Pixar Animation Studios
Subsidiary of Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group (Disney)
FoundedDecember 9, 1985
HeadquartersEmeryville, California, USA
Key peopleEd Catmull, President, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios
John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios
IndustryCGI animation
ProductsRenderMan, Marionette
ParentThe Walt Disney Company
Enlarge picture
Pixar's studio lot in Emeryville

Pixar Animation Studios is an American computer animation studio based in Emeryville, California (USA) notable for its seven Academy Awards. It is best known for its CGI animated feature films—such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Cars—achieved through PhotoRealistic RenderMan, its own implementation of the industry-standard Renderman image rendering API, which is used to generate high-quality images.

On January 24, 2006, 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 Disney), making Pixar a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney.


Early history

Pixar was founded as the Graphics Group, one third of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm that was launched in 1979 with the hiring of Dr. Ed Catmull[1] from the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)[2]. At NYIT, the researchers worked on an experimental film called The Works, though it was never released. When the group moved to Lucasfilm, the team worked on creating the precursor to RenderMan, called Motion Doctor, which allowed traditional cel animators to use computer animation with minimal training.

Eventually, the team began working on film sequences, produced by Lucasfilm, or worked collectively with Industrial Light and Magic on special effects[2]. After years of remarkable research success, and key milestones in films such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan[2] and Young Sherlock Holmes[2], the group was purchased in 1986 by Steve Jobs shortly after he left Apple Computer (the company he founded with Steve Wozniak) and was looking for something to do with his money (Jobs would later return to Apple in 1997, following Apple's acquisition of NeXT). 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 products rather than tools. A contributing factor was cash flow difficulties following Lucas' 1983 divorce concurrent with the sudden drop off in revenues from Star Wars licenses following the release of . 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 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 capabilitiess—premiered his creations at SIGGRAPH, the computer graphics industry's largest convention, to great fanfare.

Business in transition

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. In 1991, after substantial layoffs in the company's computer department, Pixar made a $26 million deal with Disney to produce three computer-animated feature films, the first of which was Toy Story. Pixar was re-incorporated on December 9, 1995.

Disney and Pixar

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 towards the three 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.

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. 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.

Bad blood between Steve Jobs and 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. However, Pixar did not enter in negotiations with other distributors, since other partners saw Pixar's terms as too demanding. After a lengthy hiatus, negotiations between the two companies resumed following the departure of Eisner from Disney in September of 2005.

In preparation for potential fallout between Pixar and Disney, Jobs announced in late 2004[3] that Pixar would no longer release movies at the Disney-dictated November timeframe, 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 timeframe 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, 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 Pixar

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 who held almost 1% of the corporation's shares. Roy Disney's criticisms of Eisner included the soured Pixar relationship and accelerated Eisner's ouster.

As part of the deal, Lasseter, Pixar Executive Vice President and co-founder, became Chief Creative Officer (reporting to President and CEO Robert Iger and consulting with Disney Director Roy 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 Bob 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.[4]

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 Bob Iger and Roy 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).

Executive leadership

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.

A summary list of notable Pixar employees (directors, producers, and writers) is also available.

Feature films

Critical and commercial success

Film Year Worldwide Gross Metacritic Rotten Tomatoes
Toy Story
A Bug's Life
Toy Story 2
Monsters, Inc.
Finding Nemo
The Incredibles

Awards and nominations

  • Toy Story (1995)
  • Academy Awards winner, Best Song Oscar nominee, Best Original or Musical Comedy Score Oscar nominee, Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominee
  • A Bug's Life (1998)
  • Best Original Score Oscar nominee.
  • Toy Story 2 (1999)
  • Best Song Oscar nominee, Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical Golden Globe winner.
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee, Best Song Oscar Winner.
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • Best Animated Feature Oscar winner.
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • Best Animated Feature Oscar winner, Best Sound Editing Oscar winner.
  • Cars (film) (2006)
  • Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee, Best Song Oscar nominee, Inaugural Best Animated Feature Golden Globe winner.

In production


To date, Toy Story is the only Pixar film to have a sequel. Toy Story 2 was commissioned by Disney as a straight-to-video, 60-minute film. When Disney 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. Toy Story 3, the second theatrical sequel, is scheduled for a 2010 release.

Toy Story is also the only Pixar film to be extended onto television, with the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and TV series.

Pixar is not against sequels, but believe that they should only be made if they can come up with a story as good as the original. 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, with Disney going so far as to actually state that Toy Story 3 had been canceled. However, in May of 2006, it was announced that Toy Story 3 was back in pre-production, now under Pixar's control.

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",[6] 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.

