Established in 1974 as Computer Graphics Lab, Pixar Animation Studios is the place of birth for movies such as Toy Story, Cars, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, and Brave. Even though there are only 17 full-length films released so far, Pixar is considered the best of all 3D animation film companies, and rightly so. Every film they have made has a unique concept, sophisticated and compelling yet simple storytelling, extremely high-quality 3D animation, and characters that people of all age groups could love and relate to. Here are some facts about Pixar that would make you fall in love with it a little more than you already did.
1. One of the founding fathers of Pixar, John Lasseter, was fired from Disney for pushing them to use computer animation. He was then hired by Graphics Group of Lucasfilm, later renamed Pixar, and won two Oscars. When Disney bought Pixar, Lasseter was hired back as the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios to save Disney.
Lasseter started working as an animator at The Walt Disney Company right after graduating. He soon started to feel that something was missing in the films they were making. The problem was that the Disney was repeating itself without adding new ideas and the studio received criticism for this issue. He began finding out about computer animation, but the project he was working on was canceled by the head of Disney, Ron W. Miller, saying there were no cost benefits in mixing traditional and computer animation.
Lasseter later contacted Ed Catmull of Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group, later renamed Pixar Graphics Group, who ensured Lasseter got hired by them. However, George Lucas’s divorce forced him to sell Pixar Graphics Group, which made Steven Jobs a major shareholder. While he was there, Lasseter won two Oscars for Tin Toy and Toy Story. He was welcomed back by Disney when it purchased Pixar and he was named the chief creative officer for both the companies.
2. During the production of Toy Story 2, Pixar accidentally deleted the entire movie from its servers. Luckily, the movie was saved on the personal computer of an employee who was a mother working from home.
In 1998, while routinely clearing some files, one of the animators at Pixar accidentally started a deletion of the root folder of the Toy Story 2 assets on internal servers. The team were able to recover all of the lost assets except for a few recent days work, so they were able to continue working and finish the movie.
3. During the making of Toy Story 2, Pixar animators had such heavy workload that many of them chose to work long hours even though they were discouraged from it. Many of them developed carpal tunnel syndrome and one of them even forgot that he left his baby in the backseat of his car all day.
Toy Story 2 faced a lot of challenges during the production. The creative staff at Pixar were not happy with the way the film was turning out, to which John Lasseter agreed and decided that the movie had to be redone. Disney and Steve Jobs disagreed citing various reasons. However, Pixar decided that they could not allow the movie to be released the way it was. They roped in Lasseter to take over production, who brought in the first film’s creative team to redevelop the story.
To meet Disney’s deadline, Pixar had to finish the entire film in just nine months. Because of the compressed production schedule, there was a huge workload on the team, with as many as a third of the staff suffering from some form of repetitive strain injuries and other problems by the end, and one of them even forgot about his baby in the backseat of his car.
4. Because of the complexity involved in the creation of human characters and massive numbers of sets, Brad Bird, the director of The Incredibles, hired frustrated artists who could do things in different ways that nobody listened to their different ways of doing things and gave them permission to try crazy ideas.
When the technical team at Pixar looked at the human characters, hair, fire, and the massive number of sets of The Incredibles, which were things that computer animation had trouble doing, they told Brad Bird that it would take ten years to make and cost $500 million. The Pixar malcontents were given a chance to prove their theories, and on the way, they also changed how many things were done till then.
5. The four movies A Bug’s Life (1998), Monsters Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL-E (2008) were all conceived out of a brainstorming session during a lunch meeting in 1994.
In the summer of 1994, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, and Pete Docter sat down for a lunch meeting to figure out what Pixar is going to work on next since Toy Story was almost complete. It took Pixar three years of studying the physics of curly hair to accurately render Merida’s hair in the film Brave, and two months for the scene in which she removes her hood revealing the full volume of her hair.
6. It took Pixar three years of studying the physics of curly hair to accurately render Merida’s hair in the film Brave, and two months for the scene in which she removes her hood revealing the full volume of her hair.
Merida’s hair was started as many kinds and series of springs, short, long, fat, thin, stretched, compressed, bouncy and stiff, on a computer. Over 1,500 hand-placed individually sculpted curls were used to make her hair.
Chung and her team later came up with a technique called “core curve and points” whose results resemble a beaded necklace. Another challenge they had to face was figuring out how light interacts with curly hair. It took them a total of almost three years to get the final look for her hair and two more months for the scene where Merida removes her hood.
7. After the Up wrap party, the animators of Toy Story 3, including the director Lee Unkrich, decided to shave their heads to have a “clean start” on the film. They had a contest to see who would last long without cutting after that.
According to animator Victor Navone, the animation department at Pixar likes throwing lots of parties to keep up the morale and the energy high. During one of such wrap parties for Up, the animators of Toy Story 3 decided it would be a good idea to shave their heads with even their director getting dragged into it.
8. Originally, the Married Life sequence from the movie Up was going to show Carl and Ellie in a lifelong punching contest that they started when young, with Ellie also punching Carl in the face on her death bed.
