Ed Catmull: On Creativity, Heart, Steve Jobs And Leading Pixar

Very few people know their life’s purpose at an early age, but as a young college student, Ed Catmull started dreaming of making the world’s first computer animated movie. He went on to nurture that dream by earning a Ph.D. in Computer Science before forging a partnership with George Lucas (of Star Wars fame) that led to his founding Pixar Animation Studios with Apple founder, Steve Jobs & John Lasseter.

In 1995, Pixar ultimately fulfilled Catmull’s dream by releasing “Toy Story,” & in the nearly three decades since, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, giving us such beloved films as “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Up,” “Inside Out” – & racking up 18 Academy Awards in the process.

Anyone who has seen a Pixar movie knows they all share a brilliant formula: joyous storytelling, inventive plots & characters that touch our hearts. But the essential ingredient in “Toy Story’s” success – & in the twenty-five films that followed – was the unique culture that Catmull (as CEO) & his colleagues built that uniquely nurtured the creative process & defied traditional leadership convention.

In our conversation, we explore how Catmull & his team introduced psychological safety (long before it was a thing) as a means to ensuring the film directors received critical yet caring feedback on their work – & how pursuing excellence as an organizational value led to the production of so many remarkable movies – animated or otherwise.

Perhaps no person on the planet than Catmull spent more years working with Steve Jobs, & this podcast also explores how Jobs greatly evolved as a leader. Before Ed Catmull retired in 2019, he was President of Disney Animation and Pixar – two of the most innovative companies on the planet.