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Pixar Animation Studios

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Title: Pixar Animation Studios  
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Pixar Animation Studios

This article is about the animation company. For information on the .pxr file format or the graphics designing computer, see Pixar Image Computer.

Pixar Animation Studios
Predecessor(s) Graphics Group of Lucasfilm Computer Division (1979–86)
  • 1979 (1979) as Graphics Group
  • August 17, 1986 (August 17, 1986) as Pixar
Headquarters Emeryville, California, United States
Key people
Products Pixar Image Computer, RenderMan, Marionette
Parent Lucasfilm (1979–1986), Independent (1986–2006),
The Walt Disney Studios
(The Walt Disney Company) (2006–present)
Subsidiaries Pixar Canada

Pixar Animation Studios, or simply Pixar (/ˈpɪksɑr/, stylized PIXAR), is an American computer animation film studio based in Emeryville, California. The studio is best known for its CGI-animated feature films created with PhotoRealistic RenderMan, its own implementation of the industry-standard RenderMan image-rendering application programming interface used to generate high-quality images. Pixar began in 1979 as the Graphics Group, part of the computer division of Lucasfilm before its spin-out as a corporation in 1986 with funding by Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who became its majority shareholder.[1] The Walt Disney Company bought Pixar in 2006 at a valuation of $7.4 billion, a transaction which made Jobs Disney's largest shareholder.

Pixar has produced fourteen feature films, beginning with Toy Story in 1995. Thirteen of the films have received both critical and financial success, with the notable exception being Cars 2, which, while financially and commercially successful, received substantially less praise than Pixar's other productions.[2] All fourteen films have debuted with CinemaScore ratings of at least "A-", indicating a very positive reception with audiences.[3] The studio has also produced several short films. As of July 2013, its feature films have made over $8.3 billion worldwide,[4] with an average worldwide gross of $597 million per film.[5] Both Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 are among the 50 highest-grossing films of all time, and all of Pixar's films are among the 50 highest-grossing animated films, with Toy Story 3 being the all-time highest, grossing over $1 billion worldwide.

The studio has earned 27 Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, and eleven Grammy Awards, among many other awards and acknowledgments. Since the award's inauguration in 2001, most of Pixar's films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, with seven winning: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, and Brave (with Monsters Inc. and Cars being the only two just being nominated for the award). Up and Toy Story 3 were the second and third animated films to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (the first being Beauty and the Beast). On September 6, 2009, executives John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich were presented with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement by the Biennale Venice Film Festival. The award was presented by Lucasfilm founder George Lucas.


Early history

Pixar was founded as The Graphics Group, which was one third of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm that was launched in 1979 with the hiring of Dr. Ed Catmull from the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT),[6] where he was in charge of the Computer Graphics Lab (CGL). At NYIT, the researchers pioneered many of the CG foundation techniques—in particular the invention of the "alpha channel" (by Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith); years later the CGL produced an experimental film called The Works. After moving to Lucasfilm, the team worked on creating the precursor to RenderMan, called REYES (for "renders everything you ever saw"); and developed a number of critical technologies for CG—including "particle effects" and various animation tools.

In 1982, the team began working on film sequences with Industrial Light & Magic on special effects.[6] After years of research, and key milestones in films such as the Genesis Effect in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the Stained Glass Knight in Young Sherlock Holmes,[6] the group, which numbered 40 individuals back then,[1] was spun out as a corporation in February 1986 with investment by Steve Jobs shortly after he left Apple Computer.[1] Jobs paid $5 million to George Lucas for technology rights and put them and $5 million cash as capital into the company.[1] A factor contributing to Lucas' sale was an increase in cash flow difficulties following his 1983 divorce, which coincided with the sudden dropoff in revenues from Star Wars licenses following the release of Return of the Jedi. The newly independent company was headed by Dr. Edwin Catmull as President and Dr. Alvy Ray Smith as Executive Vice President. They were joined on the Board of Directors by Steve Jobs who was Chairman.[1]

Initially, while awaiting the consequences of Moore's law, that would reduce the cost of computing a film, Pixar was a high-end computer hardware company whose core product was the Pixar Image Computer, a system primarily sold to government agencies and the medical community. One of the buyers of Pixar Image Computers was Walt Disney Studios, which was using the device as part of their secretive CAPS project, using the machine and custom software (written by Pixar) to migrate the laborious ink and paint part of the 2-D animation process to a more automated and thus efficient method. The Image Computer never sold well.[7] 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.[7]

