Catmull on Technology and Storytelling
EC: Well, for me, the start was when I was at the University of Utah, and the field of computer graphics was completely brand new, so the people coming in were exploring and looking for the new. And so the mindset at the very beginning was: How do you discover? How do you let things happen? How do you move blocks from people? And the principles coming out of that environment apply to any creative environment, and the blocks that can get in the way, can happen in any creative environment. For me, at each one of these places, going from the University of Utah to New York Tech to Lucasfilm to Pixar, it was learning from things that worked and learning from things that didn't work. And thinking about what the difference is.
BD: Any interesting epiphanies as of late?
EC: Actually, there have been many. And they have to do with the changes that we go through here [at Pixar] and the other is dealing with a different group of creative people [at Disney], and the legacies that they have and the legacies that they're trying to make on their own. And because they're different people, you can start to tease apart those things which are ways to operate vs. the unique characteristics that the individual people bring.
BD: Do you find it an interesting irony in taking over Disney?
EC: Yes, and for a while I thought of it in terms of irony. But then I realized that I actually had to step away from thinking of it that way because, to some extent, the legacy of the past can also get in the way of the future. And it's a difficult thing because a legacy is something that you build on that you're proud of, but at the same time you can't define where you're going, so I don't want to think about that group in terms of what was there in the past. Rather, what can these new people do to make great films and tell good stories?