Pixar's 'Incredible' Culture

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB082
Case Length : 20 Pages
Period : 2004-2006
Pub. Date : 2006
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Pixar Animation Studios
Industry : Media and Entertainment
Countries : USA

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Pixar's Culture - The Early Years

In its early years, Pixar was a tightly knit group of about 40 people, many of whom had been working together since the 1970s. Alan Deutschman, author of the book, 'The Second Coming of Steve Jobs,' describes the group as "a nomadic tribe of high-tech gypsies moving from one multimillionaire's think tank to another's".

Pixar's employees were non-conventional. Many of them would arrive at work by lunchtime and work late into the night. Some analysts described the culture at Pixar as "anti-corporate" but even they appreciated the fact that this culture made the company not only highly productive but also a laid-back fun place to work. They worked in a shabby office, with employees moving around barefoot, some even bringing their pets to work. They did not expect to make much money but stuck to their jobs due to its unconventional atmosphere and with the dream of doing something completely new. The company's philosophy was to 'hire people who are better than we are'. This was evident when Catmull and Smith brought in Lasseter, an animator at Disney, in 1984...

Pixar's Workplace Culture

Pixar's phenomenal success in its relatively short history was an eye-opener for the industry. Between 1995 and May 2006, it won 19 academy awards, and in the process reinvented the art of animation.

Analysts were of the view that Pixar with its 730 odd employees had garnered a reputation as a place where creative genius thrived, and had far outpaced the bigger and more institutionalized Disney in the years preceding the acquisition.

"For us now, the high-water mark is Pixar. I remember just a few years ago when students wanted to go to work for Disney. Now they want to go to Pixar," said Dug Ward (Ward), manager of the Animation Workshop at the University of California in Los Angeles film school. Analysts attributed Pixar's success to its distinctive approach to the workplace, which was in stark contrast to the Hollywood model...

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