As poor sales of Pixar's computers threatened to put the company out of business, Jobs invested more and more money and took more and more ownership away from the management and employees until after several years he owned essentially all the company for a total investment of $50 million. Lasseter's animation department began producing computer-animated commercials for outside companies. Early successes included campaigns for Tropicana, Listerine, and Life Savers.[8] In April 1990 Pixar sold its hardware division, including all proprietary hardware technology and imaging software, to Vicom Systems, and transferred 18 of Pixar's approximately 100 employees. The same year Pixar moved from San Rafael to Richmond, California.[9] During this period, Pixar continued its successful relationship with Walt Disney Feature Animation, a studio whose corporate parent would ultimately become its most important partner. In 1991, after a tough start of the year when about 30 employees in the company's computer department had to go (including the company's president, Chuck Kolstad),[10] which reduced the total number of employees to just 42, essentially its original number,[11] Pixar made a $26 million deal with Disney to produce three computer-animated feature films, the first of which was Toy Story. At that point, the software programmers, who were doing RenderMan and CAPS, and Lasseter’s animation department, who made television commercials and a few shorts for Sesame Street, was all that was left of Pixar.[12]

Despite the total income of these products, the company was still losing money, and Jobs, still chairman of the board and now the full owner, often considered selling it. Even as late as 1994, Jobs contemplated selling Pixar to other companies, among them Microsoft. Only after learning from New York critics that Toy Story was probably going to be a success and confirming that Disney would distribute it for the 1995 Christmas season did he decide to give Pixar another chance.[13] He also began then for the first time to take an active direct leadership role in the company, making himself its CEO. The film went on to gross more than $361 million worldwide.[14] Later that year, Pixar held its initial public offering on November 29, 1995, and the company's stock was priced at US$22 per share.[15]

Pixar built a new studio in Emeryville which opened in November 2000.


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 three-picture deal), the film was eventually upgraded to a theatrical release during production. Pixar demanded that the film then be counted toward the three-picture agreement, but Disney refused.[16] 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 was perhaps the most onerous aspect to Pixar and set the stage for a contentious relationship.[17]

The two companies attempted to reach a new agreement in early 2004. The new deal would be only for distribution, as Pixar intended to control production and own the resulting film properties themselves. The company also 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.[18] 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. Disney considered these conditions unacceptable, but Pixar would not concede.[18]

Disagreements between Steve Jobs and then Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner made the negotiations more difficult than they otherwise might have been. They broke down completely in mid-2004, with Jobs declaring that Pixar was actively seeking partners other than Disney.[19] Despite this announcement, Pixar did not enter negotiations with other distributors. After a lengthy hiatus, negotiations between the two companies resumed following the departure of Eisner from Disney in September 2005. In preparation for potential fallout between Pixar and Disney, Jobs announced in late 2004 that Pixar would no longer release movies at the Disney-dictated November time frame, but during the more lucrative early summer months. This would also allow Pixar to release DVDs for their major releases during the Christmas shopping season. An added benefit of delaying Cars was to extend the time frame remaining on the Pixar-Disney contract to see how things would play out between the two companies.[20]

Pending the Disney acquisition of Pixar, the two companies created a distribution deal for the intended 2007 release of Ratatouille, in case the acquisition fell through, to ensure that this one film would still be released through Disney's distribution channels. (In contrast to the earlier Disney/Pixar deal, Ratatouille was to remain a Pixar property and Disney would have received only a distribution fee.) The completion of Disney's Pixar acquisition, however, nullified this distribution arrangement.[21]

Disney had agreed to buy Pixar for approximately $7.4 billion in an all-stock deal.[22] Following Pixar shareholder approval, the acquisition was completed May 5, 2006. The transaction catapulted Steve 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.[23] Jobs' new Disney holdings exceeded holdings belonging to ex-CEO Michael Eisner, the previous top shareholder, who still held 1.7%; and Disney Director Emeritus Roy E. Disney, who held almost 1% of the corporation's shares.

Pixar shareholders received 2.3 shares of Disney common stock for each share of Pixar common stock redeemed.

