30 Dec Custom 3D: A History of Pixar
Before 1995, Pixar was just another research studio doing custom 3D graphics, well known in the CG community, but not elsewhere. Then Woody, Buzz and a cast of memorable computer-generated characters burst on the scene, stealing our hearts and making Pixar a household name.
Pixar’s history begins, sort of, in 1984 when John Lasseter left his animation post at Disney Studio and joined George Lucas’ special effects computer group, which became Pixar just two years later. In 1986, Steve Jobs buys the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, Ltd. for $10 million, naming the firm “Pixar.”
The company produces four short computer-generated releases in 1986-89. In 1989, Pixar creates its first commercial, “Wake Up” for Tropicana. The company also begins its impressive award-winning stint in 1989, when its short release “Tin Toy” wins an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
Pixar puts five commercials on television during 1990, including ads for Volkswagen, Trident, Pillsbury and Lifesaver. Commercial success continues for the firm in 1991-95 when it put 56 more commercials, including the memorable Listerine bottle in a boxing ring, on the air.
Pixar and Disney team up in 1991 to produce and distribute three animated films. The company went public in 1995, selling 6.9 million shares at $22 a share. It is the biggest initial public offering of the year and raises $140 million.
On Thanksgiving Weekend 1995, “Toy Story” rolled into U.S. movie theaters. The fist fully computer-animated feature is the highest grossing film of the year, pulling in $362 million worldwide.
Pixar ends its work in commercials in 1996, producing nine ads during its final year. The awards come rolling in during 1996 as Lasseter is given a Special Achievement Award at the Oscars and three members of the “Toy Story” production team earn the Science and Engineering Academy Award for Digital Image Compositing. The film also earns two Golden Globe and three Academy Award nominations.
Disney and Pixar enter into an agreement to produce five movies, and two Pixar staffers earn Scientific and Engineering Academy Awards in 1997.
“A Bug’s Life” is released in 1998, setting Thanksgiving weekend records and earning worldwide acclaim.
“Toy Story 2” debuts in 1999 and is the first animated sequel to gross more than the original. The film picks up a Golden Globe and two Grammy awards in 2000.
In 2001, Lasseter signs a 10-year deal to only provide work for Pixar. “Monsters, Inc.” is released and reaches $100 million at the domestic box offices in just nine days and becomes the third highest grossing animated film of all time. When it is released on DVD and video in 2002, it is the year’s top seller.
“Finding Nemo” is released in 2003 and becomes the top-grossing animated film of all time. It becomes the No. 1 DVD of all time in sales in 2004. Also in 2004, “The Incredibles” is released.
In 2006, the Walt Disney Co. acquired Pixar and “Cars” is released. The following year, “Ratatouille” is released to box-office and critical acclaim. It is the sixth-highest grossing film of 2007. “Wall-E” is released in 2008 and brings in six Academy Award nominations, a Pixar record. “Up” soars into theaters in 2009 and grosses $731 million worldwide.
The toys were back in town again in 2010 as “Toy Story 3” was released. Its $110 million opening weekend sales set a record for June openings. By this point, Pixar has established itself as a leading firm in custom 3D graphics.