Wednesday, December 31, 2008
कुछ फासले तय हुए और कुछ उम्मीद से ज़रा ज़्यादा लंबे नज़र आने लगे... कुछ ठोकरें लगी...कुछ कदम डगमगाए... डगमगाते क़दमों को सँभालने और फिर राह पर वापस आने में पता भी न चला और एक और बरस बस मुट्ठी से दरकी रेत बन बीते समय के अपार मरुस्थल का हिस्सा बन गया।
आज वर्ष के अन्तिम दिवस जब करने बैठे लेखा जोखा - क्या खोया क्या पाया, तो पाया कि हर खोने में भी छिपा था कुछ ऐसा जो हमने पाया। हमने पाया तो ज़रूर पर वो खोने के गम में भीगी आंखों को नज़र ना आया।
अनुभवों की गठरी बढती जाती है पर भारी नहीं होती... ऐसे में अगर कुछ पाया और वो नज़र ना आया तो इसमें नज़रों का क्या दोष?
गुज़रे साल ने पूरी की कुछ उम्मीदें और कई बार कुछ ऐसा नज़ारा बना दिया जो उम्मीदों से कहीं परे था।
रंगभेद की दीवारों को भेद कोई राजसिंहासन पर हुआ आरूढ़, तो कभी चैन की बंसी बजाते बाज़ार की लहरों पर सवार समझदार नज़र आए गोते लगाते...कहीं निशाने पर स्वर्ण मिला और कहीं देश के अमन पर सधा निशाना।
आज वर्ष के अन्तिम दिन आनेवाले वर्ष से कुछ उम्मीदें ना रखना मुश्किल है -
ज़रूरत है एक ऐसे नए साल की, जो दे सके सुकून की गारंटी. जो आता हो आतंकवादप्रूफ़ पैक के साथ, एक ऐसा साल जो मार्केट की मंदी और मुनाफाखोरों की सुपर अकलमंदी से हमें बचा कर हमें इतना वक्त दे सके कि एक बार फिर वो खोया चैन-ओ-सुकून लौट आए जिसे खोये एक अरसा बीत गया लगता है.
बीता तो महज़ एक साल ही है मगर बेचैनी मानो सदियों लम्बी नज़र आने लगी है अब.
गहरी नींद सोये मानो एक ज़माना गुज़र गया अब तो नींद से बोझिल आँखें सुकून की नींद तो तरस सी गई हैं, पलकें और भारी और उनींदी हो चली हैं, चाहिए एक ऐसा साल जिसमें ये उनींदी आँखें कुछ ख्वाब बुन सकें. ऐसे ख्वाब जिनमें ना तो चलती गोलियों का शोर हो ना बाज़ार की मंदी का शराबा.
चाहिए एक ऐसा साल जिसमें एक बार फिर जी उठे वो जज़्बा जो ना जाने कहीं खो सा गया है...
चाहिए एक ऐसा साल जो अगर न लौटा सके मासूमों को उनके खोये अपने, कमसे कम उनकी गीली आँखों को फिर दे सकें कुछ नए सपने...
चाहिए एक ऐसा साल जो दे सके हौसला और एक यकीन कि हर गहराती रात के बाद सबेरा होता है, क्यूंकि ये रात जो गहराना शुरू हुयी तो बस गहराती ही चली गई है...कई नज़रों को अब भी है उस सबेरे का इंतज़ार जो छलिया बना छलता रहा अपने इंतज़ार में बसी पलकों को किसी झूठे वादे की तरह..
चाहिए एक ऐसा साल जो ले कर आए उस रात के राह भूले सवेरे को...
चाहिए एक ऐसा साल जो ले कर आए मुस्कुराने के और भी बहाने....
उम्मीदों पर दुनिया कायम है और उम्मीद के पालने में झूलते नन्हें 2009 से बस यही उम्मीद है कि उसके बढ़ते कदम कुछ ऐसे बढें कि उसकी ऊँगली थामे हम भी नाप आयें उन मंज़िलों को जिन्हें पाने कि चाह इस बरस अधूरी सी ही रह गई। छू लें वो आसमान जो अब तक नज़र आ रहा था हाथों की पकड़ से दूर ।
आप सभी को नव-वर्ष की हार्दिक शुभकामनायें ।
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
“You really are a LUCKY Guy, Alok!!” He said.
The conversation went on till late night. I left from there thinking about Lucky- No Time For Love (which IMHO everybody should miss), Oye Lucky!Lucky Oye! (which I missed)…Luck By Chance (which I don’t want to miss) and yet to be released Luck...and many other things on my way back...Whatever I thought was complete nonsense so let's not talk about it...
It’s Christmas Time…and I think my new post should have a Happy Ending Feel Good Story for all of you.
(Hope you gonna enjoy the story of a cartoonist who desperately wanted to get into Radio.)
