Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What Disney & Pixar teach us about failure

When you think of Pixar, the last word that probably comes to your mind is failure. 

Disney Pixar's first movie (and the first computer animated feature film ever) was Toy Story; it released in 1995 and grossed over $192 million. 

And since then every single movie they have released has been a hit. Every single one: A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, Cars, Wall-E, Brave....any of this ring a bell? 

This is unheard of. How are they so successful? 

Before I answer that question, I also want to consider a Disney film you may have heard of: Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991 and was the first animated film to win a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture. 

Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story have something important in common that I think is integral to Disney Pixar's continued success. 

Both films were, at first, complete failures.

Not the films we saw, of course. But the creative teams initially developed scripts and storyboards for entire films that were supposed to be the first Toy Story and Beauty and the Beast. But they weren't. Because they failed.

The studios had invested millions of dollars in these first scripts and storyboards. But when the final teams saw the stories they felt something was missing - the stories fell flat and just didn't work. So they decided to lose millions, scrap the entire thing, and ask the team to start all over again. 

Can you imagine how awful that must have felt? To work on something for so long, with so much dedication, thinking it's good, and then having to do it all over again? 

And can you imagine losing millions of dollars because you thought something wasn't good enough? 

But they did. They all thought it was worth the risk, and they did not want to produce anything that they didn't believe would be great.

I think a huge part of Disney Pixar's success is their willingness to start over, and to never settle for less than, well, magic.

This idea applies to all of us, especially to community college students. Many of you may feel like you have started over. I've even met adult students who say they feel like they are starting a little late in the game. 

I also meet people who see what I've done by the age of 25 and feel like they haven't accomplished enough. And to that I always say "phooey" (okay I don't use that exact word because it would be weird, but I use it in my head). I think the bravest people in the world are the ones who are willing to say "scrap that I'm starting over."

Never be afraid to start from scratch if something isn't working. Never be afraid to own a failure. Those who are willing to take those risks and not settle for anything less will find the kind of unbelievable success that only grows from the seeds of failure. 

If you too are a Disney & Pixar fan you will love the documentaries The Pixar Story and Waking Sleeping Beauty. Both of these films inspired this blog post, and inspired me more than I can say. 

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