Although Pixar’s lineage dates back to the 1970s, it wasn’t until Steve Jobs purchased the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Division from George Lucas on February 3, 1986, that it officially became known as “Pixar”.
With less than 50 employees on hand after the official formation of the company, there were a surprising number of changes that would happen along the way to producing Toy Story — the groundbreaking film that would forever change the industry. From its early roots as a hardware-based company to its unique television commercials, Pixar slowly evolved into the company it seemed destined to become.
With Ed Catmull’s technical advancements in computer graphics, to John Lasseter’s storytelling and animation prowess, the backbone to become a premiere feature film production house was in place early on. Through the passage of time and hiring the right people, the roots for Toy Story would take hold in 1991 when the script began (first draft by John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Andrew Stanton). Over the next four years, Toy Story would become not only the first full-length computer-generated animated film but also one of the most beloved animated films of all time.
Due to their enormously successful and ever-expanding list of films, Pixar’s distribution partner, Disney, soon realized that the overwhelming majority of their profits in animation were coming from a company they didn’t even own. Not wanting to let the deal dissolve over time, Disney acquired Pixar on May 5, 2006 (after a series of negotiations and Pixar shareholder approval) for $7.4 billion dollars.
What a ride it has been – if there’s one constant throughout all the background changes that have happened (and will continue to happen), it’s that our love and respect for Pixar’s artistry has only grown over time.
As Pixar passes this 30-year milestone, we congratulate the employees on their hard work and dedication to entertaining audiences around the globe with their unique vision. Their stories have made us laugh and cry (or more realistically…sob). Their technical achievements have made our eyes pop and jaws drop as we witnessed scenes we thought were impossible to craft on a computer.
Their films and merchandise have permeated our lives in such a seamless way that it’s impossible to imagine a world without Buzz Lightyear, Lightning McQueen, or Carl and Ellie Fredricksen.
Although this post is a high-level summary of Pixar’s history, this is our simple way of thanking Pixar for entertaining us for 30 years with their brilliant artistry. Here’s to “infinity and beyond”.
We’d love to hear your love for Pixar on their 30th anniversary as well — in one sentence, describe what Pixar means to you, tell us how their work has made you feel, or simply list the film that impacted you the most. Bonus points if you know why we used the character we did in the lead image for this post (comment below)?
The official Walt Disney site posted a 6-minute video of John Lasseter reminiscing about the last 30 years at Pixar. Although a lot of the information has been talked about previously, we really enjoyed it when he talked about the wrap party for Toy Story — you could almost see the change in his face and it felt like a very real moment as he reflected on this proud moment.