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'A People-Centred Business' - A Case Study on Pixar Animation Studios: Innovation management Essay, Singapore
Subject Innovation Management
Posted on: 7th Mar 2024

‘A People-Centred Business’ – A Case Study on Pixar Animation Studios: Innovation management Essay, Singapore

‘A People-Centred Business’ – A Case Study on Pixar Animation Studios

Failure is increasingly talked about in innovation management and a growing recognition that it can play an important part in the process. That, Edison-like, a true entrepreneur will find 10,000 ways that don’t work before hitting on success.

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Still, failure can be a bitter pill to swallow; even for the most accomplished company, it can be intricately aligned with shame. Failure presents a conflicting circumstance for potential innovators; how best can one amalgamate the potential opportunities of failure with the inherent disappointment and damage to public relations that it entails?

The notorious bloopers reels that follow Pixar feature films demonstrate their fondness for failures. Within their studios there is a gallery of life-size Pixar characters, including those that never made the final cut. Such positioning of unused ideas, and playful regard for the concept of failure, encourages risk-taking, and minimizes the sense of shame that is attributed to ideas that aren’t used in the final product. It is one of the ways in which Pixar creates an innovative space unlike any other.

This study will explore the development of Pixar from a small side project of Lucasfilm, to the unique kind of animation studios that it is today. Through discussion of the particular kind of environment, (or ‘habitat’ as it is affectionately known), that Pixar fosters, and of the architectural incitement to collaboration that is actioned within their studios, I will study the means by which Pixar is unusual, in the most useful sense.

Pixar began in 1979 with Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith as The Graphics Group of the computer division of Lucasfilm. These founding members had been working on computer animation at the New York Institute of Technology, Catmull describes his decision to hire Smith, ‘one of my first hires was Alvy Ray
Smith, who made breakthroughs in computer painting. That made me realize that it’s OK to hire people who are smarter than you are.’

From Pixar’s earliest beginnings, it was operating with a spirit of open innovation; a crucial strategy in order to keep up with a field as quickly developing as computer technology. Catmull and Smith worked on graphics technology, including the program that would later become RenderMan, Pixar’s proprietary rendering software. Their core product at this time was the PIC (Pixar Image Computer).

Disney later purchased many of these, to aid in the development of their animation process from more laborious techniques. On the whole however, the device was met with limited success. Into the early eighties, the group began working on special effects film sequences, and in 1986 was spun out as a corporation with investment from Steve Jobs, shortly after his leaving Apple.

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