So..here is the story-
There was a cartoonist with lots of dreams. Some of the dreams looked almost impossible to realize, but he was too stubborn to accept it. One such dream was to enter the world of Radio. He dreamed to become an RJ (which actually remained unachieved for many reasons, we’ll talk about them later).Well like every aspiring Radio Professional, he sent a mail to the only Radio Station in the city and to his surprise, the very next day he got a mail which asked him to appear for an audition that very day.The unprepared, inexperienced cartoonist appeared in the audition and for a guy who had never seen a Radio Station or a Studio ever in his life; it was easy to get confused and nervous.
The nervous Cartoonist auditioned. His performance was really bad. (Good thing was he himself knew that he had just messed up this wonderful opportunity to realize his longtime dream).The results of the auditions were not shocking at all. The info which actually shocked him was- He won’t be able to appear in any audition for next 6 months. 6 months is a longtime but if one has decided to practice and overcome one’s limitations, it is actually a very little time. He marked a red circle on the day this six months period was going to get over.The cartoonist worked on his voice, script writing skills, researched on the fundamentals and formats of Radio Programming and Packaging. He practiced day and night and one fine morning he woke up to see that Red Circle on the calendar. Six Months were over, but the problem was the changed Radio Programming Policies, Jock Talks were going to be in 100% English with a bit of Kannada words here and there…
“Well…” thought the Cartoonist.“Here go all my chances...Here go all my dreams...”
Still adamant to give it another shot, he sat down to write a letter to the Programming Director of the channel.Writing was a bit difficult; instead he felt he could draw something that would convey his message to them. And the cartoonist spent the whole day sketching something.
Next day the PD had a mail in her inbox :
She smiled and replied to the Cartoonist, telling him that she actually liked his application but sadly they don’t need a Hindi Speaking RJ now, but they might need some producers, will he be interested in joining them as a Producer?
“Producer…sounds cool…infact better than an RJ” he thought.
The management still wasn’t in favor of hiring an outsider (a guy who doesn’t belongs to the city and hence won’t be able to understand its ‘sensibilities’) as a Producer. The cartoonist was offered the job of a Production Coordinator.
Something is better than nothing; he thought and entered the world of Radio as a Production Coordinator (whatever that meant).
Within three months of joining he got his first promotion and became not only a Producer but many other new responsibilities also were assigned to him (well…some of the responsibilities were the ones which nobody else wanted to accept, but that’s a different story).
Most of these experiences not only taught him lots of new things about packaging and producing Radio Shows but also helped him in learning how the world operates. And those experiences are still helping him in his life.
Was the Cartoonist lucky??
I really would like to know what’s your opinion on this?
By the way coming back to myself…I really feel I am lucky...It was a dream come true situation last evening.
Sapney Dekhna Zaroori Hai…Kyonki Sapne Sach Bhi Hotey Hain…
Happy Festive Season.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Another irresistible blow came in the form of Kung Fu Panda 2 Disc –Kung fu Master Special Edition DVD. Though this one is also released as a single DVD set and I think one should go for the single disc edition only, 2nd disc mostly contains promotional stuff which in my opinion most of the people won’t be interested in. Anyway it was heartbreaking to see they released it in
There was this DVD Sale going on in Mumbai and I ended up buying 5 more DVD Titles – A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo (have lost my 2 DVD Edition), Miller’s Crossing, Thelma and Louise and Little Miss Sunshine. I decided- No more DVDs for this month, and this is when I realized they have released The Dark Knight Special Edition 2 Disc Set too. Guys it's again a must have for everybody who loved this Masterpiece by Chris Nolan, one of the smartest film of this year. The extra DVD is loaded with many Extra Features, and its coming in a beautiful Bag with a free Tee and a sexy black Dark Knight Pen.
Well I promised myself I’ll save the money next month for sure and bought this one too (this is the same promise I make and break every month when I see a new DVD). Went to Landmark yesterday and was surprized to see they’ve got The Art Of Wall-E in their books section….The book I have been drooling for almost 6 months and more recently was contemplating if I should order it from amazon, how could I ignore this irresistable beauty giving me that come hither look from that book shelf? I am not heartless…but yup after spending so much I am penniless right now!!
I have been/or atleast tried to be a good boy the whole year, anybody wanna play Santa???
My chhoti si wish list – The Art Of Kung Fu Panda, Hans Bacher’s Dream Worlds, The Visual Story 2nd Edition by Bruce Block. The Lion King (Disney Special Platinum Edition) DVD.
Edit: By the way in case if you are interested in the art of script writing and screenplays, Warner Bros. have uploaded The Dark Knight Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan on their website. Click here for the PDF Version of Actual Shooting Script.
Disney has also put up the Wall-E screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon. Click here to read one of the best Screenplays written for an Animation Film.
Kick started Chitrakathaa with Mr.Aabid Surti.
