The company of PIXAR itself is “all about casting” (as he said). The most important part of PIXAR is the group of people working for them. Michael Johnson described PIXAR as “art as team sport”, it is the ultimate in collaborative art. With that many creative people on a project the type of culture that begins to develop is a “best idea wins” kind of culture. This is a great strategy because it drives the creative force to only get better as the company grows older and gets bigger. As John Lasseter said “quality is the best business plan”, and it’s a plan that has seemed to work well for PIXAR since the first Toy Story in 1995.
Going into the process of making a movie Michael Johnson broke it down into four basic steps.
- Make a Believable world
- Create a character that is believable in that world
- Create a story
- Repeat until done
It was at the last bullet that he had the whole room laughing. Because very rarely do you ever present a project for the first time and it’s perfect, exactly how they want, absolutely nothing needs to be changed. A lot of times even, you have to start over completely. But that is just really in the nature of being in commercial art.Another interesting aspect to Michael Johnson’s presentation was when he talked about the process of creating the art style. When developing the scenes and choosing the different color schemes they get boiled down to color strips of the colors being used in each scene, they called these strips of color “color-scripts”. The interesting thing is that when color is chosen so carefully, as it is at PIXAR, just looking at all of the color strips from a movie together just can get a sense of how the story progresses over time. You obviously don’t get any detail, but with color you can feel the general emotion in the movie, which I feel is much more important.