In her inaugural address at the 21st edition of Animation Masters Summit organized by Toonz Animation Group, Anuradha Aggarwal, Head of Infotainment and Kids, Star India, spoke about the magic of Disney and why creativity matters the most
My family loves to watch movies together, it’s our time together. And we are animation fans, we really want to re-watch a lot of our old favorites. And this has given us the time to select Friday night, Saturday night movie together, bring on the popcorn, and enjoy old classics like the old Lion King and compare it to the new one. Watch the old Pixar Toy Story and remember the first time that we saw them, try and remember all the stories that hadn’t been seen. And of course, we’ve seen the new Mandalorian and you know bit about whether it fits into the large storytelling of all the Star Wars that people seen again and again. I’ve been watching all these stories and all these movies and loving them. But, I’ve been on the other side, and I know the process that goes behind creating a successful story.
MEMORIES IN MAKING
So, the actual animation, of course, is a very, very important part of storytelling, I believe there are other elements that come together in making a story lovable, timeless, and something that viewers will keep in their mind and hearts for a very long time. And I think these elements need to be appreciated, and acknowledged, and who best to do it with the audience, who is part of creating some of these amazing, wonderful pieces of storytelling. So I thought I’d like to discuss with you, share with you how Disney successfully fosters creativity, and how it’s been doing it over the years. And what I’ve learned are the key elements of bringing stories that people love, and people embrace across the world. So one of the key when the first and foremost thing I’ll say is people. Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar, very rightly said, “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, that’s good. If you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they’ll make it work.”
It has to be talent and not just good ideas. Because when you take big risks, they’re the ones who help you recover. Talent matters. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s not about hiring the best people. It’s about nurturing them and their creativity. It’s about supporting them. And you know, a lot of creativity at Disney is teamwork. People think of creativity as some mysterious solo act, but we believe that creativity involves a large number of people from multiple disciplines working effectively together. Because you cannot create the magic that Disney creates on the back of one person’s idea. It has to be a very large set of creative people, the best creative people working together in an environment that nurtures their creativity, trust them and respect the relationships that people develop amongst each other. And such a relationship and such an environment is what unleashes everyone’s creativity. The result is a vibrant community where talented people are loyal to one another. And of course, believe that they’re part of something extraordinary. And that’s something that creates extraordinary results.
The second thing I would say, is technology. In today’s world, I wouldn’t be able to do this without technology and a lot of you have realized the value of the technology, staying at home and working from home and actually producing really great results from home or remotely from where you are. Did you know that not a single Disney or Pixar movie is made with the same exact technology that was used in the last film? That’s the power of Walt Disney’s vision because he himself was firm believer in the evolution of technology. I mean, he knew that technology and art blend together to make magic happen. I mean, he did the first sound and animation, the first color, the first compositing of animation with live action, and the first applications of xerography and animal production. We continue to believe in this swirling interplay of art and technology.
I think we are constantly trying to produce breakthroughs and push the technological boundaries of animation, I would encourage you to do the same. Young people today are creating so much fantastic content. And if they apply their creativity, using new age technology, I think the sky’s the limit. So we have to embrace technology in today’s world to create real breakthroughs in storytelling. The third thing that I would like to mention is something that goes for everything that we do in life.
GOD IS IN DETAIL
For creating something extraordinary and timeless, I would say, quality and detail is a very, very important part of creating great stories. I mean, any piece of content, whether it’s a series or a movie, contains literally thousands of ideas. I mean, in every sentence, in the performance of every line, in the set design, the character, the background, the clothing, the end environment, the location, because the lighting, the pacing, everything can be done in 1000 different ways. And in every little aspect, Disney handles this with utmost care and clarity. Truly, the God is in the details. I mean one doesn’t take precedence over the other and one element will not be compromised for the sake of the other because we believe creativity must be present at every level in everything that we do.
ARTIST & TECHNICIAN
And every artist is a technician and every technician is an artist and must perform and deliver at the highest level of their art. Every content base at Disney is in development for like three or four years before we even decide to release it. We plan every element from storytelling, character development, technology design, every minute aspects go through a lot of detailed thinking and planning before it goes to even the final draft. And I would encourage all young people to adopt this eye for detail, and encourage the people you are training or the people who are working with you to make sure that you work with this highest standard or benchmark of quality. And when it all comes together, I mean, it would create magic, as I believe Disney has been creating for many, many years before us. And of course, I wouldn’t be here telling you the story if we don’t believe that. But what we also believe in, is what we call the Disney difference.
Every story we narrate with the timeless classic or a very relevant story in today’s world has a heart. And you may have heard me say this or we have heard earlier Disney spokespeople talk about it. The stories with a heart basically mean that everything that we do is heartwarming and everlasting, meaningful and formed emotional connections with our audiences from two to eight years. Our stories have continued to represent the present and inspire universally positive values. They continue to inspire people, they are relatable, but they push the boundaries of imagination in a manner that, that they stay timeless for a really long time.
So you can watch a Lion King, the first time when you’re a child and 20 years later in a different form, and still feel the tug. And Simba is born. And to the end, when he takes on as a kid. The emotional values are still the same. You know, who thought we would see the world through the eyes of bird toy, Toy Story, and fall in love with the story of talking animals in Zootopia. Even what we’ve done in India with using food as an analogy for friendships and relationships with our storytelling of simple samosa tells us that, it’s the stories that matter and characters which touch people’s hearts and when we get the right characters, the right stories, the ones which have a really deep emotional connection with the viewer. Those are the stories that are successful and they’re the ones which last for very long. And whether it’s the struggle of an everyday of a boy and everyday struggle of running to catch the bus, or it is about, a child who’s trying to keep up with other kids. The stories are real and very relatable.
Today when we think about it, the possibilities of creativity through stories are endless. And, there are no boundaries in today’s world. You can find inspiration from the art and craft of India. You can find it in comics, you can find it in anime, or you can find it in timeless graphic novels from the past. There are so many stories that we have access to. There are so many inspirations that we have access to. The potential is limitless. We’ve seen characters evolve and animation come alive through live action and new technology. We’ve seen stories that can be experienced through products, through Broadway, and at Disneyland. But you know, we haven’t lost sight of the key points that we’re speaking about. And the biggest one is every Disney experience is an experience with a heart. So this has helped us retain our creativity, our magic, and, you know, it’s helped me come here with conviction that more people adopting all of these points that I spoke about will lead to more magic being created together.