Meeting with Aabid Surti ji (creator of Bahadur, Indrajaal Comics and many other syndicated comic strips and highly popular Dhabbu ji series from Dharmyug) was an experience. Though I had an opportunity to meet him in my student days but this time it was more personal, he invited us to his residence in Meera Road and we had a long chat on Stories, Comics, Superheroes, his way of setting up a story (or Setting the chessboard as he calls it), creating a new comic book universe, creating new characters, his novels, collaboration with legendary comic book artists like Govind Brahmanya and Pratap Mulick, his fixation with the stories of Daakus of Chambal, his bollywood days, his association and experience with Raj Kapoor and Raj Khosla, his comics that were almost turned into films, his love for art and painting, his stories which were far matured and ahead of their time and current bollywood films.Saw his Short Films and a film made on him.
Can't explain the experience, the fun and the excitement. But this was THE WAY to kick start Chitrakathaa!
Have started a blog which will be updated on regular intervals, sometimes with the updates on Chitrakathaa: The Project and sometimes with some write ups on Indian Comics.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
It's good to see Mumbai and life finally back to normal (or so they say), its better to see the anger in common public, it was best to see Politicians giving some stupid bayaans and getting caught on camera. Though we all know how they really are but its great to see the real faces of these vultures which are otherwise hidden behind those ever smiling masks.
As far as our foreign policy and diplomacy is concerned, I think its high time now. We have to act fast and fight terror by evoking terror in the minds of those who think they can easily plan and terrorize us.
This reminds me of the poem- शक्ति और क्षमा (Abilities and Mercy) one of my most favorite Poet रामधारी सिंह दिनकर' -(this poem is an excerpt from his Mahakavya - कुरुक्षेत्र).
श्री कृष्ण who went as a Shaanti Doot is insulted in Kuru Sabha, he is back and trying to make Yudhisthir understand that his Humbleness could be percieved as a cowardice by his opponents if he doesn't display his real abilities and bravery on time, I think this poem suits the condition India is in today, we need to understand-
"Tolerance, forgiveness and clemency
Are respcted by the world
Only when the glow of strength
From behind it is unfurled."
(Providing English Translation which I found online for the Hindi Text)
क्षमा, दया, तप, त्याग, मनोबल
सबका लिया सहारा
पर नर व्याघ सुयोधन तुमसे
कहो कहाँ कब हारा?
Mercy, resolve, tact, tolerance
You've tried everything and some
But o my king of men
When did Suyodhan succumb?
क्षमाशील हो ॠपु-सक्षम
तुम हुये विनीत जितना ही
दुष्ट कौरवों ने तुमको
कायर समझा उतना ही
The more forgiving you were
In your humane compassion
The more these rouge Kauravas
Pegged you as cowardly ashen
अत्याचार सहन करने का
कुफल यही होता है
पौरुष का आतंक मनुज
कोमल होकर खोता है
This is the consequence
Of tolerating atrocities
The awe of machismo is lost
When one's gentle n kindly
क्षमा शोभती उस भुजंग को
जिसके पास गरल है
उसका क्या जो दंतहीन
विषरहित विनीत सरल है
Forgiveness is becoming of
The serpent that's got venom
None cares for the toothless,
Poisonless, kind, gentle one
सच पूछो तो शर में ही
बसती है दीप्ति विनय की
संधिवचन सम्पूज्य उसीका
जिसमे शक्ति विजय की
Truth be told, it's in the quiver
That lies the gleam of modesty
Only his peace-talk is reputable
Who is capable of victory
सहनशीलता, क्षमा, दया को
तभी पूजता जग है
बल का दर्प चमकता उसके
पीछे जब जगमग है
Tolerance, forgiveness and clemency
Are respcted by the world
Only when the glow of strength
From behind it is unfurled
Sometimes war is neccessary to bring in peace....Such wars are called Dharmyuddha in our historical myths, and it's time for another Dharmyuddha.
Are we ready to fight or we have become so timid that we'll keep hiding in the same shell and witness many more such events is the question that's still giving me sleepless nights.
I am still finding myself unable to accept what happened in those 60 Hours. Saw some Pakistani Media Videos and I am unable to keep my cool after listening to the explosive language they used against India while we were struggling to fight those coward terrorists trained in Pak.
They are laughing at us and our toothless tigers are playing blame games sitting in Delhi.
We are lighting candles while they are training thousands others to repeat the 26/11 incident.
Till when are we going to boost candle sales and blame the politicians?? It's the time to display our courage!!!
PS. I am sorry for sounding so prejudiced, biased or paranoid but I strongly feel we all should feel the same.
Thanks to everybody who commented on my last post. My brother is safe and so are all of us till those bastards are back. Are we waiting???Are we ready???
Thursday, November 27, 2008
"..I am perfectly alright, Please don't worry..don't panic...I am leaving for Colaba.." He said in the same hurry that he always is in when he is going to cover a news. (He works with a NEWS Channel)
I was shocked...asked him why is he telling me this.
