Friday, March 21, 2014

Pixar Brings the Magic of Walt Disney Back to Disney: Part 2 - True Love

by Bill Capodagli

President of Disney and Pixar Studios, Ed Catmull, and John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of the Studios have scored the highest accolade for Disney Animation – Best Animated Feature Film – with their smash hit Frozen.  This is their first such award since it was created in 2001.

The overall message in Frozen is that an act of true love conquers all.  In the final moments of the film, The Snow Queen of Arendelle – Princess Elsa – accidentally freezes the heart of her younger sister, Princess Anna.  Sadly, unless Anna’s heart is thawed by an "act of true love", she will become frozen forever.

A few scenes later, Anna realizes that her beloved Prince Hans is ready to kill Elsa, and refuses to let this happen.  As she hurls herself between the two to save her sister Elsa, she instantly freezes solid.  Anna’s decision to sacrifice herself to save her sister is indeed an "act of true love."  At last, Elsa’s pain turns to joy as Anna begins to thaw right before her eyes! 

Early in Pixar’s history, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter had made a decision that may have sacrificed the very existence of Pixar.  During the creation of Toy Story, their partner, Disney (this was prior to Disney’s acquisition of Pixar in 2006) wanted Woody to be sinister and the movie to be darker.  Remember back…this was Pixar’s big break!  Until Toy Story, Pixar was struggling to keep its doors open.  The project was the opportunity of a lifetime…Disney would produce, co-finance, and distribute the film.  

Based on Disney’s demands, John and his team began to make the film darker and darker.  Then one-day, John said he realized that he wasn’t making the film of his dreams and that he was allowing the Disney executives to steal his passion.  Finally, John and his team decided to push back and challenge their demands.  When the Disney executives realized John’s indignation, they told him to pack up and move his entire team to Disney’s Burbank Studios.  But, John begged for just two more weeks to fix all the things that the Disney executives felt were wrong with the film.  John and his team literally worked around the clock, but they resurrected the original storyline.  Disney was truly amazed, and the results were magical! 

In the same spirit as Princess Anna, John threw himself in front of the Disney “bullies” in order to save the story of Woody and Buzz that he wanted to tell.  Without that act of “true love”, I doubt that Pixar would have been able to produce their string of phenomenal blockbuster hits, nor would they have had the opportunity to bring the magic back to Disney Animation with the Academy-award winning Frozen. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pixar Brings the Magic of Walt Disney Back to Disney: Part 1 - The Brain Trust

By Bill Capodagli 

In 2006, newly appointed Disney CEO Bob Iger bought Pixar for $7.4 billion.  Talk about risk taking! Rather than impose the stogy, top down, bureaucratic culture of Disney Animation on Pixar, he not only allowed Pixar to remain a separate unit but graciously handed the leadership of Disney Animation to Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, the executives behind Pixar’s phenomenal success.

So what’s the “secret sauce” of Pixar’s success?; how do they continue to catch lightning in a bottle?; and how did they begin to change the Disney culture?

One of the essential ingredients of Pixar’s success is collaboration.  Pixar president Ed Catmull said, “When technology and art come together magical things happen...Walt Disney understood this.”  One of the ways that Ed and John encourage collaboration is something they call the “Brain Trust.”  Typically, these sessions occur every 12 weeks or whenever the director wants to convene a meeting to make story suggestions as a project develops. After presenting the film in whatever form it may be in, directors, writers, and artists engage in a honest discussion about what they liked and didn’t like.  But the key to the Brain Trust is that there are no formal notes taken and no directives given to the director.  It is totally up to the director and his or her team to decide what to do with the input.

Prior to Disney’s formal acquisition of Pixar, a team from Disney visited  Pixar headquarters just to observe a Brain Trust in action.  The next day, that very same Pixar Brain Trust traveled down to Disney to observe Disney’s very first Brain Trust meeting! Even though it took two years for the Disney Brain Trust process to be totally integrated in the Disney culture, they loved the principle from their very first experience.

So, the Brain Trust groundwork was in place for the production of Frozen.  Collaboration – the heart of the process – was also in place.  When a problem arises, directors from various projects jump in and eagerly help one another.   The Disney culture has changed.  The magic of Walt Disney is back!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bill to Speak at iPharma

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bill Capodagli to Keynote Innovate Kentucky! - based on the book Innovate the Pixar Way

1st Annual Idea Festival Bowling Green: Creativity and Innovation - Keynote Topic:  Dreams and Dreamers:  How to Innovate like Walt Disney and the Pixarians - Feb, 2014

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Disney Way in Ottawa County - An Update

The second round of Ottawa Way – Disney Way Customer Service training was completed last week. Bill Capodagli, co-author of The Disney Way facilitated the training and was assisted by Laura Mousseau and Misty Cunningham. A lot of positive feedback has resulted from the training. Each month for the next year another 90 employees will go through the training. A total of 1,100 will be trained.

This phase of customer service training is intended to cause a cultural shift in that employees of all 33 departments, offices, courts and agencies will have experienced the same training and have a unified focus on the County customer service story, vision and customer codes of conduct. I had some interaction with the group by introducing the Four C Strategic Initiative on the first day and history leading to who we are on the second day.

I also sat in the “hot seat” with Treasurer Brad Slagh and Marcie VerBeek, Human Resources Director at the end of the second day to take whatever questions the group had. A very fair question was, “What comes next? Do the employees being trained wait for a year to begin implementing the cultural change, until all employees
have been trained? When will specific customer training tools be developed? Did the leadership really buyinto the training they received in November, because no changes have been implemented? Is it really okay to begin living this customer service vision?“

Great questions! Anyone who has been through the training can begin following the customer codes of conduct immediately. Almost every one of these can be positively impacted by each employee individually. The leaders didn’t implement change because we are working on a cultural shift not the program of the month. I committed to circling back with the leaders to explain some of the concerns expressed and to discuss how this will all roll out over the next year.

We are making one more call for members for the Customer Service Team and will get this group going soon. They will provide a communication link and forum for all who have gone through the process already and will research and recommend specific tools for
customer service. The cultural change will happen as more employees go through the training and practice the
customer codes of conduct.

Al Vanderberg, County Administrator, Ottawa County, Michigan