IUG 2009 Opening Session – Keynote – Michael Johnson – Pixar

Posted: May 18, 2009 in conferences, iug 2009
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Making Digital Movies in an Analog World
Michael B. Johnson, Pixar Animation


Pixar Rule # 1 – best story wins. Funny.  🙂


Pixar History
Spun off from LucasFilm in 1986.
Merged with Disney in 2006.


Pixar Philosphy – Casting, casting, casting.

Art as team sport.


Director Driven studio as opposed to the LA model of producer-driven.

Culture of constructive criticism.


“Quality is the best business plan.” – John Lasseter


Making a movie in 3 "easy" steps.


  1. Design a rich, believable world.
  2. Crate engaging characters that logically exist in that world.
  3. Tell a compelling story about those characters.


Story – Editorial – Art – Modeling
Articulation – Shading – Set Drawing – Layout

Animation – Simulation – Effects – Lighting

Rendering – Image Mastering


Fail fast, fail often, so you can succeed sooner.


Draws fast

Draws well

Always have another idea

51% is "plays well with others"


The criticism becomes about the work, not the person.

"Giving a good note."

Point out the problem.

Propose a solution.

Give it in a timely manner.

"It’s not about being real. It’s about being believable." – John Lasseter


"An animator is an actor with a pencil." – Walt Disney

Pitch Docter [sic]


New tool to help story and editorial departments work through an electronic version of a story board.


Story + Editorial – Old school method

Story artist as performance artist

Artist gets notes

Draws some more

Delivers stack of paper boards to editorial


Story and Editorial were getting mad at each other because each was making the other look bad to the director.


The Pitch Docter software worked because . . .


Redistribution of power that works. Take a job that Editorial doesn’t like: "First assembly"

Gave it to Story, they want to time out their work.


Story drives everything – the best idea wins.

Never forget you’re making a movie  not a game, not a ride, not comic, not theater

Art as team sport

We’re all artists, we’re all filmmakers

Passion will get you through.

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