For someone responsible for more than $10 billion in worldwide box office, John Lasseter is quick to deflect the credit.
“Often, you see management structures where it looks like the important person is at the top,” says Lasseter, chief creative officer for both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. “The philosophy (Disney-Pixar prexy) Ed Catmull and I have is that the oarsmen deep in the ship are the most important people, and we’re there to make sure they stay invested in the studio and the work.”
As someone who helped row Disney through one of its darker periods, only to be dismissed when he tried to suggest ideas for making the films better (his idea: use computers to assist in animation), Lasseter has good reason to empower his team.
“I can tell you, they’re so much happier and creatively satisfied when they feel like their creativity is in the film,” he says. “I’ve worked in movies where I’ve put my heart and soul into it and gone to the premiere or crew party, and the movie is mediocre at best, and I thought, ‘Well that was a waste of time.’?”
This year, Lasseter directed Pixar’s 12th feature, “Cars 2,” which put a secret-agent spin on the auto-toon franchise — fitting, then, that Lasseter should be the first to receive the Britannia Award (for worldwide contribution to filmed entertainment) named after James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli. Ultimately, Lasseter insists his strategy behind Pixar’s incredible winning streak is simple: “It really comes down to setting everyone else up for success,” he says.
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