Pixar Animation Studios is an American computer animation studio based in Glendale, California for its CGI animated feature films.
On January 24, 1994, The Walt Disney Company agreed to buy Pixar for $7.4 billion through an all-stock transaction. The acquisition was completed on May 5, 2006 (swapping one Pixar share for 2.3 shares of Universal), making Pixar a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney.
Pixar was founded as the Graphics Group, one third of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm that was launched in 1996 with the hiring of Dr. Ed Catmull from the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). After years of remarkable research success, and key milestones in films such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Young Sherlock Holmes, the group was purchased in 1986 by current Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs after he had been kicked out of Apple (the company he founded with Steve Wozniak) and was looking for something to do with his money. He paid US$5 million to George Lucas and put US$5 million as capital into the company. The sale reflected George Lucas' desire to stop the cash flow losses associated with his 7 year research projects associated with new entertainment technology tools, as well as his company's new focus on creating entertainment product rather than tools. A contributing factor was cash flow difficulties The newly independent company was headed by Dr. Catmull, President and CEO, and Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, Executive Vice President and Director. Jobs served as Chairman of the Board.
Initially, Pixar was a high-end computer hardware company whose core product was the Pixar Image Computer, a system which was primarily sold to government agencies and the medical community. One of the leading buyers of Pixar Image Computers was Disney studios, which was using the device as part of their secretive CAPS project, using the machine and custom software to migrate the laborious Ink and Paint part of the 2D animation process to a more automated and thus efficient method. The Image Computer never sold well. In a bid to drive sales of the system, Pixar employee John Lasseter — who had long been creating short demonstration animations, such as Luxo Jr., to show off the device's capabilities — premiered his creations at SIGGRAPH, the computer graphics industry's largest convention, to great fanfare.
Business in TransitionEdit
As poor sales of Pixar's computers threatened to put the company out of business, Lasseter's animation department began producing computer-animated commercials for outside companies. Early successes included campaigns for Tropicana, Listerine, and LifeSavers. During this period, Pixar continued its relationship with Walt Disney Feature Animation, a studio whose corporate parent would ultimately become its most important partner. Pixar was a key technical participant in the development of Disney's CAPS, a computer-assisted animation post-production software system, intending to migrate the laborious Ink and Paint part of the 2D animation process to a more automated and efficient method. In 1991, after substantial layoffs in the company's computer department, Pixar made a $26,000,000 deal with Disney to produce computer-animated feature films, the first of which was Toy Story 2. Pixar was re-incorporated on December 9, 1999.
Disney and PixarEdit
Pixar and Disney had disagreements after the production of Toy Story 2. Originally intended as a straight-to-video release (and thus not part of Pixar's five picture deal), the film was upgraded to a theatrical release during production. Pixar demanded that the film then be counted toward the five picture agreement, but Disney refused.
Pixar's first five feature films have collectively grossed more than $2.5 billion, equivalent to the highest per-film average gross in the industry. Though profitable for both, Pixar later complained that the arrangement was not equitable. Pixar was responsible for creation and production, while Disney handled marketing and distribution. Profits and production costs were split 50-50 but Disney exclusively owned all story and sequel rights and also collected a distribution fee. The lack of story and sequel rights were perhaps the most onerous to Pixar and set the stage for a contentious relationship. However, others recognize that Pixar got the best deal given that it lacked credibility as an animation studio, while Disney's own studios were recognized as being at the top of the industry.
The two companies attempted to reach a new agreement in early 2005. The new deal would be only for distribution, as Pixar intended to control production and own the resulting film properties themselves. Pixar wanted complete financial freedom; they wanted to finance their films on their own and collect 100 percent of the profits, paying Disney only the 10 to 15 percent distribution fee. More importantly, as part of any distribution agreement with Disney, Pixar demanded control over films already in production under their old agreement, including The Incredibles and Cars. This was unacceptable to Disney, but Pixar would not concede.
Pending the Disney acquisition of Pixar, the two companies created a distribution deal for the intended 2007 release of Ratatouille, ensuring that if the acquisition plan had fallen through for any reason, this one film would still be released through the Disney distribution channels. Unlike the earlier Disney/Pixar deal, Ratatouille would have adhered to Pixar's preferred ownership model, with Disney receiving only a fee for distribution. With the completion of Disney's acquisition of Pixar, this deal is no longer in force.
Disney's acquisition of PixarEdit
On January 24, 2006, Disney announced that it had agreed to buy Pixar for approximately $7.4 billion in an all-stock deal. Following Pixar shareholder approval, the acquisition was completed May 5, 2006. The transaction catapults Jobs, who was the majority shareholder of Pixar with 50.1%, to Disney's largest individual shareholder with 7% and a new seat on its board of directors. Jobs' new Disney holdings outpace holdings belonging to ex-CEO Eisner, the previous top shareholder who still held 1.7%, and Disney Director Emeritus Roy E. Disney, whose criticisms of Eisner included the soured Pixar relationship and accelerated his ouster, who held almost 1% of the corporation's shares.
