A tightly knit group of 40 people.
Non conventional employees
Anti-corporate work culture
This culture created highly productive and a laid back
Hire people who are better than already hired.
No Hero culture
And then begun a new chapter....
The New Chapter
He is going to kill
us. Who is he?
Some crazy idiot!
No, He is
Edwin Catmull Alvy Ray Smith
The New Chapter - 2
But Pixar continued to run completely by Ed and Alvy
Employees wandered barefoot
Out of the box thinkers
Loyal and committed work force
Strong bonding between employees
Weird hour work
No Employment contracts
The employees at Pixar had a long-term affiliation
with the company and had stock options as well.
They contributed across the studio rather than to
just their own projects.
They learned from one another and strove to
improve with every production.
Pixar created an incredible workspace, opportunities
to learn and grow and great co-workers.
People-centred Business Model
Pixar’s business model was people-centred unlike
Hollywood which was idea-centred.
At Pixar, people were the pivots around which
This approach kept the employees interested as well
The “we are all in this together” workplace and the
hands-off management style provided emotional
support and helped overcome creative setbacks.
Culture of Innovation
Employees were encouraged to think in terms of steps.
Each new movie was likened to a stepping stone where one could
learn and try out new things to find out what worked and what did
Intense self-scrutiny ensured that Pixar benefited from all the
The employees were totally committed to the quality of the
products they were producing.
Pixar believed in perfecting every detail in every production.
Before every movie, the crew spent enough time trying to grasp
Hire Better People
Earlier, Pixar hired people who had reached a
certain skill level, people who could assuredly do
Started hiring people who were on the growth-
curve in their careers.
Also started hiring based on potential rather
than their position with their existing employer.
Not afraid to hire people whose work culture was
quite different from the one at Pixar.
Realised that work done by its employees took a lot out of
them and lack of replenishment would lead to burnout
and hamper the quality of work.
Helped their employees enjoy a long and productive
They were given periodic breaks to recharge themselves.
Classes in Yoga, Tai Chi were conducted for the general
well being of the employees.
Also boasted a full-time dedicated ergonomics expert to
ensure that people had comfortable workplaces
“No Hero” Culture
The whole team was given preference in spite of many
Recognised moviemaking as a collaborative process.
When a film does well, everybody got bonus.
The hallmark of Pixar’s culture was that they recognised
both artistic and technical side as being equally important.
The decision makers at Pixar felt that when either the
artistic or the technical side dominated, it was unhealthy
and could be counter-productive for the organisation.
The Organisation Structure
3 parallel groups- technology development, creative
development and production.
Open communication between these groups and the system
worked very well.
E.g. a producer of a scene could deal with the animator
without having to go through higher-ups first. Or a
technologist could talk directly to the director if he had an
idea for a new visual effect.
The system worked so well that U.S. Navy sent some top
organisational experts to Pixar to look for ideas to improve
SHORT FILMS AS A TRAINING GROUND
Though Pixar had many movies to its credit, it still
made short films.
According to the company, such films were produced
for training purposes and to try out new technology
without the risk of a major failure.
If the experiment was a success, it could be used in
the movies, if it failed, the people could be wiser
from that experience.
The new technologies developed in such short films
were used in movies such as The Bug’s Life and
Schematic diagram of the Open Communication between different groups at Pixar
Concocts stories and
characters and animates
Coordinates the whole
The three parallel interactive groups
Open flow of communication
Art as a Team Sport
Succeeded in making art a team sport by collaborative action
where everybody helped and even rescued the other.
Directors looked over each others work and helped each other
to sharpen the knife without imposing their tone or style.
All employees encouraged to be a part of the filmmaking
This unique atmosphere helped retain talent.
Lowest turnover rate in Hollywood history.
“An environment that’s really open, a culture that’s wacky.
THE COMPANY RECOGNIZED THAT THE RIGHT OFFICE
ENVIRONMENT COULD HELP NOURISH AND SUSTAIN A
The main building resembled an airport hangar.
Large expanse of green space.
Visitors were greeted by characters from Pixar
The building was decorated with toys.
“Anybody needs to be able to talk to anybody else.
Creativity doesn’t follow titles, it just comes from where
it comes from. You’ll make chance encounters. You
don’t have to arrange to see somebody. You’ll cross
them in the hall, stop and have a discussion, talk about
something you haven’t had the time to talk about, and
that can change the course of things.”
The center of the main building has the
To get to anyplace in the building, you have to
cross this place.
It serves as the main reception, eating area
and market square.