The creators of the characters Carl and Ellie wanted to show the development of a relationship in a “non-sappy” way in the beginning. The punching contest starts when they were young and Carl tries to trap a bird, which Ellie doesn’t like and so punches him. From then on, they start punching each other in different situations, which slowly causes them to like each other, fall in love, and then marry. Even when Ellie was on her deathbed, she gives Carl a punch to which he smiles.
9. Calvin and Hobbes could have been a Pixar movie. But, its cartoonist and creator Bill Watterson refused to sell the film rights because he believed it would only work in print.
Many, including Steven Spielberg and Pixar, have wanted to turn it into movies. The plush toy giant Dakin wanted to make merchandise just the way Garfield’s creator Jim Davis had allowed.
10. Disney almost made Toy Story 3 without Pixar. It was almost in production stage before being scrapped by Pixar.
In 2004, Disney and Pixar signed an agreement that stated Disney owns all the characters created by Pixar and has the right to make sequels to any Pixar films, though Pixar retains the right to refuse to work on them. In that story, after Buzz is shipped off to Taiwan, the other toys figure out that the toy company is replacing faulty Buzz Lightyear toys instead of repairing them.
The script of the movie was completed and the production was ready. In 2006, when Disney bought Pixar in a deal that made Pixar chiefs Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter in charge of all Disney Animation. After this, Circle 7 was disbanded with some of the animators being transferred to Pixar where another version of Toy Story 3 we see today was made.
11. In the Japanese version of the movie Inside Out, Pixar replaced the scenes that have broccoli with bell peppers, because Japanese children are not disgusted by broccoli.
Pixar wanted to make the movie work for the international audience as well, and not just the domestic audience. As the movie is about emotions, they felt that some of the content in the movie wouldn’t make sense in other countries.
12. In the movie Up, the animators used 20,622 balloons to lift Carl’s house. In reality, it takes around 23.5 million party balloons to lift it.
The co-director of Up, Pete Docter, revealed that the technicians at Pixar estimated that 23.5 million balloons are required to lift a 1,800 square foot house like Carl’s. The exact sizes of the balloons used in the estimation are not known. In the movie, only 20,622 balloons were used during the lift-off scene, and only 10,297 were used during the floating scenes.
13. Pixar granted the wish of a 10-year-old girl, Colby Curtin, suffering from cancer, who wanted to see the film Up before she died. A Pixar employee flew to her home and screened a DVD for her and her family before it was released. Curtin died seven hours later, after having her wish granted.
When Colby saw the trailer for Up, said she wanted to see the movie. On July 2 in 2009, her mother asked a hospice company to provide a wheelchair for Colby to go to the theater and watch the movie. A family friend called Pixar officials, who listened to Colby’s story and sent their employee with the DVD and stuffed toys.
14. The custom of listing production babies in the credits of animated films was started by Pixar in 1995 for Toy Story. Production babies are the children born to anyone working on a film during its production.
According to Lee Unkrich, a director at Pixar, the production team and film crew strongly associate the birth of their children to the movie they were working on at that time. Adding the name of the babies in the credits had become a way for the staff to permanently connect the memory of their children’s birth with the movie. There was also another similar list included in the credits for the movie Tangled called “Chameleon Babies”, which included the baby of real-life model for Rapunzel’s pet in the film.
15. Pixar Animation Studios was built with special foundations, rubber isolators, and generators to ensure staff’s safety and to continue film production even when there are earthquakes.
Pixar Animation Studios has, perhaps, one of the most sophisticated buildings built to be functional despite large-scale problems, including earthquakes. Designed by Rutherford & Chekene, who recommended base isolated building system to secure the safety of the staff and also so that they could keep working in the event of an earthquake.
16. The Pizza Planet Truck that makes deliveries for Pizza Planet in Toy Story appears in practically every Pixar movie, except The Incredibles.
The Pizza Planet truck is a 1978 Gyoza Mark VII Lite Hauler truck model used to make pizza deliveries in most of the Pixar movies. The truck is painted yellow and white, with a license plate that reads RES1536, a reference to the original Toy Story’s resolution rendered at 1236 X 922. Call this number to report me!”
17. Many employees at Pixar have hut-like or cottage-like work spaces instead of cubicles making it look almost like a village set instead of an office.
Each animator at Pixar is allowed to do whatever they want to their office space. Pixar pays for the basic infrastructure, like walls, basic desks, chairs, computer equipment, and so on.
18. Pixel Studios has a secret speakeasy room called “Lucky 7” hidden behind a bookshelf that opens by pressing a button hidden inside a bust of Shakespeare.
When Andrew Gordon, an animator at Pixar, found a small door in his new office that led to a small room clad in sheet metal that provided access to air-conditioning valves, he and his boss Andrew Stanton, along with their colleagues, decided to turn it into a hidden lounge. They decorated it with Christmas lights, lava lamps, and furnished it luxuriously and called it “The Love Lounge”. When he got a promotion and moved to a new office, he created a new one called “Lucky 7” that can be accessed by flicking a button hidden in the bust of Shakespeare which opens a wall panel behind a bookshelf.