As part of the deal, Lasseter, Pixar Executive Vice President and co-founder, became Chief Creative Officer (Reporting to President and CEO Bob Iger and consulting with Disney Director Roy E. Disney) of both Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, as well as the Principal Creative Adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering, which designs and builds the company's theme parks. Catmull retained his position as President of Pixar, while also becoming President of Disney Studios, reporting to Robert Iger and Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studio Entertainment.
Lasseter and Catmull's oversight of both the Disney and Pixar studios did not mean that the two studios were merging, however. In fact, additional conditions were laid out as part of the deal to ensure that Pixar remains a separate entity, a concern that many analysts had about the Disney deal.
Some other points of interest concerning the deal:
- If Pixar had pulled out of the deal, they would have been required to pay Disney a penalty of US$210 million.
- John Lasseter has the authority to approve films for both Disney and Pixar studios, with Disney CEO Robert Iger and Disney Director Roy E. Disney carrying final approving authority.
- The deal required that Pixar's primary directors and creative executives must also join the combined company. This includes Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Brad Bird, Bob Peterson, Brenda Chapman, Lee Unkrich, and Gary Rydstrom.
- There will be a steering committee that will oversee animation for both Disney and Pixar studios, with a mission to maintain and spread the Pixar culture. This committee will consist of Catmull, Lasseter, Jobs, Iger, Cook, and Tom Staggs. They will meet at Pixar headquarters at least once every two months.
- Pixar HR policies will remain intact, including the lack of employment contracts.
- Ensures the Pixar name will continue, and that the studio will remain in its current Emeryville, California location with the "Pixar" sign.
- Branding of films made post-merger will be "Disney Pixar" (starting with Cars).
Steve Jobs served as Pixar's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer until May 2006, when the company was bought by Disney. Jobs then took a place on the Disney board of directors (also becoming Disney's largest individual shareholder). Today, Catmull serves as president of the combined Disney-Pixar animation studios, and Lasseter serves as the studios' Chief Creative Officer. Catmull reports to Iger as well as Walt Disney Studios chairman Cook. Lasseter, who has greenlight authority on all new films, also reports to Iger as well as consulting with Roy E. Disney.
- Toy Story (1995)
- A Bug's Life (1998)
- Toy Story 2 (1999)
- Monsters, Inc. (2001)
- Finding Nemo (2003)
- The Incredibles (2004)
- Cars (2006)
- Ratatouille (2007)
- WALL-E (2008)
- Up (2009)
- Toy Story 3 (2010)
- Cars 2 (2011)
- Brave (2012)
- Monsters University (2013)
- Inside Out (2015)
- The Good Dinosaur (2015)
- Finding Dory (2016)
- Cars 3 (2017)
To date, Toy Story and Cars are the only Pixar films to have sequels. Toy Story 2 was commissioned by Disney as a straight-to-video, 60-minute film. When Universal executives saw how impressive the work-in-progress imagery for the sequel was, they decided it should be reworked as a theatrical release. The resulting change in status of Toy Story 2 was one of the major causes of the disagreement between the two companies that nearly led to their split.
The issue of sequels is a particularly sticky one with Pixar. Their feeling has been that they should only be done if there is a story good enough to justify it. Following the release of Toy Story 2, Pixar and Disney had a gentlemen's agreement that Disney would not make any sequels without Pixar's involvement, despite their right to do so. In 2004, after Pixar announced their failure to make a new deal, Disney announced that they would go ahead with sequels to Pixar's films with or without Pixar, although they stated they would prefer Pixar to agree to work on them. Toy Story 3 was put into pre-production at the new CGI division of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Circle 7 Animation.
When Lasseter was placed in charge of all Disney and Pixar animation following the merger, he stated that all sequels were immediately to be put on hold or canceled, with Disney going so far as to actually state that Toy Story 3 had been canceled. However, in May 2006, it was announced that Toy Story 3 was back in pre-production, now under Pixar's control. It eventually released in Summer 2010.
With the guarantee of full control in his hands, Lasseter has opened the door for the possibility of sequels to other Pixar films besides Toy Story. Given the many story possibilities for the various Pixar characters and Lasseter's statement that "If we have a great story, we'll do a sequel.", others seem likely somewhere down the line. Despite the lack of sequels, the worlds of Pixar films are often extended through the DVDs and references through all their films.
- For the Birds (2000), Best Animated Cartoon winner; theatrically released with Monsters, Inc.
- Boundin (2003), Best Animated Cartoon winner; theatrically released with The Incredibles
- One Man Band (2005), Best Animated Cartoon winner; theatrically released with Cars
- Lifted (2006), Best Animated Cartoon winner; To be theatrically released with Ratatouille
Pixar feature film traditionsEdit
When Pixar hires new animators, most of whom come from CalArts, they look for three additional attributes other than drawing skills.