"Check the News Channels...I am really in a hurry....will talk later"
I was shocked to see the News Alerts everywhere - BOMB BLASTS & FIRING IN MUMBAI!!!
How can this be possible. I mean..I was there last evening, just came back...everything was alright..in fact I stayed in South Mumbai at my best buddy's place.. we spoke about the beauty this part of the city has... its hardly 24 hours...and here we are..looking at one of the most ugliest visuals...
Bullets, Bombs, Grenades...Blood...Injuries...PANIC!!!
It's shamefully disgusting. I don't think I wanna give/gift this world to the coming generation. Full of hatred and madness.
Brother is there covering the news like many others who are there so that people like us can sit back safe at home, see the current news...write blogs...discuss things...blame people...and then again switch the TV on for more breaking news...I am proud of you BHAI!!!and I am really proud of the youngsters who came out of the comfort of their houses and helped the injured to get hospitalized...I am proud of our Police Force who are fighting these cowards...
I wasn't able to sleep...or think...normally in such conditions I try to find solace in the poem -
WHERE THE MIND IS WITHOUT FEAR
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
-- Rabindranath Tagore
...but last night even that proved to be a futile attempt....I was sleepless...How can we sleep????How???
Am I overreacting???
People are still there... there can be no negotiations with those Crazy Bastards as they don't even have any demands or agenda... to have a demand or agenda needs a sane mind... their poisoned minds and insane motives prove they don't have sound minds...How will we negotiate with these people who themselves don't know what exactly are they fighting for???
It's so shitty that it's scary...
Saluting the Martyrs of Mumbai- Brave Policemen, Officers, Civilians...
Saluting the Spirit of Mumbai... Show the cowards, what we are made of....
Flush'em OUT!!! No Negotiations...
PS. Where is Mr.Raj Thakre & his MNS????
Listening to this song:
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Thanks to a National Newspaper now all the misunderstandings and confusions are sorted out & here I am announcing my real name - ASHOK SHARMA!!
Even I was surprised when I read this 'interview' (check maadi its worth reading). First I was shocked, then surprised but later on realized that this Newspaper has years of research and experience, it can't be wrong..and I used to think I am Alok Sharma.
Anyway Kalidaas once said:
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Shakuntala (143-420), Kaalidaas.
As this is not the Kalidaas era and Roses don't have to apply for passports; which I have to apply for very soon, I am left with lots of things to do, I have to get all my documents (like PAN Card, school/college records and certificates) reissued/corrected with my real name...I am just wondering if I am Ashok Sharma and Alok Sharma never existed, who is going to pay all the EMIs that Alok used to pay??? not me...right???
Keep Smiling and do read the interview.
Enjoy the song :
Friday, November 14, 2008
DISCLAIMER: This post belongs to my Bollywood Blog, but I wanted to share this one with all of you, so I decided to publish it here.
Prologue: Year was 1998 when I got my 1st Radio and started listening to Vividh Bharti. This was my first interaction with Hindi Film Music (more or less). I was so addicted to Vividh Bharti that I used to switch my radio on with their Morning Broadcast and turn it off only after they went off air around 11:05 pm everyday. No matter if I am solving an accountancy sum, drawing cartoons for local news papers or reading a comic book, Vividh Bharti was always there with me. While listening to these melodies I discovered many beautiful songs which were not only composed on same tunes but were very similar in the way they sounded yet they always sounded different and unique. This was way before I got introduced to FM Radio and much later worked with couple of FM Radio Channels myself.
Here I am going to talk about 5 different songs based on the same tune which was composed by Maestro S.D.Burman first time in the movie Naujawan in 1951. Have a look:
1. Thandi Hawaein Lehra Ke Aayein (Naujawan, 1951)-
Music :S.D.Burman, Lyrics: Sahir Ludhiyanvi, Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
One of the musical gems created by SDB & Sahir - One of the best Musical Teams in 50s Bollywood, sadly they parted ways after Pyaasa (1957) and never worked together.
2. Tera Dil Kahaan Hai (Chandni Chowk, 1954)-
Music: Roshan, Singer : Asha Bhosle, Lyrics: (Edit)
Roshan Sahab loved Thandi Hawayein song so much that he went to SDB and asked him if he can use the same tune with minor changes here and there in one of the films he was composing songs for, Sachin Da was so impressed with Roshan Sahab’s honesty and his love for music that he couldn’t say no to him (an anecdote I heard long back on Vividh Bharti) and Roshan Sahab created Tera Dil Kahaan Hai. The song wasn’t as successful as Thandi Hawayein.
3. Rahein Na Rahein Hum (Mamta, 1966)-
Music : Roshan Sahab, Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri, Singer: Lata Ji
Roshan Sahab created magic using the same tune for Mukhda (opening lines) for Rahein Na Rahein Hum in Mamta.
