But don't let the casual atmosphere and past successes fool you: The pressure to innovate is intense. Pixar, whose movies take approximately four years to make, releases just one film a year; so one stinker could be dis­astrous. The company's recent, highly publicized split from Disney - which has helped finance, market, and distribute Pixar movies since they teamed up in 1991- means they'll not only reap more of the rewards from their blockbuster releases, but also bear more of the risk should they flop.

Not surprisingly, that challenge keeps Pixar deadly serious about continuing to create the kind of movies that draw millions into theaters.

One of the first things all new employees at Pixar do is attend the aptly named Pixar University. Initially conceived as a way to train new hires, Pixar University has expanded its scope significantly since it was first started, now offering courses to all employees in everything imaginable, from Pilates and tai chi to sculpture, drawing, and im­­prov­i­­sa­tion. The classes have played an important part in fostering Pixar's culture of creativity. Not only do they naturally bring people together to share ideas and help hone or develop skills that may help them in their work, they also encourage people to take risks, a vital component in innovation.

At Pixar University, employees are first introduced to a practice that the company considers vital to creativity: a constant sharing and assessment of work. It's somewhat counter­intuitive, and often uncomfortable. When given an assignment, say, in a drawing class, most people would prefer to sweat over it, tweak it, and perfect it, particularly since they know world-class artists will be examining it. Instead, at Pixar University, and at Pixar in general, you share what you've done almost immediately. "You get over the embarrassment [of showing your work] because you're doing