Ed Catmull, President of Pixar & Disney Animation, & author of “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration”


Hi everyone, Producer Jacqui here. We were honored to have Ed Catmull in the studio with Jason last week for an epic conversation we had no choice but to split into two parts. 🙂 But you can watch them both here. Enjoy!

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Ed Catmull President of Pixar-Disney and author of Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is one of the greatest startup founders in the history of Silicon Valley. Today he joins Jason on This Week in Startups to share his own personal story, perhaps the best that has come out of Pixar. We learn about Ed’s journey from his early days as a pioneer of computer animation, being hired by George Lucas to run the computer division at Lucasfilm, working with Steve Jobs to form Pixar (ultimately Pixar-Disney) and leading it to meteoric success. Ed takes us into his existential crisis after megahit Toy Story, behind the storytelling scenes of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Inside Out, and around the risks, triumphs and failures that led to his building a massively successful and creative culture.


PART 1 – Timestamps

00:20-09:17: Jason introduces his guest, Ed Catmull, and starts off by asking him about his early inspirations of being an animator.

09:38-11:28: Ed shares an early model he made of his hand and explains how he wrote the programming language to make it move.

13:10-16:05: Alexander Schure, President of the New York Institute of Technology, hires Ed to start an R&D lab in Long Island, NY.

16:40-17:30: At 25 years of age, Ed says No to working on the Space Mountain ride for Disney, because it didn’t line up with his goal of making a film

17:51-22:51: Ed explains why he thinks Star Wars is the single most impactful film in the history of the motion pictures industry.

26:57-30:26: Ed describes what it was like working with George Lucas, and the birth of Pixar.

30:58-34:27: The journey of Steve Jobs, and how it changed him.

35:02-36:06: Despite the difficult times of failure at Pixar, Ed recounts how everyone stayed together and became a cohesive group of people who shared hard times, trusted each other, and had each others’ backs.

40:00-41:35: Jason and Ed talk about the history of Ed’s short films, and how Luxo was the transformational piece.

43:48-48:35: The making of Toy Story, the risks & negotiations behind it.

48:56-49:58: Jason asks Ed what the main “switch” in the Toy Story story line and when he knew it would be a great film.

50:51-53:20: After the release of Toy Story, Ed found that reviews were mostly about the story, and not about computer graphics. Pixar goes public.


PART 2 – Timestamps

1:16-6:16 Ed reveals the two big questions he faced following Toy Story’s success and Pixar going public.

6:17-9:52: Ed explains why “candid” is a powerful word.

13:30-14:52: Jason talks about why Ratatouille is his favorite Pixar film and asks Ed about the origin of the Anton Ego speech.

14:53-18:36: Brad Bird’s influence in Ratatouille, and why they had to fight to get The Incredibles made.

18:37-20:08: Ed explains the research that goes into their films in order to achieve the feeling of authenticity.  

23:35-24:42: Why Inside Out is the single most impactful film.

25:12-26:05: Ed breaks down the 3 phases of risks.

27:27-29:32: Jason asks Ed what his favorite moment from a Pixar film is.

33:38-36:27: Ed reveals the flaw that Disney caught in Inside Out.

37:56-43:08: Ed describes the merging with Disney, how they removed the barriers, and the challenges of keeping a culture safe.

43:39-46:02: The two discuss the human condition in Toy Story, and what makes good filmmaking.

46:27-50:04: Ed imparts advice on how to build a safe culture.

51:29-53:10: Jason asks Ed about his thoughts on virtual reality.

53:11-54:25: Ed expresses his thoughts on using skepticism as a tool.

57:32-58:20: Lucasfilm and Disney/Pixar are different entities and have different working models, but the teams all still communicate with each other.

01:01:04-01:02:25: Ed talks about his father.

01:02:26-01:08:06: Ed describes how we are living in a time that feels surreal, and the two explore what’s wrong with today’s times.