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SMart 2017: Pixar's Matthew Luhn to Provide Insights on Crafting Your Brand's Story


If you have responsibility for the story around your brand, 20-year veteran of Pixar Matthew Luhn can help take that story to the next level. Think about Pixar films like Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, or UP and you are witnessing Luhn at his craft — great storytelling. Luhn is a featured speaker at the upcoming IFDA Smart Conference in Chicago. In this article, we share some of Luhn’s thoughts about his career and more from an April 2017 interview with It’s a great story!

With more than 25 years of experience creating stories and characters at Pixar Animation Studios, The Simpsons, and beyond, Luhn is now sharing his insights as a consultant and speaker.

"I see myself now as a story prophet or something. I'm roaming the land, telling anybody that wants to hear about techniques of great story telling," says Luhn. Whether it's at a big brand company or with a movie director, Luhn says people are genuinely happy to learn how they can be better storytellers.

Luhn comes from an entrepreneurial family — they operate toy stores. "My dad wanted to be an animator. He didn't get to do that, so he put his love of animation on me."

By the end of high school, Luhn was dedicated to the idea and wanted to eventually work for the Walt Disney Company. He got into Cal Arts, the school Walt Disney created to train the next generation of animators. Luhn made a student film that was seen by a small animation company called The Simpsons and was offered a job for the third season of the show. He quit school at the age of 19.

"At this point, I'd reached my dad's goal; I was an animator," says Luhn. "Then I stumbled into the story room. As a team, they were writing a different episode every week. I fell in love with this. It was the story that really interested me. I thought there was no way they'd let me in, so I kept animating."

After that season, Luhn decided to return to school and created his second student film. The fledgling animation company Pixar saw the film and thought it funny. "They had a dream of making the first computer generated film. So I took the job as an animator on this movie that was sure to bomb," says Luhn. "Once again, the part that really interested me was the story. As an animator, you're given the script and the storyboards. I was drooling over that part. I would animate during the day, then I'd go into the story room after I was done animating and on the weekend I'd help the team with whatever they needed."

By Toy Story 2, Luhn was hired in the role of "story guy," and went on to work at Pixar for twenty years. "I realized that the reason why our films were great was not because of the animation necessarily, or the music, or the voices. The reason people kept coming back to Pixar films was the story."

As to life after Pixar, Luhn says that coming from a family that has owned businesses for generations, the idea of going off to work for a company was something that never thrilled him. While he describes his time at Pixar as "awesome," he says that even while there he was publishing books and speaking and teaching. The demand got high enough that he felt he needed to make a decision. "Do I consult for the BBC, Adidas, and Proctor and Gamble, or do I keep doing what I'm doing? It felt like it was a good time to try something new," says Luhn.

Now Luhn says he spends about half his time consulting with film companies. "The other half is helping companies with telling their story, improving their brand, and helping people be able to do a better job reaching their audience through creating relationships through great storytelling."

Join Matthew Luhn at the 2017 IFDA SMart Conference and find ways to improve the story of your brand! CLICK HERE for full conference information.

To read the full interview with Matthew Luhn at, click