Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Success of Pixar

The Success of Pixar

I think the true success of Pixar lied with John Lassetter. So, technically, it was through Disney in the sense that Disney laid of Lassetter after he worked on a few animations and on the 3D animation in Tron. He then went to Lucas, where they hired him as a "UX Designer" but Edward Catmul (sp?; head of Pixar), truly hired him as an animator to show off their software and hardware.

Another worker at Pixar encouraged Lassetter to turn his animation tests of his 3D lamp into a story and send it on to shows. Lassetter did, and Luxo Jr. was nominated for an Academy Award. So they pumped more into Lassetter's shorts, and he kept going, winning an Academy Award with Tin Toy.

Lassetter and Catmul tried to convince Lucas to make a 3D monkey animation. Lucas said to leave animation to Disney. In the meantime, Katzenberg was head of Disney animation and responsible for putting Disney animation back on the map (he later fell out with Eisner and started DreamWorks, thus giving us Shrek, Madagascar, and more). With every short Lassetter released, Katzenberg offered Lassetter a better job back at Disney. Lassetter refused, Jobs bought Pixar from Lucas, Pixar started making money with commercials, and Lassetter began Toy Story under Jobs (because Lucas wasn't interested).

Finally, rather than offer Lassetter another job, Katzenberg offered Pixar a movie deal... they picked up Toy Story, which was already in production.

So it was actually Lassetter who put Pixar on the map. That's why they made Lassetter CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of Disney when Disney bought Pixar.

Would Pixar have succeeded without Disney? YES!!! They were already getting Academy Award nominations and wins for their shorts. Katzenberg left and started DreamWorks. Three of the most successful animated movies of all time are the three Shrek movies (Shrek 2 is the #1 animated movie). The average DreamWorks animation makes more than the average Disney animation. So, yes, without Disney Pixar would have found another distributor, and their movies would be just as popular.

Fortunately, Katzenberg saw the value of Pixar early on. Did you know that Katzenberg left after Lion King, which is when most people think Disney animated movies started going back downhill?

The first animated movie from Disney under Lassetter's new leadership is the Princess and the Frog, a 2D fairy tale from the team that did Little Mermaid and Aladdin.

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