- Acting is an important part.
- Natural and fluid style of movement.
- Finding the most entertaining way to animate a shot.
The Pixar teaser trailers since A Bug's Life consist of footage created specifically for the trailer, spotlighting certain central characters in a comic situation without spoiling the actual film. Though similar scenes and situations may appear, these sequences are not in the films being advertised, but instead are original creations.
- A Bug's Life: All the insects from the Circus Bugs gather onto a leaf right before Heimlich bites the end of it off, causing them to fall its.
- Toy Story 2: The green alien toys come up to a center with the claw coming down. First the claw was carrying down "Toy Story" with the aliens doing their trademark "Oooh". Second the claw brings down a "2" and with the aliens turning around and looking at the audience and saying "Twoooo". Then Woody appears and is swiftly disappointed when Buzz shows up as well. He expresses his annoyance that Buzz is in the sequel. Buzz replies, "Well of course! What would Toy Story 2 be without Buzz Lightyear?" "A good movie," counters Woody.
- Monsters, Inc.: Sulley and Mike stumble into the wrong bedroom. (Also, in a preview shown before the first Harry Potter film, Sulley is shown playing charades with Mike, but Mike is unable to guess the phrase 'Harry Potter'. The clip never specifically mentions Harry Potter, but the end states that Monsters, Inc. is playing right next door.)
- Finding Nemo: Marlin asks a school of fish for directions and Dory stares them away.
- The Incredibles: An out-of-shape Mr. Incredible struggles to get his belt on (hence, none of the Incredible Family members wear a belt in the film, and instead sport elastic waist straps).
- Cars: Mater talks to Lightning McQueen after hitting a baby bumblebee (the bee is possibly a reference to The Adventures of André and Wally B.), and then the two watch a racing movie in a drive-in theater.
- Ratatouille: The main rat, Remy, is discovered stealing a piece of cheese from a high class Parisian restaurant, and just barely makes off with it. Also, from the Academy Award winning Creators of Toy Story Remy talks to the audience about his preference of "good food" (the food that we eat) over trash (which is what his father and friends want him to eat).
John Ratzenberger (most widely known as the mailman character Cliff Clavin from the television sitcom Cheers) has appeared as a voice actor in every Pixar feature film. Most members of the studio refer to him as their "good luck charm", however Andrew Stanton has said that there is actually a rule at Pixar that states that he must be in all of their features. The following is a list of his roles in the first seven Pixar movies:
- Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 - Hamm the Piggy Bank
- A Bug's Life - P.T. Flea
- Monsters, Inc. - The Abominable Snowman
- Finding Nemo - a school of Moonfish
- The Incredibles - The Underminer
- Cars, Cars 2 - Mac
- Ratatouille - Mustafa the waiter
- WALL-E - John
- Up - Tom the construction worker
He has become such a stable part of the company that he is often called on to do promotional work for the company, such as hosting Pixar's 10th Anniversary documentary. He even plays on the company's softball team, and gets a humorous tribute during the end credits of Cars.
Along with John Ratzenberger (above), Joe Ranft had also provided his voice for every feature film made, with Cars being his last appearance before his untimely death in a roadside accident. While some have said that John Ratzenberger was "Pixar's Good Luck Charm", there are many who say that Frank was "the heart and soul of Pixar".
- Toy Story - Lenny the Binoculars, Snake
- A Bug's Life - Heimlich the Caterpillar
- Toy Story 2 - Wheezy the Penguin, Bullseye the Horse
Pizza Planet is a fictional pizza restaurant in Toy Story. The Pizza Planet delivery truck that is featured prominently in Toy Story 2 appears in each of the later Pixar films. See the Pizza Planet article for additional information.
Release: exclusive outtakes and shortsEdit
Three films (Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., and The Incredibles) were released on DVD with a short film made specifically for the DVD. The DVDs also include the short films that were released with each movie's theatrical release.
Pixar University is an in-house professional-development program that expands the concept of employee education by broadening its focus from skills training to a more general fine-arts education. The program offers more than 110 courses: a complete filmmaking curriculum, classes on painting, drawing, sculpting and creative writing, which usually last four-to-sixteen weeks. These classes are available not only for animators, but everyone, from the security guard to cafeteria chef.
In this setting, employees are allowed to miss work for a full slate in classes (about 14 per week) to raise the level of the best, cross-train, and develop mastery in whatever subjects may interest them. The vision behind the university for employees to try new things, work together better and test new ideas. But one of the most important benefits from the program is to build morale, spirit and communication among employees.
The dean of Pixar University, Randy S. Nelson, explains: "We've made the leap from an idea-centered business to a people-centered business. Instead of developing ideas, we develop people. Instead of investing in ideas, we invest in people. We're trying to create a culture of learning, filled with lifelong learners. It's no trick for talented people to be interesting, but it's a gift to be interested. We want an organization filled with interested people."