There are several aspects of Pixar that are lauded when discussing the animation company’s great success. Of course, the quality of its films is generally viewed as its most significant characteristic. The building in which its employees collaborate, though, is also a strong part of its philosophy. When Disney bought Pixar, the latter’s executives also took on the same roles within Disney Animation. Essentially, Disney hoped that its own animation unit would be able to emulate Pixar’s success. Now that its films have done exactly that within the last few years, Disney is looking to make its animation building more “Pixar-like.”
Many stories have been written on how the late Pixar CEO Steve Jobs had Pixar’s building built in a way that would foster greater creativity and collaboration. The majestic atrium that greets all those who enter the studio’s main building (now called the Steve Jobs Building) was placed within the center of the structure, forcing chance meetings between its employees. The idea was that it would ensure that Pixar directors, animators, and artists would cross paths and work together to generate greater ideas.
Disney recently started work on a massive renovation of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, which houses many of the company’s employees who work within its animation unit. The L.A. Times has published an article delving into the “face-lift,” emphasizing the same principle of collaboration that was built into the Steve Jobs building at Pixar. Soon after the purchase of Pixar, newly appointed Disney Animation CCO John Lasseter and President Ed Catmull pushed for a small reno of the Roy E. Disney building, but that was just the beginning.
The larger renovation, now underway, has caused the staff to exit to a temporary space:
Extending that principle, the renovation (the estimated cost of which Disney would not disclose) will create a large, open communal space where employees can gather, eat and share ideas. “The whole center of the second floor will have an atrium that will go up two stories,” Lasseter said. “We want to make this building so beautiful that it’s worthy of the artistic talent that’s there.”
So now the building will have a large atrium, extending the “Pixar philosophy” within its halls. Another part of the renovation will involve the massive version of the sorcerer’s cap that Mickey dons in Fantasia, which has welcomed those who walk through the building’s doors – don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere. Actually, it’s taking on a larger (and intriguing role):
The blue “Fantasia” Sorcerer’s Cap, which once housed the office of Roy Disney, nephew of Walt Disney and longtime senior executive at the company, will become the building’s main entrance.
“There will be a gorgeous stairway that goes up into the hat,” Lasseter said. “It’s a really great symbol, like you’re entering the building through the magic of Mickey Mouse’s hat.”
I can’t wait to see what the finished building looks like. Other than the move of the entrance, the rest of the outside structure of the building will generally remain the same – it will be the inside that will see the dramatic shift.
The employees have quite a bit of work left for them during the renovation – although no feature films are on the way in 2015, two films are currently scheduled to arrive in 2016 – Zootopia, an adventure film centering on a fox, and Moana, a film following the journey of a 14-year-old girl through the South Pacific, are both due next year. The Disney artists will have quite a reward awaiting them at the end of a busy few years. Rightly so.