The internet was buzzing about yet another set of lost Steve Jobs interview tapes on Tuesday (04/17). Now that I’ve had the time to dig into the full article by Brent Schlender (published on Fast Company’s website), I thought I’d scrape through all the nitty-gritty and pull out just the Pixar-related notes.
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One more side note – the tapes that were lost were a total of 36 tapes (some of them were up to three hours) – that’s a lot of material. I will note that if you’re going to read the highlights from the article below and you want a more in-depth and frankly more realistic view of the topics I would strongly recommend reading The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company by David A. Price.
The Pixar Touch provides a more realistic and complete view of the background of Steve Jobs – the Fast Company article paints a much rosier picture of Steve’s antics surrounding Pixar as it was a money hog for him. The Fast Company article also leaves out the details surrounding Catmull’s position change due to physically feeling sick from dealing with Steve and his <cough> quirky attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve like the next guy, but I think it’s only fair to paint a realistic picture – I think much more of Pixar’s success lies in Ed Catmull’s hands, followed by John Lasseter.
Pixar related notes from the Fast Company article
- Jobs noted that in 1985 he attempted to convince the Apple board to buy the CG division (later called Pixar) from George Lucas’ growing “Empire” (pun intended). The board was not interested and Steve recalled that “these guys were way ahead of us on graphics, way ahead”.
- We then dive into a massively abridged version of the story…after Steve was kicked out of Apple he drove a hard bargain with George Lucas and bought Pixar for a cool five million dollars and included a five million dollar investment in the company on top of the purchase price.
- Jobs intended the company to build high-performance computer hardware for Hollywood and medical imaging – this strategy didn’t work.
- It also highlights that Jobs bought into Lasseter and Catmull’s view that they should make animated movies and forego other business ventures within Pixar.
- Jobs took their new focus seriously and “pulled a rabbit out of his hat” and procured a $26 million USD marketing deal with Disney that would secure their first full-length feature film (Toy Story).
- It notes that Steve thought that Hollywood had it wrong by laying off staff after the production of a film wrapped – he thought that they needed to “build a company, not just make a single movie”.
- Pixar went public ten days after Toy Story was released in 1995.
- A real studio would not be required for the superstar team of animators so Steve commissioned a proper space to work in – he fretted over every detail of the 12 shades of brick asking the bricklayers to redo the work if the colors weren’t spaced evenly enough.
- He started Pixar University for the workers within the Pixar wall to expand their knowledge in their field as well as other areas to broaden their horizons as well, like dance, creative writing or accounting.
I would also like to note that if you’re looking for a more holistic view of Steve Jobs’ life, to check out the biography by Walter Isaacson – as if you don’t already own this biography – it was only the biggest selling biography of 2011 and it was released at the end of October.