Saturday, February 7, 2009

Finding Nemo... in Venice

This September the organizers of the Venice Film Festival will honor John Lasseter and the directors of the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. The film festival referred to Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Disney/Pixar and two-time Oscar winner, as "one of the great innovators and experimenters of Hollywood". The festival's career award, usually reserved for live-action directors, marks a level of recognition for an animation director that is a marked departure for Venice, but perhaps a sign of the times for the artistic merits of Pixar, top of the class since the animation pioneer's earliest efforts.
When a movie studio releases nine motion pictures, what are the chances of opening at number one nine times? If your logo says Pixar on it, pretty damn good. In fact, last year's Wall•e made it nine for nine, an honor now shared by Disney, since Robert Iger smoothed over relationships with Mr. Lasseter and ingeniously, not only bought Pixar, but elevated Lasseter to Disney's Guru of Creativity.

All this leaves us wondering about the same point we've been wondering about since realizing that we've been watching something tremendously special during a showing of Ratatouille. Why hasn't any other studio, live action or animated, hand drawn or CGI, been able to come close to what Pixar seems to so adeptly achieve? Talent, certainly. Creative ideas on hyperdrive, undeniably. Secret recipes? Maybe. Or is this simply all the result of the most effective company mission statement ever written?

The real question seems not to be why other companies have been unable to match Lasseter's results but why Lasseter and Pixar attain them in the first place. That "why" seems to be imbedded in what corporations love to call their "culture". But before becoming a cultural characteristic, the principals and practices of that culture reside in someone's DNA. Drawing on them and then believing in them, believing absolutely, is essential. Knowing what then becomes possible is vision.

Lasseter leads his company with vision, what is in his DNA made things possible, absolute belief then became their culture. That belief must be etched in one hell of an effective mission statement, but it is a mission statement that has been written, not on paper, but in turn on the very DNA of Pixar employees.

Academy Award nominated Wall•e is only one of nine examples of the result. The vision to see a small, clunky mechanical robot (a nod here to Wall•e writer and director Andrew Stanton) as a Chaplin-esque character is near genius and representative of all nine of Mr. Lasseter's productions. (Some of which he also wrote and directed). The artistry, charm and inventiveness only match the playfulness and innovation. The Venice Film Festival has chosen a recipient of their honor that embodies creative courage.

During the festival run from September 2nd to the 12th this year, Nemo will be splashing around the canals of Venice, enjoying both the scenery and the accolades. For generations to come, audiences will be enjoying the work of John Lasseter. As it should be, his audiences get the bigger prize.

Congratulations Mr. Lasseter and all of the creative teams at Disney/Pixar.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking a moment to comment. Please do so with respect to all of our readers. Thanks.