Less is more, according to Steve Jobs.
The late Apple mogul was definitely in the minimalist camp. The products he helped create at Apple are often some of the simplest and sleekest designs to ever hit the market — and there’s perhaps a reason for that.
When Jobs left his role at Apple in 1985, the former Apple CEO acquired Pixar from Lucasfilm for $5 million. Over the course of two decades, Jobs and Pixar created a computer-generated cartoon empire that includes notable franchises like “Toy Story,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” and many more. In 2006, Disney acquired Pixar for a whopping $7.4 billion and it’s become one of the driving forces behind Disney’s product today.
Jobs, who died at age 56 in 2011, may have refined what Apple does today, but he also had an immense impact on one director.
Director Brad Bird recalled a story about the 2004 movie “The Incredibles,” where he met several times with Jobs at the time to talk about merchandise decision making. Jobs stayed true to the Apple mantra than with four words: “few things, better things.”
Speaking to “Training Day” filmmaker Antoine Fuqua during a panel at TheWrap’s virtual edition of TheGrill, Bird said that the advice Jobs shared with him nearly two decades ago could be something movie theater owners should listen to during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left many shuttered due to occupancy limits and social distancing measures in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We were talking about merchandising and he said, ‘Fewer things, better things,’ and he was dead on,” Bird said earlier this week. “The studios’ focus has always been about the number of screens and not the quality of screens. On opening day, it’s possible to see a $300 million movie on the terrible, Coke-stained five-foot screen with 10 seats, and you should not be able to see a big movie on its opening in those kinds of conditions.”
As Cult of Mac keenly pointed out, Jobs’ focus on fewer things is something he believed in fully and exhibited at Apple:
When he came back to Apple in the late 1990s, Jobs stopped work on many Apple products. In their place, he created a trimmed-down version of Apple’s product lines with the focus being on a few high quality products. Jobs reportedly loved saying “no” to ideas in order to maintain focus, a trait his successor Tim Cook has continued to follow.
Jobs also frequently gave the “few things done well” advice to other entrepreneurs he liked. When Nike CEO Mark Parker called Jobs looking for advice in 2006, Jobs told him that: “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
Bird said that Jobs was frustrated by how Apple’s products were being sold at stores, which hurt the buying experience for consumers.
“He wanted to control how people see his stuff. We’ve got to make going to theaters an enticing experience. We need to separate it from the home and we can’t let people think when they go, ‘My home sounds better than this.’ That should be impossible,” Bird said.
As major film companies and theaters juggle ways to make viewing experiences possible during COVID-19, Bird said it is vital to give viewers the most of a movie experience as possible, despite companies pivoting to at-home experiences and retro car viewings in order for viewers to enjoy new movies.
“We have to look at all the angles of the movie experience, from the theater to the sound to the options we present to them to see a film,” Bird said. “There is nothing like a movie experience. It’s a shared place where we discover that we have the same sense of morals and things that make us laugh. We have to protect that. It’s a contract…it’s spiritual.”