CaTmuLL: They didn’t get enough
protection, so I started it up again and
put a different person in charge. A year
later I came back and found that group
had been entirely subverted by produc-
tion again. So, I thought, “OK, the forc-
es here are much more powerful than I
When we did this the third time we
actually put in really strong mecha-
nisms, so basically we set it up to pro-
tect it. We also did one other thing: we
brought in a person from the outside
who was very experienced in deliver-
ing bulletproof software. As we went
through this, however, we found that
everything was on schedule, but that
the deliverables were shrinking in or-
der to stay on schedule. At some point
you don’t deliver enough to make a
film, and in that case the schedule
slips. We had someone to keep things
on schedule, but he didn’t want to de-
liver the software until it was perfect.
Now we had gone to the opposite extreme, where the protection was keeping it isolated from engaging with the
user. That’s when we put Eben Ostby
in charge because Eben knows what
it means to engage. Now we’re going
through the bloody process of taking
new software and putting it in production. But we’ve been through this before, and we know it’s a painful, messy
To me the trick is that you’ve got to
realize you have two extremes—full
engagement and full protection—and
you have to know what you’re doing to
be able to move back and forth between
the two. For me, R&D is something you
really need to protect, but you don’t set
it up with an impermeable wall. There
comes a time when you need to go into
the messy arena, where you actually begin to engage.
hanRahan: It seems this is true not
just in your business but for any software project.
CaTmuLL: Yes, this idea can be applied everywhere.
hanRahan: Among the many things
that are inspiring about Pixar, and
one way you’ve had a huge impact on
the world, is that you changed many
people’s views of what computing is
all about. A lot of people think of computing as number crunching whose
main application is business and engineering. Pixar added an artistic side
on moVinG To LuCaSfiLmS:
What we had—
and this is very
it’s actually fairly
fragile. People don’t
quite get what it is.
we don’t necessarily
get what it is.
When people don’t
get it, and they’ve
got their immediate
concerns, it’s hard
for them to see
to computing. I’ve talked to many students who realize that art can be part
of computing; that creativity can be
part of computing; that they can merge
their interests in art and science. They
think of computing as a very fulfilling
I think you’ve inspired them because you have these incredible artistic
people here, and you have incredible
technologists here, and you obviously
have an interest in both. What’s your
view on how art and science interact in
a place like Pixar?
CaTmuLL: Two things pop into my
mind. The first one comes from being
in a position where I can see world-class people on both the art and technical sides. With both groups of people,
there’s a creative axis and there’s an organization axis of managing and making things happen. If you look at these
criteria, the distribution of creative
and organization skills is the same in
both groups. People might think that
artists are less organized. It turns out
it’s all nonsense.
hanRahan: I agree completely. Most
people think scientists are these really
precise, rational, organized people,
and artists are these imaginative, emotional, unpredictable people.
Ca TmuLL: What you find is that some
artists actually are that way, and some
are extremely precise and know what
they want. They’re organized. They
lead others. They’re inspirational.
hanRahan: There’s an incredible
craft to it, too. Both the craft of programming and the craft of art can be
very detailed and precise.
Ca TmuLL: If you think about the craft
of laying out a major software system,
you have an architect, and you have a
lot of people contributing to it. Well, in
a film the director is an architect who is
orchestrating contributions from a lot
of people and seeing how it all fits together. The organizational skills to do
that are similar. We have production
people on films. Well, we have production managers in software who help organize and put things together. They’re
not writing the code, but they’re making sure that the people work together and that they’re communicating.
There are good ones and bad ones, but
the structure is the same.
And just as you can have a bug in
software, you can also have a bug in