This book holds your hand and guides you through the tortuous path taking hand-drawn animation into the ground-breaking computer and geek driven techniques developed primarily by Pixar from the late 1980's onwards. The team of 'brains' behind the incredibly involved and clever software and hardware required to make this revolutionary transition happen, was led by Ed Catmull, a brilliant computer graphics innovatory researcher, John Lasseter, a master of imagination and storytelling, and Steve Jobs, who provide the money, and drive to convert a cash-gobbling enterprise into a highly successful commercial concern.
'The Pixar Touch' gives a film buff plenty of detail on the development and making of most of the highly successful Pixar Feature Films such as 'Toy Story', 'A Bug's Life', 'Toy Story 2', 'Monsters Inc', 'Finding Nemo', 'The Incredibles', 'Cars', 'Ratatouille', and 'WALL-E'.
Not being a film adherent, more of a follower of recent North American economic history, I was looking for more of an insight into Steve Jobs mercurial management style particularly his battle for supremacy with one-time 'partner' Disney and it's equally bombastic, and egotistical leader Michael Eisner, but this was slightly side-lined by the authors most comprehensive and interesting revelations on the creative front.
Mercifully doesn't beat you over the head with its business insights, but rather personality and story-led, providing a really compelling and fresh story of Pixar from its farthest off origins in academia to right through to Ratatouille and the (almost) present day.
No panegyric by any means, you learn of the bust-ups and controversy behind the scenes and between studios - as well as the mistakes, the anxieties and the lucky breaks. And then there's the sheer darn hard graft; the incredible commitment to narrative integrity and beauty; the spirit of filming excellence which is confined, almost exclusively, nowadays, to their offices in Emeryville.
When nine out of ten films being released are filled with crude perversions, sloppy characterisation, the filthy and tedious daydreams of lazy human beings; mistaking quirkiness for humour, and titillation for engagement - Pixar stand alone. Think back to 2009. Can anyone name any film but UP, that was worth seeing? (And seeing again, and again, and again.)
These folks have got *heart*. 'The Pixar Touch' is a great insight into just how, and why, they do.
The other day I read Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull and after finishing it I realised that I found myself to be more than just a fan of Pixar's movies but also now filled with a need to find out more about the fantastic company written about in that book.
I feared that this book, published earlier than Creativity Inc, would either be simple repetition of what I read in Creativity Inc or maybe quite out of date. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the perfect accompaniment to the other book.
Where Creativity Inc is written from an insider point of view and is more of a look at the inner workings of Pixar as well as the individual personalities who work there, this book was very much a more analytical look at the business itself and its history.
As such this book felt very different, though no less fascinating, than the other book but was incredibly informative and a very complete history on the company and every business decision that took made them the business that completely revolutionised the animated movie business.
Overall this is a really interesting book worthy of a company like Pixar and the story of their rise to success and beyond. I will happily recommend this book to anyone with an interest in inspiring stories but at the same time I would like to make another recommendation. If you haven't read Creativity Inc then please do so after finishing this book as it is a perfect accompaniment and together you will get two very fresh and complete looks into Pixar.
Great book. It gives a very unbiased view of the pixar story and i learnt alot. i read it in a few days and i was enthralled. As a CG professional the more technical sections in the book were incredibly interesting to me. Although i really enjoyed the book i wish it was longer. it kind of just seems to finish without any real ending to the story.
Occasionally inclined to hype and indulgence in irrelevant detail, this book nevertheless kept my attention and told the business and creative story of Pixar very well. It whetted my appetite for more on how exactly the creative and technical processes work, but that's fine, as it is basically a book about how the company came into being.
This copiously researched, vivid account covers the rise of one of the world's most successful entertainment companies. Experienced journalist David A. Price fills Pixar's history with implied lessons about patience in management and running a creative company, but he doesn't seem much interested in writing a how-to business book, so he sticks to the historic narrative and draws few conclusions. Notably, Price, whose education is in computer science and law, writes more energetically about (and finds more drama in) the origins of computer graphics and the occasional lawsuits Pixar endured than in the harrowing high-wire act it goes through to make each movie - a struggle Pixar's Ed Catmull and others have discussed and written about often. getAbstract reports that the early parts of the story are the most colorful and dramatic, though the book is an entertaining read and a fascinating business case study all the way through.
I re-read this book after reading the more recently published book co-authored by Bill Capodaglio and Lynn Jackson, Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World's Most Creative Corporate Playground. (They also co-authored The Disney Way, Revised Edition: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company.) Karen Paik is the author of another book, To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios, that also provides a wealth of information about a unique organization and the brilliant people who have been centrally involved in it for more than 20 years.
Others have their reasons for thinking so highly of The Pixar Touch. First, David A. Price's does a brilliant job of delineating the complicated chronological sequence that began with the hiring of Edwin Catmull (then at the New York Institute of Technology) to head the graphics group within the computer division at Lucasfilm (1979). Subsequently, Pixar Animation Studios (later shortened to Pixar) was purchased by Steve Jobs in 1986. After a highly successful IPO (11/29/1995), Years later, Jobs sold it to the Walt Disney Company for $7.4 billion (in an all-stock deal) in 2006. Price covers each of the company's transitions thoroughly without bogging down in details. With the predictable exception of Jobs, those who provided leadership at Pixar demonstrate remarkable composure, indeed style and grace, during difficult times and sincere appreciation when lavished with praise, awards, and wealth. (Jobs's primary - if not only - motive was and remains, the creation of "insanely great work.") Price's mini-biographies of the major figures probably provide the information that most people require.
Second, I was especially intrigued by the fact that the key people provide what Price characterizes as "unlikely ingredients" for success when they joined Pixar. Lasseter was hired by Disney immediately after college and had just been fired. Catmull had been turned down for a teaching position and "ended up in what he felt was a dead-end software development job" at Computer Graphics Lab. Smith was employed by Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) "and then abruptly found himself out on the street." As for Jobs, he had been forced from the company he co-founded, was widely ridiculed, and considered a has-been. Price suggests that, despite and perhaps because of these and other serious setbacks, those who established and developed Pixar illustrate Joseph Schumpeter's observation that successful innovation "is a feat not of intellect, but of will."
Finally, I admire Price's skills when explaining the artistic significance of each of the feature films that Pixar has produced from Toy Story (1996) until WALL-E (2009). He establishes a multi-dimensional context for each, identifying the challenges the production process faced and eventually overcame. With regard to the creative process, for example, the original attributes of the two central characters in Toy Story (Woody and Buzz Lightyear) underwent significant changes as did the initial thoughts about the relationship between them. Those involved in collaboration at Pixar have always followed John Lasseter's admonition that "quality is the best business plan" and embraced Ed Catmull's assertion that perfection is a minimum standard. Production of each of the other feature films also demonstrates the same commitment to artistic standards that few other films achieve.
Leaders in any organization can read and re-read this book, then attempt to apply the business principles and core values that define what Pixar does and how it does it. Although the principles and values are sound, however, they are insufficient. What is also needed is the Pixar "touch" and there is no way that David Price or anyone else can explain how to develop it but you'll know it when you see it...in any of the Pixar films.