"Story is king."
— Pixar company motto
Once upon a time, George Lucas
used some of his money to form a new division at Lucasarts known as "Graphics Group". The company originally did this and that for a while, most notably the Genesis planet simulation from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
and the stained-glass knight from Young Sherlock Holmes
. Working there was one John Lasseter, who created a CGI short entitled The Adventures of Andre and Wally B
in his downtime, with the assistance of computer genius Ed Catmull.
Seeking money for his divorce costs (and also because of the failure known as Howard the Duck
), Lucas eventually sold it to Steve Jobs
for ten million dollars. The company was named Pixar after their first product, a video rendering computer for medical use. Though it didn't sell very well, Steve Jobs continued to pour money into it, and Pixar repurposed itself as a firm creating computer-animated commercials for companies such as Listerine Mouthwash and Lifesavers candies.
At the same time, John Lasseter continued to use CGI to make short films and showed them around at conventions, specifically the computer-graphics convention SIGGRAPH. While other people were showing landscapes and technical demos, Lasseter's short Luxo Jr.
was a masterpiece in storytelling that established several new CGI tricks and demonstrated the narrative ability of the art. Pixar's subsequent shorts
secured their status as the leader in computer animation.
In short order, Pixar moved away from medical imaging, instead continuing to refine their RenderMan digital rendering software while making commercials even as they set out to accomplish a very lofty goal — to make the first ever feature-length all-CGI film
. The rest is history: Pixar signs a distribution deal with Disney
, Pixar makes a lot of hits, Pixar and Disney boss Michael Eisner
have issues, Disney gets a new boss (Whose wife was also Steve Jobs' wife's roommate in college) , Pixar and Disney kiss and make up, Disney buys Pixar for more than seven billion dollars
(for scale, when they bought the entire Marvel empire it cost four billion), making Jobs' ten-million-dollar purchase a real steal considering the purchase made him a major shareholder in Disney, and all is well.
When Pixar makes a movie, more often than not, it will be well done at worst
. 12 out of the 13 films released so far (Cars 2
being the odd one out) have been nominated for at least one Oscar; in 2010, Up
became the second animated film (and first CGI film) to be nominated for Best Picture, and the next year, Toy Story 3
became the third animated (and second CGI film) to get that nomination. Only one of the studio's films (Cars 2
) has really failed critically; on Rotten Tomatoes
, the first two Toy Story
films have perfect scores
(the third has a 99% rating, tying it with Finding Nemo
for second place) and their fifth-lowest rated movie (A Bugs Life
) has a 92% rating. Many of their films sit on the Internet Movie Database's "top 250 films" list, and Pixar is usually topping that site's "50 best animated films" list (the studio's two highest-rated films on the site, Wall E
& Toy Story 3
, currently have a score of 8.5/10). Nearly all of their films take their subjects and turn them on their heads
(friendly monsters who only scare for their day jobs
, race cars who learn to take it slow and that there's more to life than winning
, robots who teach humans how to feel emotions again
, etc.) and in doing so pack them full of humor (including jokes that go way over the heads of kids
) and drama.
Of course, if you think they're not business-minded, keep in mind that their films have never failed financially, either. Out of their films, only three (Toy Story
, A Bugs Life
and Cars 2
) have failed to break the $200 million dollar mark in the US, and none of them failed to break the $200 million mark in foreign box office take; the studio's highest-grossing film, Toy Story 3
made over a billion dollars worldwide (becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time and the first animated film to earn a billion). The average domestic box office take of a Pixar film is around $250 million, and all of their films have made over six billion dollars in combined domestic and foreign box office take. Also worth noting: every single Pixar film has opened at the #1 spot in the weekend box office. Sans Brave
(while still a respectable #13), all of Pixar's films are among the top ten highest-grossing films of the year they've been released.
Lest you think that they're just a bunch of artists, though, you should know that their first Academy Award wasn't for a movie — it was for PhotoRealistic RenderMan
, the software that they make and license to other filmmakers that fuels an innumerable amount of CG in films. It was the first Academy Award given out for a piece of software
They also seem to be a very personal and humble company:
Pixar itself is located in Emeryville, California on a huge campus of the type more commonly associated with tech companies in nearby Silicon Valley— complete with a high-quality cafeteria (with dedicated chef), an exercise facility, a soccer field, and hallways lined with concept art, employee projects, and life-size statues of Pixar characters (including a 2-story-tall Luxo lamp). The best part: it is possible (though difficult) to get tours.
For a list of the studio's shorts, go here
There is an Xbox 360 Kinect
video game featuring characters from The Incredibles
, and the Toy Story
franchise called Kinect Rush A Disney Pixar Adventure
To get a little information about the people behind the 'toons, go here
There's also this
, if you want to know everything about Pixar's early history.
Tropes associated with Pixar include:
- 3-D Movie: Starting with Up.
