What techniques for giving feedback do they use to increase creativity at Pixar?
Give general direction in an upbeat manner. Don’t be overly specific.
By giving feedback this way it allows the person to engage their skills to render the final product. Too much fine grain detail removes their own talent from the process.
Consider two ways that Docter could give feedback. One is very specific. “You can say, ‘Okay, in this scene, on frame number forty-seven, I want his arm reaching across, he’s going to grab the glasses case and in seven frames, he’s going to move up and hold it above his head,’ ” he relates. Well, that’s not how Docter does it because, again, he doesn’t actually know all the specifics in advance. He can’t. With literally millions of fine grain considerations and details in each film, there’s too much complexity.
The other way to provide feedback is to give general direction and plus ideas in an upbeat manner. Docter demonstrates this by imagining a conversation he might have with an animator about a scene where one character is taunting another. “Okay, he’s taunting, you know how when you play with your little brother and you grab the thing and then you go like, ‘Yeah? Huh, huh, huh?!’ ” Docter says, with a playful giggle and glint in his eye as he acts the body language out. “You act it out for them and they get the feeling of, ‘Oh, I remember doing that.’ Then, it’s up to them if it’s frame number forty-seven, or even if it’s any of the frames. How do we communicate this feeling of taunting?” Docter continues, “If you can use a language that allows them to put in their own specifics, then it becomes much more truthful, they’re probably way better actors or lighters than I am, so I’m using their talents or their skills to make the movie better and better.” The animator walks away, perhaps laughing about Docter’s anecdote, and is motivated to produce the shot on her own terms.
Not providing overly specific feedback was a tricky thing for Docter to get used to, but it has become part of Pixar’s culture. “There are a lot of different ways to show that a character is uncoordinated or nervous or scared,” Docter shares. “As long as that story beat comes across, it’s a chance to bring all this talent that these guys have in executing that.” Docter’s approach goes back to the way John Lasseter role modeled being a director. When Lasseter is in meetings, say, with animators, he will listen to and applaud ideas from everyone, regardless of experience level.
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