4. Humein Raaston Ki Zaroorat Nahin Hai (Naram Garam, 1981)-
Music : Rahul Dev Burman, Lyrics: Gulzar Sahab, Singer: Asha Bhosle
Year was 1981 and Pancham Da tried his hands on the same tune for the first time in Naram Garam, which was directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It was actually a sequel to Golmaal (1979), the film’s opening credits have a Golmaal Song too but the film failed to recreate the Golmaal magic on Box Office. Amol Palekar& Utpal Dutt play Ram Prasad and Bhawani Shankar respectively ALA Golmaal, Ram’s love interest Kusum was played by Miss India (1979) Swaroop Sampat who later on became Mrs. Paresh Rawal. Naram Garam was her second film I have always found her lips-syncs quite funny. Just like the film the song went almost unnoticed. But it has a striking resemblance to the Title track of Saagar.
PS. If you haven't seen Naram Garam...It's a must watch. Original DVDs available on T Series at Rs.45 only.
5.Saagar Kinare Dil Ye Pukare (Saagar, 1985)-
Music : R.D.Burman, Lyrics: Javed Akhtar, Singers: Kishore Kumar & Lata ji
Pancham Da recreated magic this time with the same tune (but for the first time as a Duet) in Saagar with some wonderful lyrics by Javed Sahab and soulful singing by Kishore Da & Lata ji. Kishore went on to win Best Playback Singer - Male for the song.
Hope this time I am not gonna get the Hate Messages I got after posting Pixar Posts. Keep Listening, keep humming, keep commenting...
Friday, November 7, 2008
Waise toh every Diwali is special but this one was special in other way. I was back from the hospital and on prescribed bed rest the whole day. Pune had an eternally long power cut that day (that means no DVDs...No movies). I was in no mood to read so the Khurafaati Khopdi that I am, planned to make some prank calls and surprise people whom I haven’t spoken to in ages.. Tried to sell credit cards, house loans, club memberships to most of the unsuspecting shikaars, posed as a psycho fan called all Kalakaar type old friends (to my delight none of them had my new no. and I was pretty successful in pester them all).
It was fun catching up with all the cartoonist friends with whom I started my cartooning career long back.…Diwali actually turned into a True Happy Diwali…Power cuts during bed rest aren’t that bad…are they??
Posting some of my old cartoons…and a pic (hope you can differentiate between the pic and cartoons)
Deewar Ka Don : Freelance Assignment from an Ad Agency (Nov.2005)
B'day Bash Cartoon: RadioCity 91.1 FM, Bangalore (July 2007)
PS. Listening to Requiem For A Dream soundtrack, brilliant music…awesome tracks by Clint Mansell.. I was listening to a track called- Winter: The Beginning Of The End, and was shocked to discover that the track Confidence (which used to be one of my most favorite instrumental tracks) from Johnny Gaddar was
copied...err.. I mean… plagiarized... I mean ‘inspired by’- Winter: The Beginning Of The End…
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Anyway here I am, back after almost 1 month. Meanwhile there were times when I had lots to share and wanted to publish a new post here but sometimes work and deadlines and sometimes my infamous laziness kept me away from my blog.
Mind is as agitated as it can/should be and with so many things going on at the same time and I don’t see it getting unruffled soon.
I celebrated my B’day on 11th October working till 11:30 on a Saturday.
Did my 1st paid Acting Gig for a Commercial on 12th October (it was a Glorified Extra Role for the Commercial of a Paani Tanki, but who cares as long as I get paid for it).
Had real fun working on some projects.
Saw couple of films. (disappointed by the story & Javed Jafferi’s over the top VOs in Roadside Romeo)
Made 2 quick trips to Mumbai.(Gonna write a Detailed post)
Contemplated & still Contemplating on many decisions (personal as well as professional).
Hospitalised on Chhoti Diwali ie. 27th but was discharged the same day by God’s grace celebrated Diwali at home with Family.
Got a huge no. of hate msgs and mails on posting Pixar stuff back to back.
Monday, October 6, 2008
This interview with Brad Bird was published in McKinsey Quarterly in April 2008. Bird is the two time Academy Award winner Animation film Director of Disney-Pixar's films The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatoullie (2007). He is writing and directing Pixar's live action film 1906 (slated to be released in 2009) based on1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
What does stimulating the creativity of animators have in common with developing new product ideas or technology breakthroughs? A lot.
Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, and Allen P. Webb
If there’s one thing successful innovators have shown over the years, it’s that great ideas come from unexpected places. Who could have predicted that bicycle mechanics would develop the airplane or that the US Department of Defense would give rise to a freewheeling communications platform like the Internet?
Senior executives looking for ideas about how to make their companies more innovative can also seek inspiration in surprising sources. Exhibit One: Brad Bird, Pixar’s two-time Oscar-winning director. Bird’s hands-on approach to fostering creativity among animators holds powerful lessons for any executive
hoping to nurture innovation in teams and organizations.
