Book Review: Creativity, Inc, by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

This book is available now from bookstores nationwide. 

Ed Catmull is currently cv_creativity_Incthe President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. Throughout his career he worked with George Lucas and helped found Pixar, with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter. Ed details an early love of Disney movies, and his PhD work in computer science and further studies developed the technology allowing fully computer animated 3D cartoons to be made. He is a pioneer in the field of 3D animation.

I can still remember going to see Toy Story, the first Pixar production. Until this time animated cartoons were drawn by hand. My friends and I were really taken aback − we had never seen anything like it. Both the detail in animation and the depth of story were a contrast from previous animated movies. The book details some of the technology involved in creating these movies; the emphasis however is on the creative process.

The book is part biography/ part management manual. It is more of a narrative style, so not one that is quick to reach into for management tips. There is a bullet point summary of the tips at the end of the book, but otherwise you need to glean them from the story. I wasn’t really sure how widely applicable this book was as a management manual − so much emphasis was on the unique creative process and ‘creative types’ involved.

I was often exasperated with the style of this book − the tendency to be long-winded, the hybrid style of biography and manual and what almost felt like soul searching journal entries. Ed puts much emphasis on ‘telling a good story’ as part of the creative process. He develops a group that rigorously oversees story development at Pixar. I think the book could have used similar oversight as it is not a smooth read. By the end of the book I was feeling disengaged. I was not prepared for the stunner of a final chapter that left me in tears!

I think the book may be too modest an account. Ed Catmull has an interesting life, and a biography about him, including his experiences, would be a great read. I got the impression that the middle of the book was more a longform defence of in-house development protocols. The biographical sections that link in with other well-known people or events are really interesting – you just need to keep reading through the lengthy bits!

Review by Emma Wong-Ming

Creativity, Inc.
By Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
Published by Bantam Press
ISBN 9780593070109