Focus on the demographic? Or “…allow creative imagination its freedom…”?

I read the following in today’s Toast Travels newsletter. An excellent reminder to artists and entrepreneurs everywhere!

“On Radio 4’s Front Row earlier this week Andrew Stanton, the film-maker behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo and other such Pixar wonders, was asked by Mark Lawson whether the opening scene of WALL-E was too bleak and frightening for a film aimed at younger children. Lawson had barely finished his question before Stanton shot him down for making the ‘fundamentally wrong’ assumption that his films were made with any particular demographic group in mind. Why would that even be necessary? He continued ‘I never thought the Beatles were trying to guess my demographic, I never thought Picasso was trying to test who the audience might be?’ After several minutes in this vein, it was clear: Andrew Stanton’s only priority is to make films that he believes are good, regardless of what others might think. He has absolute faith that if they are good enough, the rest will follow.

This is refreshing. The world is all too full of research into “customer bases”, focus groups, talk of target demographics. So much better to allow the creative imagination its freedom, link that flight to a drive to produce something really good – and trust that quality will find its own constituency (or, if you must, market). In a world full of commercial pressure and seemingly set (and unimaginative) paths to success it’s so easy to deviate from such single-minded purpose. There’s a sort of gravity, as enterprises find success and expand, that pulls creativity towards mediocrity, risk towards security. This must be resisted!”


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