This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Creativity, Inc." by Ed Catmull. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Where did Ed Catmull get his education? How did Ed Catmull’s education help him in his role at Pixar?
For Ed Catmull, education was drawn from two main sources of inspiration. Albert Einstein, and Walt. Fostering these interests means he was able to learn about problem solving from Einstein and creativity from Disney.
Read more about Ed Catmull, his education, and childhood interests.
Ed Catmull: Education
As a child, Catmull was fascinated with the work of two men: Walt Disney and Albert Einstein:
- Catmull loved Walt Disney because he created worlds and ideas that had never existed before. He watched The Wonderful World of Disney broadcast every week and fell in love with animation as an art form. Though the characters were hand-drawn, they came across as fleshed-out characters with thoughts and opinions. Disney Animation Studios was at the forefront of the animation industry and constantly developed new methods and techniques of animation that inspired Catmull.
- Catmull loved Albert Einstein because he created explanations for existing phenomena. He read Einstein’s many biographies and researched his theories. He saw Einstein as an expert puzzle-solver and loved how he used existing technology to create new and exciting perspectives on the universe.
Catmull’s appreciation of these two iconic figures eventually led him down the path of computer animation. At first, he studied the animation stylings of Disney Animation Studios and tried to hone his skills. However, after studying the form for some time, he realized that he’d never been talented enough to work at Disney as a traditional animator. This sparked his desire to find an alternative way to create characters and build worlds (much like Einstein had tried to find different ways to approach challenging and unexplained topics).
University of Utah
Catmull graduated from the University of Utah (U of U) with undergraduate degrees in physics and computer science. When looking at graduate programs, he met Ivan Sutherland, a pioneer in computer graphics, who convinced Catmull to study the field under him at U of U. Catmull’s colleagues became some of the leading figures in the computer industry. In fact, their efforts at U of U created a resource called “ARPANET” that would eventually develop into the internet.
While in U of U’s graduate program he learned how to work with highly creative and highly intelligent people. His professors gave him and his colleagues the freedom and resources to create whatever they wanted. They created forerunners to Photoshop, Netscape, PDFs, and user interfaces.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Creativity, Inc. summary :
- How Pixar went from selling computers to successful animation studio
- What it takes to build a creative workplace culture
- Why George Lucas sold Pixar to Steve Jobs