Pixar: A Case Study on the Importance of Teamwork in the Creative Industry

In “Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries” David Hesmondhalgh and Sarah Baker discuss their research on the working conditions in the cultural industries. They analyze the experiences and conditions of cultural workers through interviews with workers from different cultural industries.

Pixar, an American computer animation film studio has (in my opinion) always put out amazing films. The plots of their films are always so engaging, all while presented in a striking, innovative animation. How do they produce such good work? What conditions are their workers working under? I decided to look into the working conditions of Pixar to see how the working conditions of their cultural labourers might be contributing to their productions.

In “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity” Ed Catmull, the current president of Pixar, discusses the importance of creativity and team work at Pixar. In the article Catmull points out that Pixar has never bought scripts or movie ideas from the outside, that all their stories, worlds and characters were created internally. He attributes this creativity to the adherence of creative principles and practices at Pixar.

Hesmondalagh and Baker analyze the relationship between teamwork and self-realisation. Hesmondalagh and Baker point out that, “Self-realisation in relation to labour involves a sustained sense of good work, so that work may contribute to a sense that a person might have -and other people might also share- that they are developing, flourishing, achieving excellence in forms of work activity that are valuable” (140). In their interviews with creative workers they got a lot of positive feedback on their experiences with working on project teams. Catmull too stresses the importance of community. He believes that, “in filmmaking and many other kinds of complex product development, creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems” (Catmull).

In order to create good products at Pixar they have established systems of peer culture. According to Catmull at Pixar, “everyone is fully invested in helping everyone else turn out the best work” (Catmull). They have established a system called “the brain trust”, a group of eight directors that directors and producers can go to when they need assistance. The people in need of help bring the work that they have so far in order to create a discussion on how to make the movie better. According to Catmull, “this works because all the participants have come to trust and respect one another. They know it’s far better to learn about problems from colleagues when there’s still time to fix them than from the audience after it’s too late” (Catmull).

Catmull discusses how peer evaluations and constantly showing work in progress has lead to their creative productivity and Pixar. Their practices of teamwork have created self-realisation among their creative labourers. Reading about the practices at Pixar puts the importance of working conditions that Hesmondhalgh and Baker discuss in their writing.

Hesmondhalgh, David, and Sarah Baker. Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Catmull, Ed. “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity.” Harvard Business Review. 2008 September. Online.

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