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As Walt Disney once said: "I think it's important to have a good, hard failure"

As Walt Disney once said: "I think it's important to have a good, hard failure"

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If you're a fan of Pixar Animation Studios (and I'll admit I am) you're probably familiar with the evolution of their first animated feature. A little film called "Toy Story."

You see, the motion picture concept the boys from up north showed Disney back in the 1990s was hardly greeted with warm enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, some Disney executives wanted the movie shut down. Confronted by this dire situation, the Pixar brain trust decided to regroup and rethink the entire movie. What they eventually came up with was an animated classic that was destined to change animation forever.

The initial Disney screening of Toy Story didn't exactly delight the executives

The lesson we should learn from this serious situation is that we're often our most creative when we're backed against the wall. When we, as filmmakers, have totally screwed up and have nothing to lose. Oddly enough, it's times like this when we do our finest work. It provided success for Pixar, and it can provide opportunities for you as well.

Some years ago, when I was a young film producer our team reluctantly delivered a finished film to one of our valued clients. Let's just say our motion picture failed to meet expectations, and we were about to be booted out on our butts. Instead of making excuses, we decided instead to tell our client how we might improve the movie with some rewriting and reshooting. I wouldn't have blamed the client had he fired us on the spot. Instead, he listened to our ideas and inquired how much more time and money would it take to rework the movie? We asked for a little more cash and a month to turn the film around. We were going out on a limb. But it was the only limb we had.

When you've already screwed up you've got nothing to lose. I honestly think this made our entire team more creative. We scrambled into high gear and began to rewrite the script. New scenes would have to be reshot, and a few hundred feet of animation would have to be produced. Plus, all this would have to be accomplished in under a month's time. I remember meeting for breakfast at a Hollywood coffee shop on the corner of Sunset and LaBrea where new scenes were written over breakfast. We shot on several locations around town including the front of Hanna-Barbera's animation facility on Cahuenga Boulevard. Luckily, they had no idea what we were doing.

Our film was a mess and had to be rewritten in a Hollywood coffee shop.
Luckily, we had nothing to lose

Since animation sequences had to be produced quickly and cheaply we bypassed the inking and Xerox process and drew directly on sheets of acetate with grease pencils. We had no choice but to be creative and innovative in order to meet the impossible deadline. Our production process was chaotic yet decisive. We pushed ourselves because we had no recourse. It was make or break. Do or die. And the great part about all this is we had nothing to lose. The worst had already happened. We had already made a movie that sucked. Perhaps now we could actually make a good one.

I guess the lesson in all this is take advantage of failure. It's often the very thing that forces you to be creative. Having once failed, risks don't seem all that big of a deal. You've already blown it so why not push yourself to do the unthinkable? Why not take the crazy risk? Who knows what might come out of it?

Pixar Animation Studios stumbled badly back in the 1990s. Yet, they recovered and went back to work. Of course, it must have been a time of pressure and pain but look what it produced. Sometimes it appears we're about to lose everything. Yet, more often than not - that's when we do our best work. And, by the way. Our rewritten movie turned out pretty good as well.

If -- at first -- you don't succeed ...

Did you enjoy today's stories from Floyd Norman? Who seemed to challenging for his old boss, Walt Disney. Who is famous for once having said: I think it's important to have a good hard failure when you're young. I learned a lot out of that.

Well, if you'd like to learn more about the many amazing & amusing adventures that this Disney Legend has had during the 40+ years that he's worked in the animation industry, then you definitely want to check out some of the books which Mr. Norman has written.

Floyd's most recent effort - "'Disk Drive: Animated Humor in the Digital Age" - is available for purchase through blurb.com. While Mr. Norman's original collection of cartoons and stories -- "Faster! Cheaper! The Flip Side of the Art of Animation" - is still for sale over at John Cawley's Cataroo. And if you still haven't had your fill of Floyd, feel free to move on over to Mr. Fun. Which is where Mr. Norman posts his musings when he's not writing for JHM.

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  • This story really made me smile. I'm happy you shared it.

    Failure is an awesome tool for inspiration, you just have to look at it the right way. It also helps steering away from mediocrity, giving us fuel to shoot past it.

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