It's not easy to take creative risks when there's so much at stake and so much to lose.

Take, for example, Pixar Animation Studios, known for its animated blockbusters that indeed are very expensive to make but have been met with critical acclaim and huge box-office success. But, how do you keep the spirit of taking risks alive in an environment like this? Such was the question posed by Lindsey Collins, VP of development at the studio, to the executive team some time ago as part of a broad conversation.

Out of this desire to innovate and challenge themselves, Pixar's SparkShorts program was born.

SparkShorts gives people within the Pixar community the opportunity to take creative risks that they are unable to take while working on a feature film. "There are people here who we've had our eye on and thought, what if we gave them a relatively small amount of money and put some incredibly talented and creative people around them, and have them work with little oversight, to see what they would make, what stories they would tell?" says Collins, who heads up the program. "Would we be surprised, and would it allow us to take some risks in a relatively safe way?"

[…]