W5 Assignment BA420

W5 Assignment “Disney Animation – John

Animation – John Lasseter

case focuses on John Lasseter, who currently is the creative head of Disney
Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, both of which are owned by The Walt
Disney Company. The case chronicles Lasseter’s interests in animation from a
young age, the relationship he developed with the Disney organization, his
developing interest in computer-animation and consequent demise at Disney
Studios, his subsequent award-winning success with computer animation at Pixar
Studios, and his recent ascension to creative head of Disney’s Animation Studio
as part of the Pixar-Disney merger.

case provides a marvelous illustration of the many types of interpersonal power
¾ reward, coercive, legitimate, referent, and expert that exist within an
organization. The case also shows how power can be used to promote the
well-being of the organization and its members or to benefit specific people’s
interests at the expense of others’ interests. Herein, the two faces of
power  positive and negative come into play. Another linkage between
the chapter material and the case occurs in the form of concerns about the
ethical versus unethical use of power. Finally, the case can be used to explore
the concepts of organizational politics and political behavior in
organizations. Organizational politics often has a negative connotation, and
some of the case facts lend themselves to reinforcing this negative

Power and Politics in the Fall and Rise of John Lasseter

Lasseter grew up in a family heavily involved in artistic expression. Lasseter
was drawn to cartoons as a youngster. As a freshman in high school he read a
book entitled The Art of Animation. The book, about the making of the Disney
animated film Sleeping Beauty, proved to be a revelation for Lasseter. He
discovered that people could earn a living by developing cartoons. He started
writing letters to The Walt Disney Company Studios regarding his interest in
creating cartoons. Studio representatives, who corresponded with Lasseter many
times, told him to get a great art education, after which they would teach him

Disney started a Character Animation Program at the California Institute of
Arts film school, Lasseter enrolled in the program after encouragement from the
studio. Classes were taught by extremely talented Disney animators who also
shared stories about working with Walt Disney himself. During summer breaks,
jobs at Disneyland further fueled Lasseter’s passion for working as an animator
for Disney Studios. Full of excitement, Lasseter joined the Disney animation staff
in 1979 after graduation. However, he soon met with disappointment.

to Lasseter, “[t]he animation studio wasn’t being run by these great Disney
artists like our teachers at Cal Arts, but by lesser artists and businesspeople
who rose through attrition as the grand old men retired.” Lasseter was told,
“[y]ou put in your time for 20 years and do what you’re told, and then you can
be in charge.” Lasseter continues, “I didn’t realize it then, but I was
beginning to be perceived as a loose cannon. All I was trying to do was make
things great, but I was beginning to make some enemies.”

the early 1980s, Lasseter became enthralled with the potential of using
computer graphics technology for animation but found little interest among
Disney Studio executives for the concept. Nonetheless, a young Disney
executive, Tom Willhite, eventually allowed Lasseter and a colleague to develop
a thirty-second test film that combined “hand-drawn, two-dimensional
Disney-style character animation with three-dimensional computer-generated
backgrounds.” Lasseter found a story that would fit the test and could be
developed into a full movie. When Lasseter presented the test clip and
feature-length movie idea to the Disney Studio head, the only question the
studio head asked was about the cost of production. Lasseter told him the cost
of production with computer animation would be about the same as a regular
animated feature. The studio head informed Lasseter, “I’m only interested in
computer animation if it saves money or time.”

subsequently discovered that his idea was doomed before he ever presented it.
Says Lasseter, “[w]e found out later that others poked holes in my idea before
I had even pitched it. In our enthusiasm, we had gone around some of my direct
superiors, and I didn’t realize how much of an enemy I had made of one of them.
I mean, the studio head had made up his mind before we walked in. We could have
shown him anything and he would have said the same thing.” Shortly after the
studio head left the room, Lasseter received a call from the superior who
didn’t like him, informing Lasseter that his employment at Disney was being
terminated immediately.

being fired, Lasseter did not speak negatively of the Disney organization, nor
did he let others know anything other than the project on which he was working
had ended. His personal admiration and respect for Walt Disney and animation
were too great to allow him to do so.

was recruited to Lucasfilm by Ed Catmull to work on a project that “turned out
to be the very first character-animation cartoon done with a computer.” Not too
long afterwards, Steve Jobs bought the animation business from George Lucas for
$10 million and Pixar Animation Studios was born. Lasseter became the chief
creative genius behind Pixar’s subsequent animated feature film successes like
Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, and The Incredibles, among others.

