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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The Habitat

The physical environment of the workplace, which Pixar called the 'Habitat,' was distinctive. The outside of the main building had a curved metal roof so that it resembled an airplane hangar. It was surrounded by a large expanse of green space. Visitors were greeted by life-size versions of characters from Pixar's movies. The office was also decorated with different types of toys. In the centre of the custom-designed building lay an open, inviting common area in the building's main atrium where the employees could meet with each other...

The Pixar University

According to Professor Sir Ken Robinson, internationally-renowned expert in the field of creativity and innovation in business and education, the most distinctive features of Pixar's organizational culture was the PU. This was a continuing program of lectures, workshops, courses and events that went on every day at the Pixar facility.

The unit was headed by Nelson whose prime responsibility was to help the employees express their creative ideas, collaborate among themselves, and meet project deadlines. As of January 2006, PU offered more than 110 courses, including a complete filmmaking curriculum, classes on painting, drawing, sculpting, and creative writing...

Some Criticisms

Though Pixar's unique culture has earned it lot of accolades, some critics felt that there was a downside to such a strong internal culture. According to them, any strong internal culture, even one designed to promote collaboration and creativity could turn into a disadvantage for the company. They believed that a self-contained organization, such as Pixar, without links to external perspectives could encourage homogeneous values and an insular view of the world...


With the acquisition of Pixar, Disney would have to figure out how to bring together the two biggest names in animation without diminishing either. Iger was of the opinion that Disney would benefit from embracing the culture of Pixar.

"I'm very sensitive to what can happen when a company gets bought. I'm really deeply committed to seeing to it that Pixar is allowed to exist in the form it existed," he said.

A steering committee consisting of Catmull, Lasseter, Jobs, Iger, Cook, and Tom Staggs, Disney's Chief Financial Officer, was set up with the objective to maintain and spread Pixar's culture within Disney...


Exhibit I: Pixar's Success Story*
Exhibit II: Pixar's Key Financials for the Year 2005
Exhibit III: Some People Who Have Shaped Pixar's Culture ... and Some Who Could
Exhibit IV: The Pixar Process


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