Catmull: Keep Your Crises Small

Today Is The Day the Crayons Came Home and Two Other Worthy Reads

Blog - Great Books Cover

Book-lovers are divided into three kinds of people – those who borrow books from the library, those who buy electronic versions to read on tablets of some sort, and people like me. I buy books. Usually online. Two days later they arrive and I love tearing open the cardboard box, and turning the pages of those anticipated books.

I might read one book right away, or save it for a plane trip, or file it into the stack of “next reads”. Today my pre-ordered copy of the just out The Day the Crayons Came Home arrived in that cardboard box.

This children’s story, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, is that best sort of book both kids and adults enjoy together. Its best-selling predecessor, The Day the Crayons Quit, is my current favorite children’s story. It sits on the bookshelf to the right of my work desk as my inspiration for the day I write such a book.

Both books tell the woes of various crayons in the possession of young Duncan. So funny, and so human…for crayons. Jeffers’ illustrations are the perfect match for Daywalt’s writing. You want to buy these books for your children, or yourself. Of course, you can borrow them from the library. Not me, but you can.Blog - Great Books - Crayons

Two other great books came in today’s cardboard box…

Thanks for the Feedback is written by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. They also authored the book Difficult Conversations, with Bruce Patton. I heard Sheila Heen speak about feedback at the Global Leadership Summit recently. It seems feedback is something we all want at work…until we get it. Stone and Heen talk about learning how to receive feedback well. My husband will read this book before me, but I look forward to tackling this subject and growing through it.

The third book that arrived today was Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. It is a manual for managers who want to merge creativity and excellence. Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar Animation, and the president of Disney Animation Studios, was also a speaker at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. I’m excited to read Creativity, Inc. to apply his principles in my work and life among creative. I am also intrigued by his many stories of how he keeps the culture and operations so user-friendly for the artists and designers. Looking forward to learning more from him in this book.

This day delivered on great books. I may review them later, but for now I’m just looking forward to reading them myself. For the joy and for the empowering that come with good books.

What books are you reading these days? Would love to hear about them. Maybe I’ll order them, too.

Coming Soon [Today]…The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Global Leadership Summit – 7 Take-Aways from Day One of #GLS15

Creativity, Inc. Quotes at Good Reads

The Pixar Way: 37 Quotes on Developing and Maintaining a Creative Company

Global Leadership Summit – 6 Take-Aways from Day 2 of #GLS15

Thanks for the Feedback Quotes at Good Reads

Slideshare – How to Give and Receive Feedback – The Triad Consulting Group – Sheila Heen & Douglas Stone (authors of Thanks for the Feedback)