Short films

Original/theatrically released

  • The Adventures of André and Wally B. (1984)
  • a Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Project film, prior to the creation of Pixar
  • Luxo Jr. (1986)
  • Best Animated Short Film nominee; Became the source of the current Pixar logo, theatrically released with Toy Story 2
  • Red's Dream (1987)
  • Tin Toy (1988)
  • Best Animated Short Film winner, included on the Toy Story Golden Edition VHS and Ultimate Toy Box DVD
  • Knick Knack (1989)
  • A new, edited version was released theatrically in 2003 with Finding Nemo
  • A remastered 3-D film version was released theatrically with the 3-D edition of The Nightmare Before Christmas in 2006.
  • Light & Heavy (1991)
  • Short starring Luxo Jr. & Luxo Sr. produced for Sesame Street
  • Surprise (1991)
  • Short starring Luxo Jr. produced for Sesame Street
  • Geri's Game (1997)
  • Best Animated Short Film winner; released theatrically and to home video alongside A Bug's Life
  • For the Birds (2000)
  • Best Animated Short Film winner; released theatrically and to home video alongside Monsters, Inc.
  • Boundin' (2003)
  • Best Animated Short Film nominee; released theatrically and to home video alongside The Incredibles
  • One Man Band (2005)
  • Best Animated Short Film nominee; released theatrically and to home video alongside Cars
  • Lifted (2006)
  • Best Animated Short Film nominee; released theatrically and to home video alongside Ratatouille

Home video exclusives

  • Mike's New Car (2002)
  • Academy Award nominee. Based on characters in Monsters, Inc.; released on the Monsters Inc. DVD and VHS
  • Jack-Jack Attack (2005)
  • Based on characters from The Incredibles; released on The Incredibles DVD
  • Mater and the Ghostlight (2006)
  • Based on characters from Cars; on the Cars DVD
  • Your Friend the Rat (2007)
  • Based on characters from Ratatouille; on the Ratatouille DVD
The only Pixar short film yet to be released alongside a feature film remains Red's Dream.

As of 2006, many of the short films except the DVD exlusives, are available to purchase on Apple's iTunes.

Pixar feature film traditions

Animation skills

Computer animation requires many of the same skills as traditional animation. As with any traditional animation, Pixar animators must have a deft understanding of acting, anatomy and human movement, otherwise characters would look awkward and unnatural[7]. While some of Pixar's first animators were former cel animators, including John Lasseter[2], quite a few came from stop motion animation, computer animation, or had recently graduated from college. A large number of animators that make up the current animation department at Pixar (as of 2007) were hired around the time Pixar released A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2. At the time, while Toy Story was a successful film, Pixar had only made one feature film. The majority of the animation industry is located in Los Angeles, CA, while Pixar is 300 miles north in the San Francisco Bay Area. As well, traditional 2-D animation was still the dominant medium for feature animated films. Not many L.A. based animators were willing to move their families 300 miles north, give up traditional animation, and try computer animation. Partly because of this, many of the animators hired at Pixar around this time either came directly from college, or had worked outside of feature animation. For those who had traditional animation skills, the Pixar animation software (Marionette) is designed so that traditional animators would require a minimum of training before becoming productive[2].

The Pixar format

According to an interview with John Lasseter with PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley[8], all Pixar films follow the same theme of self improvement. 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, according to John Lasseter, "it's gotta be about the growth of the main character, and how he changes."[8]

Teaser trailers

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. Refer to each film's page for more information.

John Ratzenberger

Main articles: John Ratzenberger and Tavis Smiley - Archive - Wednesday January 24th
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." 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 20th Anniversary documentary. He even plays on the company's softball team, and received a humorous tribute during the end credits of Cars.

Joe Ranft

Main articles: Joe Ranft and Tavis Smiley - Archive - Wednesday January 24th
Along with John Ratzenberger (above), Joe had also provided his voice for every Pixar 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 Joe was "the heart and soul of Pixar." [9]

Cameo appearances

Every Pixar film has included cameo appearances of characters or objects from their other movies or short films.

Pizza Planet

Pizza Planet is a fictional pizza restaurant that mainly appears in Toy Story. It is a large, sci-fi themed restaurant with arcade games. There is a reference to Pizza Planet in every Pixar film to date, either the restaurant itself or the Pizza Planet delivery truck which is stolen by the toys in Toy Story 2 and has a ride hitched on it by Buzz and Woody in Toy Story. It can also be seen in A Bug's Life and Monster's Inc. when the insect tells the other one not to touch the motorhome light and when Randall is getting beat up with the shovel on the far left. The company runs a fleet of beat up Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, as seen in Toy Story one and two. Restaurants at Walt Disney World's MGM Studios and Disneyland Paris are named after the site in the film and are designed to resemble it as much as possible. A Pizza Planet restaurant, not affiliated with Pixar, does exist in Bellefontaine, Ohio. There is also a Pizza Planet in Kingsbridge, Devon, England.


