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David Nikel reports from InnoTown, the innovation conference in Ålesund, Norway.

Undoubtedly the most “aww”-inspiring talk of InnoTown was delivered by Jay Shuster, Production Designer of Pixar Animation Studios and the man who played a leading role in bringing Wall-E to life. Shuster’s opening comment “we don’t ever really grow up” was evident as he took us on a whistle-stop tour of the Pixar campus in California, where designers work inside garden sheds and the office of one senior executive is crammed floor to ceiling with rare toys.

Amid the colours and excitement, there were some useful takeaways for entrepreneurs.

“We never finish a movie, we just release it”

Pixar is full of perfectionists. If you doubt that, just check out the behaviour of Sully’s fur in Monsters Inc, something which took years to accurately develop. But even with this intricate detail, Pixar adopts something of a “lean startup” approach of getting the product to market as quickly as possible.

“If we had our way, there would be a version 1, version 2, version 3 of each one of our films”, Shuster told InnoTown.

“I’m trying to get back to pen and paper”

Software such as Photoshop and After Effects are staple tools for Pixar’s creative teams, but following the first 100% digital release (Cars 2), there is something of a backlash.

Sometimes sketching out your ideas away from a screen can be a real eye-opener.

“Gentle steering allows us creative people to play”

Creativity runs through the blood of everyone at Pixar, but with 1200 employees, how is order brought to chaos? A large project management team keeps the creatives on a leash, albeit a loose one, through the use of dance cards.

These daily bits of paper (note: not a barrage of emails!) lists where and when a designer must be during the day ahead, allowing them to focus on what they do best.

“There is a sizeable group responsible for running things efficiently”, said Shuster. “They know where we should be and when, and it’s their gentle steering that allows us creative people to play.”

“Pain is temporary, suck is forever”

“When something sucks, we say so”, said Shuster, causing a few nervous looks amongst the delegates.

It’s a genuine belief at Pixar. Toy Story 2 was entirely re-written just eight months before release, because “it wasn’t good enough.”

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