Bird joined Pixar in 2000, when the company was riding high following its release of the world’s first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story, and the subsequent hits A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2. Concerned about complacency, senior executives Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull, and John Lasseter asked Bird, whose body of work included The Iron Giant and The Simpsons, to join the company and shake things up. The veteran of Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, and FOX delivered—winning Academy Awards (best animated feature) for two groundbreaking movies, The Incredibles and Ratatouille.
Ten days before Ratatouille won its Oscar, we sat down with Bird at the Emeryville,
lack sheep”—restless contributors with unconventional ideas. Although stimulating the creativity of animators might seem very different from developing new product ideas or technology breakthroughs, Bird’s anecdotes should stir the imagination of innovation-minded executives in any industry.
The Quarterly: What attracted you to Pixar?
Brad Bird: One thing that was unbelievably different about this company was that they were worried about becoming complacent. When I came here, they had made three movies—Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2—that had all been big hits. I was coming off a film called The Iron Giant that was a highly regarded financial failure.
Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull, and John Lasseter said, in effect, “The only thing we’re afraid of is complacency—feeling like we have it all figured out. We want you to come shake things up. We will give you a good argument if we think what you’re doing doesn’t make sense, but if you can convince
us, we’ll do things a different way.” For a company that has had nothing but success to invite a guy who had just come off a failure and say, “Go ahead, mess with our heads, shake it up”—when do you run into that?
The Quarterly: How did your first project at Pixar—The Incredibles—shake things up?
Brad Bird: The Incredibles was everything that computer-generated animation had trouble doing. It had human characters, it had hair, it had water, it had fire, it had a massive number of sets. The creative heads were excited about the idea of the film, but once I showed story reels of exactly what I wanted, the technical teams turned white. They took one look and thought, “This will take ten years and cost $500 million. How are we possibly going to do this?”
So I said, “Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody’s listening to
. Give us all the guys who are probably headed
out the door.” A lot of them were malcontents because they saw different ways of doing things, but there was little opportunity to try them, since the established way was working very, very well.
We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here. For less money per minute than was spent on the previous film, Finding Nemo, we did a movie that had three times the number of sets and had everything that was hard to do. All this because the heads of Pixar gave us leave to try crazy ideas.
The Quarterly: What sorts of things did you do differently?
Brad Bird: There are purists in computer graphics who are brilliant but don’t have the urgency about budgets and scheduling that responsible filmmakers do. I had to shake the purist out of them—essentially frighten them into realizing I was ready to use quick and dirty “cheats” to get something on screen if they took too long to achieve it in the computer. I’d say, “Look, I don’t have to do the water through a computer simulation program. If we can’t get a program to work, I’m perfectly content to film a splash in a swimming pool and just composite the water in.” This absolutely horrified them. Or I’d say, “You can build a flying saucer, or you can take a pie plate and fling it across the screen. If the audience only sees the pie plate very briefly and you throw it just right, they will buy it as a flying saucer.”
I never did film the pool splash or throw the pie plate, but talking this way helped everyone understand that we didn’t have to make something that would work from every angle. Not all shots are created equal. Certain shots need to be perfect, others need to be very good, and there are some that only need to be good enough to not break the spell.
We also made superelaborate storyboards. We even emulated camera movement in them, so everyone knew that “We only need to make things work between here and there.” Once I was able to commit to the camera angles, we could be very specific about how we built things. Something would look beautiful from one position, but if you moved five feet to the right, the image would disintegrate. I gave up the flexibility to move within a set, but in exchange I bought size and scope.
The Quarterly: Do angry people—malcontents, in your words—make for better innovation? Can you be innovative and also happy?
Brad Bird: I would say that involved people make for better innovation. Passionate involvement can make you happy, sometimes, and miserable other times. You want people to be involved and engaged. Involved people can be quiet, loud, or anything in-between—what they have in common is a restless, probing nature: “I want to get to the problem. There’s something I want to do.” If you had thermal glasses, you could see heat coming off them.
The Quarterly: How important is team dynamics to innovation and creativity?
Brad Bird: Making a film, you have all these different departments, and what you’re trying to do is find a way to get them to put forth their creativity in a harmonious way. Otherwise, it’s like you have an orchestra where everybody’s playing their own music. Each individual piece might be beautiful, but together they’re crazy.
The Quarterly: How do you build and lead a team that collaborates in the way you’re describing?
Brad Bird: When I directed The Iron Giant, I inherited a team that was totally broken—a bunch of miserable people who had just gone through a horrific experience on a previous film that had bombed. When the time came for animators to start showing me their work, I got everybody in a room. This was different from what the previous guy had done; he had reviewed the work in private, generated notes, and sent them to the person.