- All-CGI Cartoon: Trope Maker, with Toy Story.
- Animation Bump: Pixar often make noticeable technology developments in between films, such as animation of fur in Monsters Inc and water in Finding Nemo.
- Arc Number: A113, See More Below.
- Arch-Competitor: With Dreamworks Animation, though greatly exaggerated by Dreamworks' Hatedom.
- Author Appeal: Butt-pinching comes up in The Incredibles (Mr. and Mrs. Parr), Cars and the ''El Materador" short (The old lady car slapping "Nice Butte" stickers on cars' behinds, Mater and the two Miatas, via yanking their rear bumpers with his crane), and Brave (The King and Queen Elinor).
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Averted; at present, of their many films, only three of them are rated PG in the US (although some have argued that Toy Story 3 and/or Cars 2 deserved such a rating).
- Black and White Morality: All Pixar films thus far...
- Breakthrough Hit: Toy Story
- Broken Streak: After 11 consecutive films with a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Cars 2 is released to 39% on RT. Cue Internet Backdraft.
- Also, ever since the Academy Awards established the "Best Animated Feature" category in 2001, Pixar films have been inevitably nominated... until Cars 2.
- Cash Cow Franchise: Merchandise for the Cars series has been noted to sell extremely well.
- Continuity Nod: They frequently reference past productions, from shorts (Luxo Jr.'s ball is a frequent sight) to movies (the Pizza Planet truck being the most blatant example)
- Doing It for the Art: Steve Jobs spent a fortune on this small company that no one knew about for a decade before they exploded into fame.
- Dub Name Change/Theme Naming: The release of Pixar movies in Chinese-speaking countries often leads to them being renamed "X Team" in Mandarin, a practice that even spreads to some non-Pixar CGI animated movies. Hence, Toy Story = "Toys Team", A Bugs Life = "Insects Team" etc. This sometimes leads to a Title Drop in the Mandarin dubs, like at the end of Cars.
- Dueling Movies: Averting this trope is the reason Pixar stopped production on Newt (Blue Sky's Rio had roughly the same plot).
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The happy endings never come easy in Pixar movies.
- Genre-Busting: Their films tend towards this.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Several of the characters in the Cars films are based on a certain vehicle associated with their actor (i.e. Sig Hansen as a sentient version of the Northwestern).
- Most Writers Are Male: John Lasseter on why Pixar hasn't had a female main character before Brave: "We're a bunch of guys".
- Not so Above It All: Literal example: Cars 2 is the first Pixar movie to ever receive a "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Once an Episode/Running Gag/Early-Bird Cameo: The Pizza Planet truck, giving a role to John Ratzenberger in every film, putting a cameo of a character from the next film to be released, and the one listed in Shout Out.
- Otaku: Watch some of their movies and just look at how many references they make to Japan. Lasseter is a long time admirer of Hayao Miyazaki, they've become professional friends, and Miyazaki's stamp of approval was instrumental in helping Toy Story catch on in Japan. Disney, under the direction of a Pixar-related employee, is the only studio Miyazaki blesses with English dubs of his work.
- Lassetter even flew Japanese girl group Perfume to the premiere of Cars 2 and surprised them with full knowledge of their back catalogue during lunch together. They recorded a J-Pop single for the film in which the characters visit Tokyo.
- Papa Wolf: About half of Pixar's male leads are fathers (Bob Parr, Marlin) or substitute fathers (Sulley, Carl, arguably Woody and Buzz) whose main conflict in their respective movies is involves and/or affects their children, as well as dealing with the physical and emotional baggage of that responsibility. Considering that many of Pixar's Regulars were starting to have families of their own during Pixar's earlier filmmaking years, it makes more than enough sense.
- Production Foreshadowing: Happens enough times for a Pixar movie being the page image.
- Serendipity Writes The Plot: By the early 1990s, everything CG was kinda plastic... so Pixar did a film starring plastic characters. Then computer technology allowed to depict living animals better (bugs, furry/scaly creatures, fish, and then humans).
- Scenery Porn: The Incredibles's commentary mentions having entire meetings devoted to the placement of the food at the dinner table during one scene.
- Shout Out: A113 shows up in every Pixar film.
- Shown Their Work: While Pixar does mix some things around for the sake of Artistic License, it plays this very straight.
- Stunt Casting: Subverted! Pixar certainly has commendable star power for each film, but make it a point to match the actor to the character, not vice versa.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Many a Pixar hero doesn't get along well with his co-protagonist or sidekick for most the film.
- The Verse: With each of the films making all kinds of countless Shout Outs to previous movies and shorts and even a few characters making cameos here and there, this trope is almost impossible to ignore.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Despite the fact that the morality is clear, the villains usually have a good motivation (or a Freudian Excuse) to make them less straight-up evil. Pete Docter said that a regular "doing evil for evil" villain is not a "real" one.