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06/10/2013 11:44 am ET Updated Aug 11, 2013

How Does Pixar Manage To Constantly Produce Commendable Movies?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Craig Good,

That's a huge question with no simple answer. I can only give you my opinion of the largest issues. I don't think there's anybody at Pixar who could actually answer it. That in itself is probably part of the answer, what Andrew Stanton calls "staying stupid." The idea being that the most dangerous place you can be is thinking you know what you're doing. Each film is its own adventure. The process is just plain hard.

Having said that, a few things stand out in contrast when comparing Pixar to other studios. The most glaring, I think, is that the creatives have the power, and the executives, what few there are, are there to support the directors. Each film is the story that a particular director wants to tell. I can't think of another studio that isn't executive-driven.

When Pixar says "story is king," it isn't just sloganeering. Michael Arndt told me that probably the biggest reason he was able to get an Oscar nomination for the Toy Story 3 screenplay was that Pixar was the only studio that understood it really takes three or four years to write a good one. Everything the production does is driven by the needs of the story. The story is not driven by the dictates of marketing or licensing or technology. The stories all come from within the studio - no outside screenplays or properties.

As I've told many people over the years, at some point every single Pixar movie sucks. The trick is not stopping there. The studio has been willing to spend the enormous amounts of money it takes to completely stop a production while story problems are hammered out. It doesn't like to do that, but it has.

Add to that a culture of talented, motivated artists and technicians whose purpose in life appears to be raising the bar and challenging themselves and each other, and it's pretty much impossible to make an ugly film there. Everybody is focused on making the movie better, not making themselves look better. So when they get a great story to tell, they showcase it well.

None of the above, of course, is any guarantee that the next Pixar film, whatever it may be, won't flop. The pressure the directors work under is unbelievable. They sometimes joke that it's the cartoon 16-ton weight hovering over their heads - for three or four years solid. So the directors help each other. The "brain trust" was their sarcastic name for their support group, and it stuck. Which leads, I suppose, to the last thing I'll mention:

Directors, artists, scientists, technicians - all give notes and know how to take them. Nobody is a harsher critic of Pixar films than Pixar employees. But people aren't criticized. It's all about making the film better. People are expected to show their work, unfinished and raw, for comments all through the process. It's been likened to dropping drawers in front of your coworkers. Since everybody does it, there's a great feeling of trust that is key to the culture. Every employee, and I mean every employee, is asked by the producer to give notes on each film at least once.

Or maybe it's a lot simpler than all of that. I have long suspected that happy people make better movies than unhappy people do.

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