Darla Anderson never knew her father, and her mother died in a car wreck when Darla was 13.
Darla was on her own by 14.
She graduated high school, moved
on to community college and earned a
degree at San Diego State University.
She also produced five of the highest-grossing, family-friendly animated films:
• “A Bug’s Life” ($363 million)
• “Monsters Inc.” ($577 million)
• “Cars” ($706 million)
• “Toy Story 3” ($1.06 billion)
• “Coco” ($807 million)
How did Darla get from then to now?
A few principles guided her:
1. Have a big, purposeful goal.
Darla long ago decided that life
ought to be meaningful. As long as
she can remember, her dream has
been to make art that would change
the world. She views every opportunity and decision through that lens.
She quickly discards options that will
take her in a different direction.
2. Go for it. The sadness of her moth-
er’s death haunts Darla, but realizing
how short life is taught her she might
as well go for it, whatever “it” is. That
principle leads to other corollaries:
Don’t play it safe; live an adventurous
life; be persistent. No wonder she
spent two years trying to land a job at
Pixar, the studio behind the successful
films. Darla never considered giving
up. She assumed all the rejection
letters she received from Pixar “were
3. Recognize setbacks can be
gifts. After joining Pixar, Darla
sought even a minor role on “Toy
Story,” the first full-length, computer-generated animated feature film. The
company had other ideas. Instead of
a small role on “Toy Story,” the company asked her to produce 30-second,
animated commercials for Pixar
clients. What seemed like a consolation prize became a training ground.
Instead of being a small cog in the
big “Toy Story” wheel, Darla learned to
organize a film project from the start
to the finish — directing the creative,
managing the budget, setting goals,
organizing the team. As a result, she
earned a major part in the studio’s
next film, “A Bug’s Life.”
4. Be humble. When Pixar assigned
Darla to “A Bug’s Life,” her initial role —
associate producer — was one step
down from the producer title she
coveted. The company said she didn’t
have enough experience for the bigger job. After a day or so of reflection,
Darla realized they were right. Instead
of complaining, she went to work.
A few months later, the company
named her the movie’s producer.
Has Darla met her goal of creating art
that would change the world?
Now you know how she did it.
From Then to Now
Thoughts and Observations
From the Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
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