As part of the deal, John Lasseter, by then Executive Vice President, became Chief Creative Officer (reporting to President and CEO Robert Iger and consulting with Disney Director Roy Disney) of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, as well as the Principal Creative Adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering, which designs and builds the company's theme parks.[23] Catmull retained his position as President of Pixar, while also becoming President of Walt Disney Animation Studios, reporting to Bob Iger and Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studio Entertainment. Steve Jobs' position as Pixar's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer was also removed, and instead he took a place on the Disney board of directors.[24]

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 remained a separate entity, a concern that analysts had expressed about the Disney deal.[25] Some of those conditions were that Pixar HR policies would remain intact, including the lack of employment contracts. Also, the Pixar name was guaranteed to continue, and the studio would remain in its current Emeryville, California location with the "Pixar" sign. Finally, branding of films made post-merger would be "Disney•Pixar" (beginning with Cars).[26]

Jim Morris, producer of WALL-E, became general manager of Pixar. In this new position, Morris took charge of the day-to-day running of the studio facilities and products.[27]


On April 20, 2010, Pixar Animation Studios opened a new studio in the downtown area of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.[28] The roughly 2,000 square meters studio primarily produced shorts and TV specials based on characters from Pixar's feature films. The studio's first production was the Cars Toons episode, "Air Mater." In October 2013, the studio was closed.[29]

Feature films and shorts


While some of Pixar's first animators were former cel animators, including John Lasseter, they also came from stop motion animation and/or computer animation or were fresh college graduates.[6] A large number of animators that make up the animation department at Pixar were hired around the time Pixar released A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2. Although Toy Story was a successful film, it was Pixar's only feature film at the time. The majority of the animation industry was, and is still located in Los Angeles, California, while Pixar is located 350 miles (560 km) north in the San Francisco Bay Area. Also, traditional 2-D animation was still the dominant medium for feature animated films.

With the dearth of Los Angeles-based animators willing to move their families so far north, give up traditional animation, and try computer animation, Pixar's new-hires at this time either came directly from college, or had worked outside feature animation. For those who had traditional animation skills, the Pixar animation software (Marionette) is designed so that traditional animators would require a minimum amount of training before becoming productive.[6]

In an interview with PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley,[30] Lasseter said that Pixar films follow the same theme of self-improvement as the company itself has: with the help of friends or family, a character ventures out into the real world and learns to appreciate his friends and family. At the core, Lasseter said, "it's gotta be about the growth of the main character, and how he changes."[30]

One particular tradition has been a part of every Pixar feature film produced for Disney—John Ratzenberger (formerly of Cheers) has voiced characters (even if it's a cameo) from Toy Story to Monsters University. Pixar paid tribute to their "good luck charm" in the end credits of Cars where internal parodies of three of their films are seen with Ratzenberger voicing the respective characters. His punchline in the epilogue was "What kind of cut-rate production is this?"

Due to the traditions that have occurred within the film, such anthropomorphic animals and Easter Egg crossovers between movies that have been spotted by fans, in 2013 a blog post by the name The Pixar Theory was published making the argument that all of the characters within the Pixar universe were related.[31][32][33]

Sequels and prequels

Toy Story 2 was originally commissioned by Disney as a 60-minute direct-to-video release. Expressing doubts about the strength of the material, John Lasseter convinced the Pixar team to start from scratch and make the sequel their third full-length feature film.

Following the release of Toy Story 2 in 1999, 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 Disney and Pixar were unable to agree on a new deal, Disney announced plans to move forward on sequels with or without Pixar, and put Toy Story 3 into pre-production at Disney's new CGI division, Circle 7 Animation. However, when Lasseter was placed in charge of all Disney and Pixar animation following the 2006 merger of the companies, he put all sequels on hold and Toy Story 3 was cancelled.

In May 2006, it was announced that Toy Story 3 was back in pre-production, with a new plot and under Pixar's control. The film was released on June 18, 2010.

