Pixar: a System That Works Essay
Essay Topic: Walt Disney
Paper type: Essay
Words: 962, Paragraphs: 12, Pages: 4
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When one thinks of the company Pixar, they automatically think Disney. However, this has not always been the case. Pixar was started in 1986 when Steve Jobs purchased the computer graphics department of Lucasfilms, Ltd, and renamed it Pixar. “On November 22, 1995, Pixar released its first feature film, Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story” (Pixar. com). Since then, the company has evolved into one of the largest animation studios in the world, won 20 Oscars, and created “films that have reinvented the art of animation, captured the imagination of audiences around the world, and grossed more than $3 Million at the box office” (Taylor and LaBarre 226).
Other films from the company include Monsters Inc. , WALL-E, A Bug’s Life, and The Incredibles. Until recently, the company has worked independently from Disney, but “[o]n January 24, 2006, Pixar entered into an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to merge the two companies… Pixar is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company” (Pixar. com). This transformation from small computer graphics department to Oscar award winning animation studio could not have been achieved without Pixar’s emphasis on teamwork, its ability to motivate and involve all employees, and the creative culture fostered throughout the entire company.
Pixar has not made this transformation by accident. The company understands how important teamwork is for survival. “‘It’s at the heart of our model,’ Randy Nelson [dean of Pixar University and company executive] says, ‘giving people opportunities to fail together and recover from mistakes together’” (B. Taylor). That is why Pixar excels in the industry of film making, it “makes films differently—and in the process, defies many familiar, and dysfunctional, industry conventions” (B. Taylor).
Instead of treating their films like most production companies do, Pixar draws all of its talent from within the group of salaried employees, creating “a tight-knit company of long-term collaborators who stick together, learn from one another, and strive to improve with every production” (B. Taylor). The directors who work for Pixar have given up the typical Hollywood lifestyle of moving from film to film, constantly working with a new team of people, for salaries and continued involvement in a team (B. Taylor).
Writer Tom Davenport suggests that the secret to Pixar’s success is that the company actually uses teams to make its decisions. “Even though directors have autonomy, they get feedback from others. ‘Dailies’, or movies in progress, are shown for feedback to the entire animation crew” (Davenport). The team input on films does not stop there. “[After the films are complete], the team involved in the film is asked to come up with five things they’d do again and five things they wouldn’t do again” (Davenport).
Teamwork alone has not been the key to Pixar’s development. Employees also have a feeling of purpose in the company because of motivation and positive feedback from top executives. In order to motivate and show appreciation for every staff member, the company displays recent accomplishments and future plans all over the plant, for all employees to see. Randy Nelson says that “People aren’t given information here, they bump into it” (Taylor and LaBarre 259).
Pixar also offers opportunities for employees to get more involved in the company by using its Pixar University program to create cross functional teams, and involving members from all departments in the classroom. “Every employee—whether an animator, technician, production assistant, accountant, or security guard—is encouraged to devote up to four hours a week, every week, to his or her education” (B. Taylor). Pixar is devoted to showing employees how important every job is within the company. Nelson says, “We’ve made the leap from an idea-centered business to a people-centered business.
Instead of developing ideas, we develop people. Instead of investing in ideas, we invest in people” (Taylor and LaBarre 230). To assist employee enthusiasm, Pixar also creates a very distinct atmosphere for employees to express themselves. One of the most unique aspects of Pixar is that the company does not just encourage creativity, but also builds a company culture that is completely imagination focused. “Story art, in the form of paintings, sculptures, sketches, and collages, covers the walls and seeps into the far corners of the Pixar complex.
It’s not merely ‘decor’- it’s a form of inspiration and communication,” it also serves as a “… [showcase] for the ‘secret identity’ and ‘personal passions’ of Pixarians” (Taylor and LaBarre 259-260). Employees shuffle around on scooters and sakteboards, “to a [visitor], it feels like a meticulously designed movie set, as opposed to the setting for the creation of a collection of hit movies” (Taylor and LaBarre 226). Also, Pixar selects very creative people to run their company.
Randy Nelson is described as an “energetic, colorful, fifty something artist and executive…[who] juggled knives on Broadway as a founder of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, acted in feature films, and served in the leadership ranks of Apple and Next” (Taylor and LaBarre 228). This sort of atmosphere helps to stimulate ideas and is a source of inspiration. Pixar is a place that employees want to be because they actually have fun at work, and are constantly learning. Nelson says, “We’re trying to create a culture of learning, filled with lifelong learners. It’s no trick for talented people to be interesting, but it’s a gift to be interested.
We want an organization filled with interested people” (Taylor and LaBarre 230). The company realizes that happier employees make better films and generate more profits; which only further explains why Pixar is so successful. Pixar is an excellent model for other companies to follow. Company executives understand how teamwork, employee motivation and appreciation, and positive working environment harmonize to create a better business. Managers use teamwork to help control the decisions of the company, and lead employees with reinforcement and encouragement.