Published on March 8th, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Pixar and the Power of Story
It was July of 1984 and just days before the young startup named the LucasFilm Computer Graphics Project (which would later become Pixar) was going to introduce the world to the computer animated short film, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. The event was the annual SIGGRAPH Conference in Minneapolis and no one had ever seen anything like this cartoon developed completely on a computer. The SIGGRAPH crowd was used to animated logos. But there was a problem. Although it was only two minutes long, it wasn’t ready.
As Ed Catmull shares in his book, Creativity, Inc., because they were blazing new trails in animation, they hadn’t allotted enough time for all the images to render. The team decided to show an unfinished version of the film where at a certain point it became just the wireframes – animated polygons. To their surprise, they later found out that most people didn’t even notice the change! The story was so compelling it had drawn them in completely. Catmull says he learned an important lesson that day: “For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn’t matter if you are getting the story right.”
During these times of dueling emerging technologies, companies are constantly pushing new ideas, new processes and new workflows on their employees. The technology is shiny and unprecedented in the lives of the audience but the value of the new solution hasn’t been communicated. The story was never told or it was poorly presented.
When introducing new technology, the “marketing” of the change can be as important as the change itself. The story should be told at several levels:
- The story of the value for the audience. The end users will certainly have a, “What’s in it for me?” reaction and those benefits need to be clearly stated. People don’t like change but even worse they don’t like uncertainty.
- The story of the value for the company. Once an employee understands how the new solution will benefit their life they’ll want to know what the overall benefit is for the enterprise. A successful company usually translates into successful employees.
- The story of the value of the technology. Why is the process being changed? What does the new solution do that we aren’t accomplishing already? There can be some technophobia interlaced within the resistance to change so a clear explanation of the usefulness of the technology can go a long way.
You may have noticed that Pixar went on to do some other computer-animated films. Since the days of an incomplete Wally B. Pixar has placed an extreme priority on story. All the incredible animation available can’t cover up a bad story. We need to place the same priority on our “releases” to our audiences. If we have a good story, the potential for success is very high.