Shortly after announcing the resurrection of Toy Story 3, Lasseter fueled speculation on further sequels by saying, "If we have a great story, we'll do a sequel."[34] Cars 2, Pixar's first non-Toy Story sequel, was officially announced in April 2008 and released on June 24, 2011. Monsters University, a prequel to Monsters, Inc., was announced in April 2010 and initially set for release in November 2012;[35] the release date was pushed to June 21, 2013, due to Pixar's past success with summer releases, according to a Disney executive.[36] In June 2011, Toy Story star Tom Hanks implied that Toy Story 4 was in the works, but this has not been confirmed by the studio.[37][38]

Adaptation to television

Toy Story was the first Pixar film to be adapted onto television, with the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command film and TV series. Cars was adapted to television via Cars Toons, a series of shorts (three to five minutes) running between regular Disney Channel shows and featuring Mater (the tow truck voiced by comedian Larry the Cable Guy).[39]

Animation and live-action

All Pixar films to date have been computer-animated features (WALL-E has so far been the only Pixar film not to be completely animated, featuring a small live-action element). 1906, the live-action film by Brad Bird based on a screenplay and novel by James Dalessandro about the 1906 earthquake, is currently in development. Bird has stated that he was "interested in moving into the live-action realm with some projects" while "staying at Pixar [because] it's a very comfortable environment for me to work in."

Upcoming projects

Inside Out

Main article: Inside Out (2015 film)

Citing a U.S. release date of June 19, 2015, Pixar's web site has included this since the summer of 2013: "From director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.) and producer Jonas Rivera (Up), the inventive new film will take you to a place that everyone knows, but no one has ever seen: the world inside the human mind."[40][41] Reportedly, the film setting is "the brain space of a little girl. Anger, Sadness, Disgust and Joy are some of the main characters" and characters/emotions are designed as dynamic figures “made up of particles that actually move.”[42]

At the 2013 D23 Expo, the film's primary cast was announced in the roles of the young girl's emotions; Amy Poehler as Joy, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Lewis Black as Anger, Bill Hader as Fear, and Phyllis Smith as Sadness.[43]

The Good Dinosaur

Main article: The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur will be released on November 25, 2015.[44] It will be directed by Bob Peterson and co-directed by Peter Sohn.[45] Enrico Casarosa, director of La Luna, will be head of story.[46]

Finding Dory

Main article: Finding Dory

On April 2, 2013, a sequel to Finding Nemo was announced. The film, titled Finding Dory, will star Ellen DeGeneres reprising her role as Dory, and will be directed by Finding Nemo director, Andrew Stanton.[47] It is due to be released on June 17, 2016.[44]

Other future projects

In April 2012, Pixar announced their intention to create a film centered on the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos[48] which is to be directed by Lee Unkrich.[49] Both an official title and release date have yet to be announced.


Since December 2005, Pixar has held exhibitions celebrating the art and artists of Pixar, over their first twenty years in animation.[50]

Pixar: 20 Years of Animation

Pixar celebrated 20 years in 2006 with the release of Pixar's seventh feature film, Cars, and held two exhibitions, from April to June 2010, at Science Centre Singapore, in Jurong East, Singapore, and the London Science Museum, London.[51] It was their first time holding an exhibition in Singapore.

The exhibition highlights consist of work-in-progress sketches from various Pixar productions, clay sculptures of their characters, and an autostereoscopic short showcasing a 3D version of the exhibition pieces which is projected through 4 projectors. Another highlight is the Zoetrope, where visitors of the exhibition are shown figurines of Toy Story characters "animated" in real-life through the zoetrope.[51]

Pixar: 25 Years of Animation

Pixar celebrated 25 years of animation in 2011 with the release of its twelfth feature film, Cars 2. Pixar had celebrated its 20th anniversary with the first Cars. The Pixar: 25 Years of Animation exhibition was held at the Oakland Museum of California from July 2010 until January 2011.[52] The exhibition tour debuts in Hong Kong, and was held at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin, between March 27 and July 11, 2011.[53][54] In 2013 the exhibition was held in the EXPO in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Pixar: 25 Years of Animation includes all of the artwork from Pixar: 20 Years of Animation, plus art from Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3.

See also


External links

  • YouTube
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Big Cartoon DataBase
  • List of the 40 founding employees of Pixar

Template:Steve Jobs

Template:Walt Disney Studios Template:Pixar Animation Studios


Template:Emeryville, California

Coordinates: 37°49′58″N 122°17′02″W / 37.832639°N 122.283789°W / 37.832639; -122.283789

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