For my reviews, I got a video projector and had an animator’s scenes projected onto a dry-erase board. I could freeze a frame and take a marker and show where I thought things should be versus where they were. I said, “Look, this is a young team. As individual animators, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, but if we can interconnect all our strengths, we are collectively the greatest animator on earth. So I want you guys to speak up and drop your drawers. We’re going to look at your scenes in front of everybody. Everyone will get humiliated and encouraged together. If there is a solution, I want everyone to hear the solution, so everyone adds it to their tool kit. I’m going to take my shot at what I think will improve a scene, but if you see something different, go ahead and disagree. I don’t know all the answers.”
So I started in: “I think the elbow needs to come up higher here so that we feel the thrust of this action.” “I’m not seeing the thought process on the character here.” “Does anybody disagree? Come on, speak up.” The room was silent because with the previous director, anyone who dared to say anything got their head chopped off.
For two months, I pushed and analyzed each person’s work in front of everybody. And they didn’t speak up. One day, I did my thing, and one of the guys sighed. I shouted, “What was that?” And he said, “Nothing man, it’s OK.” And I said, “No, you sighed. Clearly, you disagree with something I did there. Show me what you’re thinking. I might not have it right. You might. Show me.” So he came up, and I handed him the dry-erase marker. He erased what I did. Then he did something different and explained why he thought it ought to be that way. I said, “That’s better than what I did. Great.” Everybody saw that he didn’t get his head chopped off. And our learning curve went straight up. By the end of the film, that animation team was much stronger than at the beginning, because we had all learned from each other’s strengths. But it took two months for people to feel safe enough to speak up.
The Quarterly: How does your experience with that team compare with your work leading creative teams at Pixar?
Brad Bird: When Pixar asked me to take over Ratatouille, the project had been in development for five years but was not in any shape to produce as a movie. There was a moment, at the very beginning of my involvement, when I was in a room full of about 30 people. At this stage, the rats in the movie had been articulated. Articulation is where they design how the muscles and controls work on the characters. Because people were worried about the audience’s reaction to rats, all of them were designed to walk on two legs.
I thought that was a mistake. I knew it would be an expensive use of resources, at that point in the process, to rearticulate the rats, but I said, “We have to get them so that they walk on all fours. And Remy, the protagonist rat, has to be able to walk not only on all fours but up on two legs.” Everybody said, “Ugh!” because they had spent a year making the rats look good walking on two legs. If you simply took those models, bent them over, and put them on all fours, their hips didn’t work and things just looked wrong. They were designed to be upright.
One of the guys challenged me. He said, “I want to know why you’re doing this.” Now, I had gone into this film reluctantly. It’s not what I was looking to do after The Incredibles. And there was a part of me that wanted to say, “Because I’m the director, that’s why. Do you want to take this problematic thing over?”
But I stopped and thought for a second. I thought, these guys have been sent down blind alleys for a couple of years. They want to know that I’m not doing anything lightly and that if I’m going to make them do a bunch more work, it’s for a reason. So I said, “This movie is about a rat who wants to enter the human world. We have to make that a visual choice for the character. If you have all of the rats walking on two legs, there’s no separation between him and the other rats. If we have this separation as a visual device, we can see the character make his transformation and choose to be on two legs, and he can become more or less ratty, depending on his emotional state. That brings the audience into the character’s mind.”
I spent six minutes saying all this and the guy was initially scowling. But gradually the scowl went away, and he said, “OK.” Once I gave that answer, everyone felt, “OK, we’re on this ship and we’re going toward a definite destination.”
The Quarterly: It sounds like you spend a fair amount of time thinking about the morale of your teams.
Brad Bird: In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie’s budget—but never shows up in a budget—is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.
Before I got the chance to make films myself, I worked on a number of badly run productions and learned how not to make a film. I saw directors systematically restricting people’s input and ignoring any effort to bring up problems. As a result, people didn’t feel invested in their work, and their productivity went down. As their productivity fell, the number of hours of overtime would increase, and the film became a money pit.
The Quarterly: Engagement, morale—what else is critical for stimulating innovative thinking?
Brad Bird: The first step in achieving the impossible is believing that the impossible can be achieved. There was a point during the making of The Incredibles where we had a company meeting. We have them about twice a year, and anybody can bring up concerns. Somebody raised their hand and said, “Is The Incredibles too ambitious?” Ed Catmull said, “I don’t know” and looked over at me. I just said, “No! If there’s one studio that needs to be doing stuff that is ‘too ambitious,’ it’s this one. You guys have had nothing but success. What do you do with it? You don’t play it safe—you do something that scares you, that’s at the edge of your capabilities, where you might fail. That’s what gets you up in the morning.”
The Quarterly: If you ask most companies how they innovate, they’ll say, “Know your customer. Find out what your customer really wants you to do.” It sounds like you think about innovation differently.
