Throughout our watching of all the Disney Animated Classics, there were characters that were sorely missing. Characters like Buzz and Woody. Characters like Wall-E and Eve. Characters like Mike and Sully. And the list goes on. As many of you may know, this is because Pixar films were never considered part of the official animated canon. They were in a group all there own. Well, starting today, that missing piece to the Disney puzzle on this blog will begin to get filled. Welcome to a new blog series: Vault Pixar!
The dream of Pixar was started way back in 1971 by a guy named Alexander Schure who established the Computer Graphics Lab in order to bring together folks like himself who were determined to make the very first Computer Animated Film. Among his first hires were folks we’ve talked about in Vault Disney before like Ed Catmull. Eventually though, money ran short and many of the animators left to work for Lucasfilm.
While at Lucasfilm, Catmull and his team began to create all sorts of technologies for CGI. Everything from new computer systems to particle effects came out of this little group. In 1982, they started work on special effects for whole sequences with ILM, Industrial Light and Magic. After Return of the Jedi, of course, Star Wars revenue began to decline and worry among the team was that the entire studio would soon be sold. In order to stay together as a team, they became their own company, but knowing that they couldn’t make a full length CGI film just yet, they decided to pass the time by making a computer system for the government in order to pay the bills. This system was called the ‘Pixar Image Computer.’
One of the buyers of these computers, happened to be a little company called Walt Disney Studios. They were using the computers for their CAPS system which enabled them to migrate ink and paint directly to a cell in order to save tons of time and money. During this time though, Steve Jobs was progressively buying stock, little by little, in hopes of eventually owning Pixar. He had tried to buy it outright, but George Lucas had denied him.
Animator John Lasseter and a small team at Pixar started making short CGI sequences for commercials. Between this and the fact that they were selling hardware and continuing to work with Walt Disney Animation, the company was barely staying afloat. In 1991, they were forced to lay off 30 employees and the end seemed in sight, when a deal was struck with Disney to make 3 full length CGI films, starting with Toy Story. The company was pinching pennies and even Steve himself had fallen out of love with the company, when Toy Story finally released and, well, the rest is to be discovered in this all new project.
Starting this week, I’ll be watching, researching and writing about one Pixar film a week as we journey through a company who has become synonymous with story telling genius. These articles will release every week on Sunday. We’ll talk about rats and robots, bears and dinosaurs as we go and I invite you to watch the films with me. This project might not last as long as the full Vault Disney project, but I have been aching to write about these films and I hope you’ll have fun reading about them and re-watching.
For now, tell me what what your favorite Pixar film is and check out the original Vault Disney Series HERE!