Having a culture that encourages people to unload all their ideas without feeling threatened is vital to everything Pixar does. "When you look at a movie, there are thousands and thousands of ideas," says Catmull. The director and the company need them all to come up with the very best ideas for the story, characters, and visuals of a film. In fact, everyone at the company will tell you there are no bad ideas at Pixar, even if they don't end up in a movie. Consider the entire four-year process of making a movie. The first two years are devoted almost entirely to developing the narrative of the story and the characters, beginning with a storyboard and eventually resulting in a
Only in the third and fourth years does technology really come into play. And that is very much by design. Why? Technology always serves the story, not vice versa. "Pixar has gotten a lot of press for being the first to use CG for animated feature films," says Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles. "It was always technology that everybody talked about, and to me that was the least interesting reason to come here. The reason to come here was because they were doing original stories."
Another integral part of the first two years of making a film is letting the company's artists explore different conceptions of the world and characters that will come alive in the movie. The artists use anything they can think of to assist them. For A Bug's Life, tiny video cameras were placed in flowerbeds to observe the world from a bug's perspective. For Finding Nemo, aquariums were set up around the office, marine biologists were brought in to give talks, and a diving trip to Hawaii was arranged. From all of these things come more ideas - and drawings and sculptures - that help visualize potential aspects of the movie.