Main articles: A113 and
Similar to George Lucas' 1138 and Al Hirschfeld's "Nina", the letter-number sequence A113 is an animation in-joke which appears in all Pixar films to date. It is a reference to one of the room numbers at California Institute of the Arts (which several of the employees attended).


Dinoco is a fictional oil company that has appeared in the Pixar animated features Toy Story, seen only as a small gas station, and Cars (film). The company's signature color, used on their cars, is a pale blue shade referred to as "Dinoco blue" that was originally created for Richard Petty's racecar[10], and their logo uses a dinosaur. In Cars, Dinoco is a sponsor of the Piston cup, and is the main sponsor of The King, a veteran racer on the verge of retirement. The company's lavish sponsorship is highly sought after by the main character Lightning McQueen and rival Chick Hicks. The Dinoco brand has also been featured in much Cars-related merchandise.

Release: exclusive outtakes and shorts

Three of the Pixar films featured exclusive outtakes. Each of the outtakes in A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and Monsters, Inc. had to be created from scratch, using the same actors and actresses in the film. Many of the jokes and mess ups were actually suggested by the actors themselves. The outtakes are not only available with the purchased VHS/DVD of these films, they are also available online at Pixar.com.[1] According to the director's commentary on the Finding Nemo DVD, after Monsters, Inc. Pixar stopped adding outtakes to their films, feeling there wasn't much more they could do with them.[11] However, Cars had a sequence of scenes during the credits showing a bit of what happened after the movie was over, presented in a similar style to the outtakes of previous films.

Four films (Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, Cars, and Ratatouille) 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. These include: Four films (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and Finding Nemo) include one short film instead of two. The shorts include:

Pixar: 20 Years of Animation

"Pixar: 20 Years of Animation" is an exhibition developed by Pixar Animation Studios and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where it ran from December 14 2005 until February 2 2006. It has since been shown at the Science Museum in London (April - June 2006), the Mori Arts Centre in Tokyo (July - August 2006) and the National Museum of Scotland (March - May 2007). It was also presented at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne from 28 June 2007 until 14 October 2007.[2]

Pixar University

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[12]. 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[13].

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[13]. The vision behind the university is 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[12].

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[13]."


1. ^ Vasconcellos, Julio (2007-02-20), Dr. Ed Catmull, Co-founder and President of Pixar Animation, Innovate: A Podcast About Innovation And Entrepreneurship, <[3] (retrieved on 2007-03-01)
2. ^ Hormby, Thomas (2007-01-22), The Pixar Story: Dick Shoup, Alex Schure, George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Disney, Low End Mac, <[4] (retrieved on 2007-03-01)
3. ^ Ronald Grover (2004-12-09). Steve Jobs's Sharp Turn with Cars. Business Week Online. Retrieved on 2007-02-23.
4. ^ AGREEMENT AND PLAN OF MERGER by and among THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY, LUX ACQUISITION CORP. and PIXAR Dated as of January 24, 2006. Securities and Exchange Commission. Retrieved on 2007-04-25.
5. ^ Pixar unveils latest project. Variety.com.
6. ^ Douglas, Edwards (2006-06-03), Pixar Mastermind John Lasseter, ComingSoon.net, <[5] (retrieved on 2007-03-01)
7. ^ Furmanczyk, Mario (2006-11-07), Character Animation at CALARTS, Animatedbuzz.com, <[6] (retrieved on 2007-03-01)
8. ^ Smiley, Tavis (2007-01-24), Tavis Smiley - Archive - Wednesday January 24th, <[7] (retrieved on 2007-03-01)
9. ^ Kerychuk, Chad (2005-08-17), In Memory: Joe Ranft (1960-2005), Luxo: A Blog Featuring Pixar Animation Studios, <[8] (retrieved on 2007-03-01)Joe Ranft Obituary from Luxo: a Pixar blog
10. ^ CARS' Bench-Racing Secrets
11. ^ Brooks, Albert. Finding Nemo [DVD]. Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
12. ^ Hempel, Jessi (2003-06-04), "Pixar University: Thinking Outside The Mouse", San Francisco Chronicle, <[9] (retrieved on 2007-03-01)
13. ^ Taylor, William C. & Polly LaBarre (2006-01-29), "How Pixar Adds a New School of Thought to Disney", New York Times, <[10]

Further reading

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