I just finished David Price’s excellent book titled The Pixar Touch.

Disney-Cars-McQueen

It is chalked full of great stories, interesting anecdotes, and is a testament to the shear will power, and creativity of folks like Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, and Steve Jobs.

Here are some little known facts about Pixar:

• Pixar, not Apple, made Steve Jobs a billionaire. Jobs bought Pixar in 1986 from Lucasfilm for $5 million. In 1995, the week after the release of Toy Story, Pixar went public and Jobs’s stock was worth $1.1 billion.

• Ed Catmull, Pixar’s co-founder, dreamed as a youth of becoming an animator, but decided in high school that he couldn’t draw well enough. Instead, he became an early visionary of computer animation as a graduate student in the 1970’s. “Computer animation was sort of on the lunatic fringe at that time,” remembered Fred Parke, a fellow Ph.D. student in Catmull’s class at the University of Utah.

• When John Lasseter joined Pixar—which was then the computer graphics department of George Lucas’s Lucasfilm—he had just been fired from his dream job as an animator at Disney. He became the first person to apply classic Disney character animation principles to computer animation.

ratatouille-remy

• To learn how to make a realistic French kitchen, the producer and first director of Ratatouille worked as apprentices at an elite French restaurant in the Napa Valley.

• Before it became an animation studio, Pixar went through years of struggle and multi-million-dollar losses. It started as a computer company and John Lasseter’s short films, such as Luxo Jr. and Tin Toy, were promotional films to help sell the company’s computers.

• Pixar was almost bought by…Microsoft? Yep: Jobs remained worried about the company’s finances even after Pixar made a deal with the Walt Disney Co. in 1991 to produce Toy Story, Pixar’s first feature film. The Pixar Touch details the effort to sell Pixar to Bill Gates’s company while Toy Story was in production.

• When writing Toy Story, to find inspiration for the relationship between Buzz and Woody, Lasseter and his story department screened classic “buddy” movies, including 48 Hrs., The Defiant Ones, Midnight Run, and Thelma & Louise.

• John Lasseter has instilled an intense commitment to research in the studio’s creative staff. To prepare for the scene in Finding Nemo in which the fish characters Marlin and Dory become trapped in a whale, two members of the art department climbed inside a dead gray whale that had been stranded north of Marin, California.

mr-incredible

• Pixar deliberately avoided making the humans in The Incredibles look too realistic. They knew that as animated human characters became too close to lifelike, audiences would actually perceive them as repulsive. The phenomenon, known as the “uncanny valley,” had been predicted by a Japanese robotics researcher as early as 1970. Thus, the details of human skin, such as pores and hair follicles, were left out of The Incredibles’ characters in favor of a more cartoonlike appearance.

• The signature of most Pixar feature films is characters who appeal to children (toys, fish, monsters…), but who have adult-like personalities and are dealing with adult-like problems.

• Prior to the acquisition of Pixar by Disney in 2006, Lasseter loathed the idea of Disney making sequels to Pixar films without Pixar’s involvement—as Disney’s contract with Pixar allowed it to do. “These were the people that put out Cinderella II,” Lasseter remarked.

• Pixar is more than an animation studio. Pixar’s innovations in computer graphics technology pervade movies today. Special-effects houses like Industrial Light & Magic (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) use Pixar’s software to create out-of-this-world places and characters.

(taken from amazon review)

If you want to learn more about the incredible journey this company underwent, you can read the book.

Or you can watch the equally good documentary : The Pixar Story.