Who Will Lead Us Now?

You already know who this post is about, even before you’ve started reading it

That’s because Steve Jobs really was a leader.

I may not have bought any of his products, or even agreed or liked his way of doing things (too locked-down, too expensive) but that’s not to say I didn’t have a lot of respect for him.

Clearly the animation landscape would be very different if Steve Jobs hadn’t taken a bit of a gamble back in the 1980s. Which is the reason for today’s post:

Who will lead us now?

Plenty of people are calling Steve a “visionary”. Yes, he had vision, but he was much more of a leader. He had the ability to envision things, but he also had a huge ability to get others to work towards that vision with passion and excitement.

That’s why Pixar is such a success. While Steve undoubtedly got a good pitch of sorts from Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, ultimately, he could see that the technology they were developing was irrelevant to the story potential that Lasseter offered the output. Steve guided them towards their first deal with Disney, and was instrumental in helping them re-negotiate it after the success of Toy Story.

Steve’s position on the board of the Walt Disney Company (and largest individual stock holder) ensured that that firm took a slightly different approach to online content than the other Hollywood studios. That’s no easy task.

As of right now, there is no one, clear individual who could be said to be a true leader within the animation community.

There are plenty of leaders such as Jeffrey Katzenberg and Fred Seibert and  Ed Catmull is probably the closest thing to Jobs in light of his determination to see Pixar make animation instead of hardware. Although they are all leaders in a different capacity than Steve.

We need a leader because they can see the way forward. They may not know for certain where they are taking us, but at least they’re willing to take a bet on it. That can’t be said for the vast majority of people, which is why leaders are so rare.

A new leader will emerge, that is a certainty.

Until then, we’ll continue to inhabit the aimless space that’s left behind.

RIP Steve


Better Late Than Never: Steve Jobs and Cars 2

Yes, I am pretty late with today’s post and I offer my humblest apologies.

I read on Lineboil today that Steve Jobs, erstwhile boss at Apple Computer, has instructed John Lasseter to get his hands dirty and stick his nose into the engine bay of Cars 2.

While none of this is confirmed as of yet, if it is true, it could delay the sequel to a film that has absolutely raked in the merchandising dough for Disney/Pixar over the years and clearly has done quite well thus far with various TV specials and psuedo spin-offs.

The important lesson to learn is that either the story guys aren’t firing on all cylinders, or the race marshall thinks they’re running on illegal tyres and won’t let them leave the pit lane. Either way the instruction from Jobs represents a significant event in the Pixar assembly line production of movies. Is it a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. However, it is the type of top-down management style typical of Jobs but somewhat foreign in a creator-orientated company like Pixar.

Since we’re unlikely to find out the truth for a while yet, I’m not going to take it at full face value. However, I hope that it does not signal the start of a worrying trend at the most successful CGI studio to date.