Brad Bird: Our goal is different because if you say you’re making a movie for “them,” that automatically puts you on an unsteady footing. The implication is, you’re making it for a group that you are not a member of—and there is something very insincere in that. If you’re dealing with a storytelling medium, which is a mechanized means of producing and presenting a dream that you’re inviting people to share, you’d better believe your dream or else it’s going to come off as patronizing.
So my goal is to make a movie I want to see. If I do it sincerely enough and well enough—if I’m hard on myself and not completely off base, not completely different from the rest of humanity—other people will also get engaged and find the film entertaining.
The Quarterly: What does Pixar do to stimulate a creative culture?
Brad Bird: If you walk around downstairs in the animation area, you’ll see that it is unhinged. People are allowed to create whatever front to their office they want. One guy might build a front that’s like a Western town. Someone else might do something that looks like
Then there’s our building. Steve Jobs basically designed this building. In the center, he created this big atrium area, which seems initially like a waste of space. The reason he did it was that everybody goes off and works in their individual areas. People who work on software code are here, people who animate are there, and people who do designs are over there. Steve put the mailboxes, the meetings rooms, the cafeteria, and, most insidiously and brilliantly, the bathrooms in the center—which initially drove us crazy—so that you run into everybody during the course of a day. He realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen. So he made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company.
The Quarterly: Is there anything else you’d highlight that contributes to creativity around here?
Brad Bird: One thing Pixar does—which is a knockoff of old-school, Walt-era 1940s Disney—is to have all kinds of optional classes. They call it “PU,” or
The Quarterly: On the one hand, you are a leader here. On the other hand, you sound like a bit of a subversive. How do you do both things?
Brad Bird: I think the best leaders are somewhat subversive, because they see something a different way. And I’m not leading by myself. My producer, John Walker, and I are famous for fighting openly, because he’s got to get it done and I’ve got to make it as good as it can be before it gets done. If you look at the extra materials on The Incredibles DVD, there’s a moment where we’re fighting about something, and John says, “Look, I’m just trying to get us across the line.” And I say, “I’m trying to get us across the line in first place.”
I don’t want him to tell me, “Whatever you want, Brad,” and then we run out of resources. I want him to tell me, “If you do X, we’re not going to be able to do Y.” I’ll fight, but I’ll have to make the choice. I love working with John because he’ll give me the bad news straight to my face. Ultimately, we both win. If you ask within Pixar, we are known as being efficient. Our movies aren’t cheap, but the money gets on the screen because we’re open in our conflict. Nothing is hidden.
The Quarterly: We’ve been talking a lot about how you promote innovation. What undermines it?
Brad Bird: Passive-aggressive people—people who don’t show their colors in the group but then get behind the scenes and peck away—are poisonous. I can usually spot those people fairly soon and I weed them out.
The Quarterly: What kinds of leaders inhibit innovation?
Brad Bird: When I first started at Disney, the old master animators were slowly leaving, and there was an animator in his 40s starting to direct films there; management was sort of grooming him to take over animation at the studio. Anyway, he had taken over a film and had a bunch of us meet in his office. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, “I’m here to teach you. I’m satisfied with what I do.” In that opening statement, he lost me because I had already worked with the old Disney masters—and they were never satisfied.
It’s surreal to think about now, but my first real, formal teachers in animation were the best animators in the world. I’d started a film when I was 11, and a friend of the family knew the composer of the Disney films, who took me into the studio. I met a lot of the great old master animators. Their worst animation was 1,000 times better than this new director’s best, yet they would get to the end of a film and say, “I just started to feel like I was understanding the character, and I want to go back and do the whole thing over. Can’t wait for next time!” They were masters of the form, but they had the attitude of a student. This guy taking over the studio had only done a few pieces of pretty good animation, and he was totally satisfied. Could not have been less inspiring.
The Quarterly: How would you compare the Disney of your early career with Pixar today?
Brad Bird: When I entered Disney, it was like a classic Cadillac Phaeton that had been left out in the rain. It was this amazing machine that was beautiful but old and getting a little decrepit. Still, they had the best system on earth at that time. They had the best talent. The movies were still well executed, if uninspired.
But Disney at this time was pared down. They were making one film every three years rather than a film every year or year and a half, as they had at Disney’s height. Walt had been gone for more than a decade, and the old guys were leaving. The company’s thought process was not, “We have all this amazing machinery—how do we use it to make exciting things? We could go to Mars in this rocket ship!” It was, “We don’t understand Walt Disney at all. We don’t understand what he did. Let’s not screw it up. Let’s just preserve this rocket ship; going somewhere new in it might damage it.”
Walt Disney’s mantra was, “I don’t make movies to make money—I make money to make movies.” That’s a good way to sum up the difference between Disney at its height and Disney when it was lost. It’s also true of Pixar and a lot of other companies. It seems counterintuitive, but for imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can’t be the focus.
About the Authors
Hayagreeva Rao and Robert Sutton are both professors at
Text Courtesy: McKinsey Quarterly
Images Courtesy : Pixar