Laika CEO Travis Knight On Taking Nerve-Racking Risks And Forging A Long-Term Relationship With Audiences

What did you learn in 2012 that you will carry forth with you into 2013?

"'It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.' That’s right. My most important 2012 executive lesson-learned is a tired, clichéd scrap of bumper sticker wisdom. As the son of a former middle-distance runner of some renown [Travis Knight's father is Nike founder Phil Knight], I should have that particular bromide scored into my DNA.

"From a pure domestic box office perspective, ParaNorman, our technically and artistically groundbreaking second film, will slightly underperform our first, the Academy Award-nominated Coraline. But while we want all of LAIKA's films to have a big impact and be experienced by as many people as possible, we recognize that ultimately we're engaged in a long-term process of forging relationships with audiences and building our unique brand of bold, distinctive, and enduring filmmaking. That’s not easy. And it takes time.

"But the other lesson I’ve learned is that in a world awash in sequels, remakes, and reboots, where old presents are rewrapped and offered up as new gifts, the best way to establish our brand is to continue to take nerve-racking risks with audacious original ideas. After all, the Great One said, 'You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.' Two sports-related platitudes in one paragraph? Nailed it."

On the year ahead:

"A principal struggle of many young companies is to establish an identity, a philosophical and emotional core, and LAIKA is no exception. Over eight years and two films we’ve grown, stumbled, evolved, and hopefully matured into a company with an idiosyncratic character and a brand synonymous with creativity and innovation, employing a bizarre fusion of art, craft, and technology in the service of stories no one else is stupid enough to tell. Our mission flies in the face of the prevailing orthodoxy, but when did conformity ever beget greatness? Admittedly, ours is not an easy path. But it’s exactly where we need to be.

"As we enter 2013 we’re clearer about who we are and what we stand for. Our ambition is to be the center of independent animation filmmaking; to be the bravest animation studio in the world. And our goal is to make thought-provoking and emotionally resonant films that touch and, in some infinitesimal way, shape the culture. At heart, the realization of those aspirations comes down to our people, the community we’ve nurtured. With our motley collection of artists, technicians, steely-eyed pragmatists and starry-eyed dreamers, and a renewed sense of identity, LAIKA’s future is boundless. And I can’t wait to see what we’ll become."

More Lessons for 2013 from some of today's most innovative business thought leaders here.
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Related content: The Knights' Tale: How Travis Knight and his father, Nike founder Phil Knight, made Laika the other family business and launched a feature-film studio.

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