Bill Taylor, co-author of Mavericks at Work, explains that it is more than just John Lasseter:
…Pixar doesn’t just make films that perform better than standard fare. It also makes its films differently — and, in the process, defies many familiar, and dysfunctional, industry conventions. Pixar has become the envy of Hollywood because it never went Hollywood.
More than a few business pundits have drawn parallels between the flat, decentralized “corporation of the future” and the ad-hoc collection of actors, producers and technicians that come together around a film and disband once it is finished. In the Hollywood model, highly talented people agree to terms, do their jobs, and move on to the next project. The model allows for maximum flexibility, to be sure, but it inspires minimum loyalty and endless jockeying for advantage.
Turn that model on its head and you get the Pixar version: a tightknit company of long-term collaborators who stick together, learn from one another, and strive to improve with every production. Andrew Stanton, who directed Wall-E, was a key figure behind Finding Nemo, which won two Oscars, generated worldwide box-office of $840 million, and became the best-selling DVD of all time. But Stanton didn’t follow the success of Nemo by offering himself to the highest bidder or demanding perks and special treatment. He went back to his job as an employee of the studio, to pitch in on other films and eventually begin work on his next major project.
And Stanton is merely one of many superbly talented writers and directors who have staked their reputations on their work at Pixar. Again, in contrast to convention, these professionals have traded one-time contracts for long-term affiliation and contribute across the studio, rather than to just their pet projects.
According to Randy Nelson, who joined the company in 1997 and is dean of Pixar University, this model reflects “Pixar’s specific critique of the industry’s standard practice.” He explains it this way: “Contracts allow you to be irresponsible as a company. You don’t need to worry about keeping people happy and fulfilled. What we have created here — an incredible workspace, opportunities to learn and grow, and, most of all, great co-workers — is better than any contract.”
Definitely, read the whole thing. And with the Disney combination, the $$ can be more than just great story telling
“Cars” tells the story. The film was regarded by some critics as one of Pixar’s weaker storytelling efforts, and it generated soft foreign sales when compared with hits like “Finding Nemo.” But “Cars” has pumped billions in profit into Disney via a wide range of ancillary businesses.
The film racked up over $460 million in global ticket sales and has sold 27 million DVDs. Related retail products have generated $5 billion in sales. A “Cars” virtual world is opening on the Internet, a “Cars” ice-skating show will begin touring the nation in September, and work is under way to bring an entire “Cars” experience to the Disneyland Resort in California.
Remember how George Lucas funded the beginning of the Star Wars franchise — it wasn’t ticket sales.