Heartened by the failures of great people

That may sound mean-spirited. I don’t intend it that way. There’s just something wonderfully uplifting about successful people’s failures. Here’s my latest example.

I had the great good fortune to get a tour of the Pixar campus (thanks Jonathan!!) and a handy synopsis of Pixar’s history, which was all news to me. (Errors and omissions are mine.)

It seems Pixar began as a little nugget of joy inside Lucasfilm. George Lucas didn’t see a future in CG animation (FAILURE #1) and sold the tech to Steve Jobs, who’d recently been fired from Apple (FAILURE #2). Jobs ran the company the way he knew how, which was as a maker of hardware (FAILURE #3). The hardware didn’t sell (FAILURE #4) but Pixar developed a relationship with Disney, who helped fund Toy Story. (COUGH, HUGE SUCCESS.) Disney looked at that success and decided that the reason adults in particular enjoyed Toy Story so much was…3D animation. (FAILURE #5.) They tried to recreate what they perceived as the formula for success in [insert your least favorite CG Disney garbage here, or if you can’t think of anything, I’ll suggest The Polar Express].

Cue gleeful cackling and the rubbing together of palms.

Granted, it’s easy to look back and roll your eyes at all the mistakes. Obviously Pixar movies are great because of the great stories (though as Jonathan pointed out, it helps that they don’t look like crap). I’m no cheerleader for Lucas or Jobs, but I do respect their successes, and I love them for their failures. [Insert some blah blah blah here about success springing from persistence and resilience if you feel you need to point that out.] I think it’s also worth noting that Disney was smart enough to buy Pixar and then pretty much leave them to do their thing the way they know how.

Here’s a photo of some dork with a unicorn!


POSTSCRIPT: I consider it a small personal failure that I didn’t have the nerve to bust  Jonathan up with “Hey, can we see the Minions?”


Eight stories for EI8HT, continued


My favorite uncle opened a spa. He claimed that with his specialists’ help you could taste an ultimate pleasure drowning in his oxygen-rich tanks. There you lay in a glass coffin filled with translucent green fluid. A transmitter or something beeped out a pitiful orchestra; then these 20,000-volt cables swung down out of thin air to turn all the electricity green. I knew sooner or later he’d ruin that tank and its beautiful electricity-singing liquid. His slight lisp and the atmosphere of amoral characters and their enigmatic activities which permeated his office did not discourage his success in the slightest.

My favorite aunt breezes down the highway in her Audi TT. Little and blithe and pink, she’s returned from spinning her lipstick on snowy slopes; now she’s on a collision course with the tanks of green, and who can blame her? Those boys in huge fur coats? Those girls with very little on underneath? No. Relentlessly toward the spa she drives smug and perky—now plunging through the guardrail, off the overpass, through the roof of Uncle’s spa, into that tank of singing green. Later we dip hot perfumed water from the still-entitled wreckage of her silky body, once swaddled in furs, now no longer perky, driven to ruin by shabby passengers.

My uncle’s reign of fey symphonies shudders to a wild resolution. Accordingly, he leaves off his crackling compositions, his Q4 business plan, to preside over legions of such beautiful angels. I can see him now: rolling inexorably toward some uncertain but doomed conclusion.

Stagger to the kitchen, he says, and get me the gasoline.