2006, Disney CEO Robert Iger and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs consummated a deal for
Pixar to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney. Iger points out that, in
making the Pixar acquisition, Disney wanted to protect Pixar’s culture while
giving it “a much broader canvas to paint on.” Instead of Disney absorbing
Pixar into its culture, Iger gave Pixar executives “Ed Catmull and John
Lasseter control of Disney’s animation operations, with the mission to get the
old studio’s computer-generated efforts up to par.”

wanted to reinvigorate animation at Disney, and as the top creative executive at
Pixar, John Lasseter was viewed a key figure in achieving this objective.
Lasseter “is regarded by Hollywood executives as the modern Walt [Disney]
himself [with capabilities] ¼ that have made Pixar a sure thing in the high
stakes animated world.” Former Disney Studios head, Peter Schneider, says
Lasseter “is a kid who has never grown up and continues to show the wonder and
joy that you need in this business.” Current Disney Studio chief, Dick Cook,
says that Lasseter is like the famous professional basketball player, Michael
Jordan. “He makes all the players around him better.”

to Iger, “[t]here’s no question that animation is a great wavemaker for the
company. We believe we have a very vibrant creative engine there, mostly driven
by Pixar, and we hope that Disney Animation will once again experience glory
days too. We believe we’re on the right track.” Cook notes that Disney was the
king of animation for a decade from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Cook
continues, “[b]ut I think the biggest challenge in any mature organization is
how do you continue to evolve and press the edges of the envelope, and I think
it’s fair to say we stopped doing that.” He also observes that getting Catmull
and Lasseter “was like a giant shot of adrenaline to the system.”

now oversees development of movies at both Pixar’s and Disney’s animation
studios. Says Lasseter, “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have all these
new roles. I do what I do in life because of Walt Disney—his films and his
theme park and his characters and his joy in entertaining. The emotional
feeling that his creations gave me is something that I want to turn around and
give to others.”

a doubt, Lasseter is realizing his dream, and very successfully to boot. Bolt,
a recent production of Disney Animation Studios, received a Golden globe
nomination in late 2008 for best animated feature film. And Wall-E, a Pixar
Studios production, was nominated for the same award as well. Jennie Yabroof, a
reporter for Newsweek, writes that “Lasseter himself has played perhaps the
biggest role in the elevation of the lowly cartoon” to the animated feature

influence at Disney extends well beyond the animation studios. The
reconstitution of the Disney theme parks’ submarine ride is a great example.
Refurbished as a take-off on the animated film Finding Nemo, “the ride
resurfaced with whiz-bang video and audio effects that allow the animated sea
creatures from Finding Nemo to seemingly swim and talk in the water.”
“Disneyland’s Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is emblematic of Disney’s efforts
to keep its parks relevant in a digital age.” Two other projects, based on the
hit movies Cars and Bolt, would not have been possible without Lasseter and his
Pixar colleagues’ hands-on input, says Bob Iger.

a professional journey. Being fired by Disney Animation Studios for trying to
be too creative, then ultimately becoming the chief creative animation genius
for both Disney and Pixar!

case was written by Michael K. McCuddy, The Louis S. and Mary L. Morgal Chair
of Christian Business Ethics and Professor of Management, College of Business
Administration, Valparaiso University.

Write a 2-3 page paper.  In your
paper answer the following with concepts from the reading:

What forms of interpersonal power are evident in the case and why?

In what ways do the two faces of power appear in this case? Please
explain your answer.

Does the firing of John Lasseter from Disney Studios and the
events leading up to his firing demonstrate the ethical use of power? Explain
your answer.

Did the firing of John Lasseter indicate the existence of
political behavior in the Disney organization? Why or why not?

Describe a situation, from your experience, where political
behavior in an organization contributed to benefit or detriment to you or
someone else.

a title page and 3-5 references.  Only one reference may be from
the internet (not Wikipedia). The other references must be from
the Grantham University online library.  Please adhere to the Publication
Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), (6th ed., 2nd
printing) when writing and submitting assignments and papers. 

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