Creativity 50 2015

Creativity 50 2015: Pete Docter

Director, Animator, Writer

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Pete Docter
Pete Docter Credit: Deborah Coleman/Pixar

No mixed emotions met the choice of Pete Docter for the Creativity 50. The director of "Monsters Inc." and "Up" delivered one of the funniest and most touching animated films in recent history with 2015's "Inside Out." Cited by many Hollywood critics as an Academy Awards Best Picture contender, it brilliantly brought to life the emotions within 11-year-old Riley.

The cleverness of depicting the often-warring Joy, Sadness, Joy and Disgust as entities who live in the mind of the child was a beautifully written stroke of genius that resonated with audiences around the world. The film took in $851 million in global box-office receipts, according to Box Office Mojo, but that was almost beside the point.

Bill Hader, who played Fear in the film, told The Washington Post that the Pixar director and writer "is very intuitive. He's not thinking 'This is something the kids will love and will get us giant weekend box office.' He is a real artist. He thinks 'This is what moves me.'" And "Inside Out" moved us all.

What's your definition of creativity?

Creativity is just putting things together in a way that surprises people. (To surprise someone does suggest they have taken an interest in what you're putting together, so I guess making that happen is part of the job too.) Then, the tricky part: how do you get creativity flowing? If I knew where the good ideas came from, I'd go there more often.

I will say that what feels like a great spark of inspiration is in fact often the result of a ton of reworking and editing.

What's your advice to anyone in a creative slump? How do you fight your creative demons?

Sometimes people call this "writer's block," but for me creative slumps feel more like someone laughed at my new haircut. It's more of a demoralizing force: I lose confidence, and all my ideas seem lousy. My approach to this is to power through and wrestle the good ideas out. This usually produces nothing. But it tells my brain that, dammit, this is important -- and the good ideas tend to come later when I'm not looking for them. I've tried skipping the "banging my head against the wall" part of this routine, but unfortunately it seems to be mandatory.

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