Pixar Studios has won 26 Academy Awards, 5 Golden Globes, and 3 Grammys. Monster’s Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Brave, Inside out have all won best animated feature Oscars. But how did it start out?
Pixar was a division of Lucasfilm in 1979 catchily titled “The Computer Graphics Division,” in its early days it produced computer animation sequences for films like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). Founding Pixar member John Lasseter said he was one of only four animators when he joined the company in 1983. His main job was directing shorts that would demonstrate the hardware’s capabilities. The first animated short The Adventures of André and Wally B. was produced in 1984. The plot is simple; an android named André gets chased around a forest by a rather persistent bee. In 1986, Steve Jobs bought Computer Graphics Division from George Lucas for $5 million and renamed it Pixar. The iconic lamp mascot is named Luxo Jr. after a 1986 short of the same name. Luxo Jr. was the first CGI film nominated for an Academy Award. . The plot involves a young, energetic lamp that struggles to play with a ball as an older lamp looks on. In 1991, Pixar signed a three-film contract with Disney. The first movie they were to produce for them was Toy Story, according to the New York Times the deal would entitle Pixar to only 10 to 15 percent of the profits from the movies. Then in 2006, Disney bought Pixar for $7.4 billion. The deal also made Jobs Disney’s largest individual shareholder.
The story ideas for A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc., Finding Nemo, and WALL-E all came from one lunch meeting between key Pixar creatives at a diner called Hidden City Cafe. Many Pixar film starts out about with a completely different premise than the eventual film and many factors influence the decisions. Often the technology to produce the image needed has to be designed and made speicifially for the film.
Three fun Pixar film facts
Cars is Pixar’s most profitable film. It has generated $10 billion (YES, $10 BILLION!) in just merchandise sales alone.
The Pizza Planet truck appears in almost every single Pixar movie.
A113 is an Easter egg that appears in all Pixar films. It is a tribute to a classroom number at California Institute of the Arts that was used by many animation students including John Lasseter and Brad Bird. You can hear us talk about this on our Inside Out Podcast our first Pixar Podcast.
The idea for an animated movie about ants goes back as far as 1988, when Disney tried to develop a film call Army Ants. It was not a coincidence that DreamWorks released Antz around the same time as A Bug’s Life. Reportedly former Disney film chairman and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted to delay the release of A Bug’s Life so that it wouldn’t compete with Dreamworks’ release The Prince of Egypt (both scheduled to be released a few weeks apart). Katzenberg called Lasseter and told him he would stop production of Antz if they moved A Bug’s Life release date – it didn’t work.