Pixar's studio lot in Emeryville
|Subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company|
|Predecessor||The Graphics Group of Lucasfilm Computer Division (1979–1986)|
|Founded||February 3, 1986|
|Headquarters||Emeryville, California, United States|
|Subsidiaries||Pixar Canada (Closed)|
Pixar Animation Studios, or simply 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. The Walt Disney Company bought Pixar in 2006 at a valuation of $7.4 billion, a transaction that resulted in Jobs becoming Disney's largest single shareholder at the time. Luxo Jr., a character from a 1986 Pixar short film of the same name, is the mascot of the studio.
Pixar has produced 15 feature films, beginning with Toy Story in 1995. Most of the films have received both critical and financial success, with a notable exception being Cars 2 (2011), which, while commercially successful, received substantially less praise than Pixar's other productions. All 15 films have debuted with CinemaScore ratings of at least "A−", indicating a positive reception with audiences. The studio has also produced several short films. As of December 2013[update], its feature films have made over $8.6 billion worldwide, with an average worldwide gross of $616 million per film. Both Finding Nemo (2003) and Toy Story 3 (2010) are among the 50 highest-grossing films of all time, and 13 of Pixar's films are among the 50 highest-grossing animated films. The latter is the second all-time highest, behind Walt Disney Animation Studios' Frozen, which grossed $1.27 billion in its initial release in comparison to Toy Story 3 's $1.064 billion.
The studio has earned 15 Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, and 11 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. Seven have won, including Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3, as well as The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), and Brave (2012). Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Cars (2006) are the only films that were nominated for the award, but did not win it. Up and Toy Story 3 were also the second and third animated films to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (the first being Disney's 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 biennial Venice Film Festival. The award was presented by Lucasfilm founder George Lucas.
- 1 History
- 2 Headquarters (campus)
- 3 Feature films and shorts
- 4 Exhibitions
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
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), 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 special effects film sequences with Industrial Light & Magic. After years of research, and key milestones such as the Genesis Effect in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the Stained Glass Knight in Young Sherlock Holmes, the group, which then numbered 40 individuals, was spun out as a corporation in February 1986 with investment by Steve Jobs shortly after he left Apple Computer. Jobs paid $5 million to George Lucas for technology rights and put them and $5 million cash as capital into the company. 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 as Chairman.
Initially, 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 it 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 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.
Inadequate sales of Pixar's computers threatened to put the company out of business as financial losses grew. Jobs invested more and more money in exchange for an increased stake in the company, reducing the proportion of management and employee ownership until eventually his total investment of $50 million gave him control of the entire company. Lasseter's animation department began producing computer-animated commercials for outside companies. Early successes included campaigns for Tropicana, Listerine, and Life Savers. 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. Pixar released some of its software tools on the open market for Macintosh and Windows systems. RenderMan was one of the leading 3d packages of the early 1990s, and Typestry was a special-purpose 3D text renderer that competed with Adobe AddDepth.
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. As 1991 began, however, the layoff of 30 employees in the company's computer hardware department—including the company's president, Chuck Kolstad, reduced the total number of employees to just 42, essentially its original number. Yet Pixar made a historic $26 million deal with Disney to produce three computer-animated feature films, the first of which was Toy Story. By then the software programmers, who were doing RenderMan and CAPS, and Lasseter’s animation department, which made television commercials, short films, and the occasional short for Sesame Street, were all that remained of Pixar.
Despite the total income from these projects the company continued to lose money and Jobs, as chairman of the board and now the full owner, often considered selling it. Even as late as 1994 Jobs contemplated selling Pixar to another company, most notably Microsoft. Only after learning from New York critics that Toy Story would probably be a hit—and confirming that Disney would distribute it for the 1995 Christmas season—did he decide to give Pixar another chance. For the first time he also took an active leadership role in the company and made himself CEO. Toy Story went on to gross more than $361 million worldwide and, when Pixar held its initial public offering on November 29, 1995, it exceeded Netscape's as the biggest IPO of the year. In only its first half hour of trading Pixar stock shot from US$22 to US$45, delaying trading because of un-matched buy orders. Shares climbed to $US49 before closing the day at US$39.
During the 1990s and 2000s, Pixar gradually developed the "Pixar Braintrust," the studio's primary creative development process, in which all directors, writers, and lead storyboard artists at the studio look at each other's projects on a regular basis and give each other very candid "notes" (the industry term for constructive criticism). The Braintrust operates under a philosophy of a "filmmaker-driven studio", in which creatives help each other move their films forward through a process somewhat like peer review, as opposed to the traditional Hollywood approach of an "executive-driven studio" in which directors are micromanaged through "mandatory notes" from development executives ranking above the producers. According to Catmull, it evolved out of the working relationship between Lasseter, Stanton, Docter, Unkrich, and Joe Ranft on Toy Story.
As a result of the success of Toy Story, Pixar built a new studio in Emeryville campus which was designed by PWP Landscape Architecture and 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Pending the Disney acquisition of Pixar, the two companies created a distribution deal for the intended 2007 release of Ratatouille, if 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.
In 2006, Disney ultimately 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 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. 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 E. Disney) of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios (including its division, DisneyToon 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 Walt Disney Animation Studios, reporting to Bob Iger and Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. 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.
After the deal closed in May 2006, Lasseter revealed that Iger had realized Disney needed to buy Pixar while watching a parade at the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland in September 2005. Iger noticed that of all the Disney characters in the parade, not one was a character that Disney had created within the last ten years, since all the newer ones had been created by Pixar. Upon returning to Burbank, Iger commissioned a financial analysis that confirmed that Disney had actually lost money on animation for the past decade, then presented that information to the board of directors at his first board meeting after being promoted from COO to CEO, and the board in turn authorized him to explore the possibility of a deal with Pixar. Lasseter and Catmull were understandably wary when the topic of Disney buying Pixar first came up, but Jobs asked them to give Iger a chance (based on his own experience negotiating with Iger in summer 2005 for the rights to ABC shows for the fifth-generation iPod Classic), and in turn, Iger convinced them of the sincerity of his epiphany that Disney really needed to re-focus on animation.