It has a main café ,a number of coffee shops
and pool and foosball tables.
There was a single wash area for all the
The animation department was highly customized
to reflect the tastes and interests of people
They had decorated open fronted mini-cottages.
For E.g.: one such cottage is in the shape of a
castle because it housed a native of Scotland.
Employees would move around office on
skateboards and foot-propelled scooters.
IN THE PIXAR
This was a continuing program of lectures,
workshops, courses and events.
The idea was to help employees express their
creative ideas, collaborate amongst each other
and meet deadlines.
PU offers a number of courses, including
filmmaking, painting, drawing, sculpting etc.
Classes were also offered in diverse skills, such
as improvisation, storytelling, karate, juggling
Everyone, including those who never had anything
related to do with the workshops were made to take
part, including Catmull.
“So this is Pixar: people taking their lunch hour to
risk looking talentless in front of each another and
the boss.” – Austin Bunn.
“You get over the embarrassment because you’re
doing it everyday, everybody is doing it. When you
get over the embarrassment, you become more
creative.” – Catmull
All employees were entitled to spend 4 hours, each
work week, of paid work time taking part in the PU.
Participation was open to the whole staff, at entry
level and in all functions.
The classes are considered to be an important part
of the job.
The idea was to make art a team sport by having
people do it together and fail publicly at it.
“You have to honour failure, because failure is just
Purpose and Benefits of the PU
It provided a constant flow of new ideas and
It enriched the individual lives and minds of the
staff, making Pixar a more attractive place to
The PU also fed creative culture of the
Purpose and Benefits of the PU
The PU prompted direct personal contact and
informal communication across the
“The skills we develop, are skills we need
everywhere in the organization.”
E.g.: Teaching drawing to accountants made
them more observant.
Objectives of Pixar University
To build morale, spirit and communication among
It sent out a signal that creativity matters.
It showed that creativity involved moving beyond
one’s skill set.
Pixar University also contributes to the HR policy by
promoting Employee Retention.
In the Words of Nelson, “If you could create good
filmmakers who would work here for 25 years, their
first five years of the film would be really good; their
Pixar had a strong internal culture.
Critics felt that any strong internal culture could turn
into a disadvantage- even if it was meant to promote
collaboration and creativity.
Pixar had retained the same team over the years
Critics felt that this would lead to stagnation of ideas
In Pixar, the employees worked in closed groups, so
they were not open to criticisms useful in information
technology and creative practices.
Other Hollywood companies had a constant
The main challenge was integration of the culture of Pixar and
Iger believed that Disney will only benefit by adopting the
egalitarian culture of Pixar.
A steering committee consisting of Iger, Catmull, Lasseter, Jobs,
Cook and Tom staggs, Disney’s CFO was set up.
Main function of committee was to maintain and spread the
culture of Pixar within Disney.
Committee was to meet once in every week
HR policies of Pixar was kept intact, including the lack of
Analysts suggests that Pixar should adapt to the new culture
The challenge is to adapt and sustain its box-office revenue.
Though the start up cost of the new Pixar will be low but it
would require great effort to make the Pixar people happy and
any attempt to impose the culture of Disney on them would
lead to attrition of ex Pixar employees.
Many analysts trust Jobs to keep the culture of Pixar intact
otherwise they will be affected by the bureaucracy of Disney.
Acquiring Pixar was also seen as a major strategic shift at
Pixar’s culture was similar to the initial organizational culture at
As quoted by Catmull himself –
“Pixar's culture of collaboration and innovation has its roots in
Disney animation. our story and production processes are
derivatives of the Walt Disney school of animated film making.
Just like the Disney classics Pixar films are made for family
audiences the world over and most importantly for the child in
“….. Pixar animators acknowledged that Disney had helped
them to develop their talents through the 7 year old co-
production partnership that ended in 2004.”
Jerry Beck(animation industry historian) -
“Pixar led field in a way that no one has since Walt
Disney's time. I think there is going to be a sense of
mission here, a renewed purpose. We already
conquered cg films now let’s return and restore
Disney to what it was when I was a kid.”
Balance creativity and discipline and you get a feast
of great ideas you can transform into reality.
A STORY IDEA IS PITCHED
THE TEXT TREATMENT
THE ART DEPARTMENT
MAKES THE LOOK AND FEEL
MODELS ARE SCULTURED
THE SETS ARE DRESSED
THE SHOTS ARE LAIDOUT
THE SHOT IS ANIMATED
SETS AND CHARACTERS
THE COMPUTER DATA IS
FINAL TOUCHES ARE