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. So, 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.(source)
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. It was first noticed by the associate technical director when the character models they were working on started disappearing. By the time they shut down the file servers they lost 90 percent of two years of work, and also there was a failure of backups some time previously. However, technical director Galyn Susman, who was working from home to take care of her newborn child, had backups of the assets on her home computer. 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.(source)
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 back seat of his car all day.
Toy Story 2 faced a lot of challenges during 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. But, 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. Hence, 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.(source)
4. Because of the complexity involved in the creation of human characters and a massive number of sets, Brad Bird, the director of The Incredibles, hired frustrated artists. These artists had unconventional ideas that nobody listened to and could accomplish things using methods that were deemed crazy by others.
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. So, instead, Brad Bird asked for the frustrated artists, those who had other ways of doing things that nobody was listening to, and were probably going to quit because of it. 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. They were able to make the movie for less than the amount spent on the previous film, Finding Nemo, but with three times more number of sets and a lot of things that were very hard to do.(source)
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. According to Stanton, the four of them brought the best out of each other and after the brainstorming session sketching the outlines and characters they came up with the four movies. The place where the lunch took place, the Hidden City Cafe, was actually included in the movie Monsters Inc.(source)
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, on a computer, as a series of many kinds of springs; short, long, fat, thin, stretched, compressed, bouncy, and stiff. In order to give it a volume, the springs were added in layers of varied sizes and flexibility. Over 1,500 hand-placed individually sculpted curls were used to make her hair. Another challenge was that of the physics of the hair. According to Claudia Chung, the simulation supervisor of Brave, the hair movement is paradoxical as the ‘spring’ of hair has to be stiff and resilient to hold the curl but also has to remain soft in its movement.
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.(source)