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. 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).
After a few years, Lasseter and Catmull were able to successfully transfer the basic principles of the Pixar Braintrust to Disney, although meetings of the Disney Story Trust are reportedly somewhat "more polite" than those of the Pixar Braintrust. Catmull later explained that after the merger, to maintain the studios' separate identities and cultures (notwithstanding the fact of common ownership and common senior management), he and Lasseter "drew a hard line" that each studio was solely responsible for its own projects and would not be allowed to borrow personnel from or lend tasks out to the other. That rule ensures that each studio maintains "local ownership" of projects and can be proud of its own work. Thus, for example, when Pixar had issues with Ratatouille (2007) and Disney had issues with Bolt (2008), "nobody bailed them out" and each studio was required "to solve the problem on its own" even when they knew there were personnel at the other studio who theoretically could have helped.
In November 2014, Morris was promoted to president of Pixar, while his counterpart at Disney Animation, general manager Andrew Millstein, was also promoted to president of that studio. Both will continue to report to Catmull, who retains the title of president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.
On April 20, 2010, Pixar Animation Studios opened Pixar Canada in the downtown area of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The roughly 2,000 square meters studio produced seven short films based on Toy Story and Cars characters. In October 2013, the studio was closed down to refocus Pixar's efforts at its main headquarters.
When Steve Jobs, chief executive officer of Apple Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios, and John Lasseter, then the executive vice president of Pixar, decided to move their studios from a leased space in Point Richmond, California to larger quarters of their own, they chose a 20-acre site in Emeryville, CA formerly occupied by Del Monte Foods, Inc. The first of several buildings, a high-tech structure designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, has special foundations and generators to ensure continued film production, even through major earthquakes. The character of the building is intended to abstractly recall Emeryville’s industrial past. The two-story steel-and-masonry building is a collaborative space with many pathways.
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. 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.
In an interview with PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley, 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."
As of 2015, every Pixar feature film produced for Disney has included a character voiced by Cheers actor John Ratzenberger. Pixar paid tribute to their "good luck charm" in the end credits of Cars by parodying scenes from three of their earlier films, replacing all of the characters with motor vehicles. After the third scene, Mack (the character he voices in Cars) realizes that the same actor has been voicing characters in every film and angrily demands to know, "What kind of a 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.
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." 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; the release date was pushed to June 21, 2013, due to Pixar's past success with summer releases, according to a Disney executive. In June 2011, Tom Hanks, who voiced Woody in Toy Story, implied that Toy Story 4 was "in the works", but it had not been confirmed by the studio. In April 2013, a sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, was announced for June 17, 2016. In March 2014, The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3 were announced as films in development. In November 2014, Toy Story 4 was confirmed to be in development with Lasseter serving as director. In an interview Lasseter stated "A lot of people in the industry view us doing sequels as being for the business of it, but for us it's pure passion...One of the things that was very important for me as an artist is to continue directing. When I direct, I get to work with the individual artists, with the animators."
Adaptation to television
Toy Story was the first Pixar film to be adapted onto television, with Buzz Lightyear of Star Command film and TV series. Cars became the second with the help of Cars Toons, a series of three-to-five-minute short films running between regular Disney Channel shows and featuring Mater (the tow truck voiced by comedian Larry the Cable Guy). In 2013, Pixar released its first television special, Toy Story of Terror!.
Animation and live-action
All Pixar films to date have been computer-animated features, but WALL-E so far has been the only Pixar film to not be completely animated, as it featured a small element of live-action footage. 1906, the live-action film by Brad Bird based on a screenplay and novel by James Dalessandro about the 1906 earthquake, is 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."
The Good Dinosaur
The Good Dinosaur will be released on November 25, 2015. It was originally going to be co-directed by Bob Peterson and Peter Sohn. However, Peterson was removed from the project, and is developing another film at Pixar. In October 2014, it was announced that Sohn would be the sole director of The Good Dinosaur. Enrico Casarosa, director of Pixar's short film La Luna, will be head of story.
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. It is scheduled to be released on June 17, 2016.
Other future projects
In April 2012, Pixar announced their intention to create a film centered on the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos which is to be directed by Lee Unkrich. Both an official title and release date have yet to be announced. Michael Wallis, the voice of Sheriff from the Cars franchise and a Route 66 consultant for the first two films, said in August 2013 in an interview with WGBZ radio that Pixar will make a third film in the series, which will go back to Route 66 and will also include Route 99. Cars 3, along with The Incredibles 2, were announced in March 2014. On November 6, 2014, it was revealed that John Lasseter will direct Toy Story 4, and scheduled to be released for a June 2017 release date.
Since December 2005, Pixar has held exhibitions celebrating the art and artists of Pixar, over their first twenty years in animation.
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. 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.
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. 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. In 2013 the exhibition was held in the EXPO in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. On November 16, 2013, the exhibition moved to the Art Ludique museum in Paris, France, with a scheduled run until March 2, 2014. The exhibition moved to three Spanish cities later in 2014 and 2015: Madrid (held in CaixaForum from March 21 until June 22), Barcelona (held also in Caixaforum from February until May) and Zaragoza.
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.
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- Official website
- Pixar's channel on YouTube
- Pixar Animation Studios at the Internet Movie Database
- Pixar Animation Studios at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- List of the 40 founding employees of Pixar