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Comments (44) Lawrence Levy, News, Review, Steve Jobs, To Pixar and Beyond, Toy Story

Book review: To Pixar and Beyond

to-pixar-and-beyond-by-lawrence-levy-book-cover-200x3002x“Art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”

But what about business? In his new book, To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History, Lawrence Levy sheds a light on the business side of Pixar and how the studio emerged as a renowned name while he served as its Chief Financial Officer. With rich clarity and detail, Levy recounts Pixar’s humble beginnings and astronomical success, his relationship with Steve Jobs, and the practical lessons other leaders can implement to make their own companies flourish.

Pixar was never an overnight success. In fact, when Levy was recruited by Steve Jobs in 1994, success was a mere word, not a tangible outcome. For 16 years the company floundered, after Jobs’ original plans for the Pixar Computer failed. Levy was understandably reluctant to join this small company with both a complicated past and a murky future. Originally located in Point Richmond, California, even its office was dreary and unimpressive. There was nothing to suggest that this was a studio worth investing in.

And then Levy watched the first clip of Toy Story and the rest was history.

Well, not quite. Toy Story‘s impact on Levy was profound. He realized that Pixar was going to change animation. “Pixar was embarked on a lonely, courageous quest through terrain into which neither it nor anyone else had ever ventured.” While he was moved by the passion of John Lasseter and had confidence in Lasseter’s vision, as well as Ed Catmull’s, he also expressed reservations about joining them. Pixar represented too great of a business risk. There was awe inspiring vision, but nothing to ground it. When Levy did eventually sign on, he remained wary, but he also remained awed over Toy Story‘s emotional power.

The highest priority for Steve Jobs was taking the company public. This was nearly impossible since the studio’s lack of success wouldn’t attract investors. Finding investors was a grueling process. But when Pixar did secure backers, it was on the strength of its vision for computer animation. Taking such a risk proved enormously rewarding: Toy Story was the biggest film of 1995 upon its release, grossing $192 million. Pixar’s market value totaled $1.5 billion. The studio was no longer a failed Steve Jobs endeavor, but a new and striking force within the animation industry.

Even as Pixar’s success rate continued its ascent, neither Levy nor the creative team grew too comfortable. He wisely notes that success changes an individual. The goal was always to take risks with the films, and they were allowed to do just that, without executive meddling. Such was Levy and Jobs’ commitment to preserving Pixar’s creative spirit along with its financial security.

Even if the world of finances, business and stocks is alien to the reader, To Pixar and Beyond is a thoroughly engaging and fascinating read. This is attributed to Lawrence Levy’s personable and warm tone. A deep sense of humility characterizes his reflections. This book is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to learn more about Pixar’s history and the overlooked people responsible for its breakthrough success. Levy also makes a case for how necessary practicality is to a company like Pixar. Just as technology can be wedded to art, so too can business.

We are also giving away a copy of the book to three lucky readers! To enter, simply comment on this post and tell us who your favorite Toy Story character is. We will announce the winners on November 22nd, which is also the film’s 21st anniversary!

To learn more about the book and author, please visit lawrencelevy.com.

UPDATE: this giveaway is now closed.

44 Responses to Book review: To Pixar and Beyond

  1. My favorite Toy Story character is definitely Buzz Lightyear.

  2. By far and above, my favorite character is Bullseye. His honest and pure character, the loyalty and moments he shared with Woody and his heartened and lovable awkwardness… all that.

  3. Hannah says:

    My favorite Toy Story character is Weezy because without him there would be no second movie.

  4. Camron O. says:

    Potato Head of course! Besides introducing a new generation to the comedy of Don Rickles, he’s also proven himself to be a loyal despite his grumpy attitude. His relationship with the aliens is also hysterical. And last but not least, no one can pull off a bowler hat like this spud can.

  5. Debbie says:

    Love Woody! Love Toy Story and the Love behind it all!

  6. Mike Driscoll says:

    I can’t wait to read this book! I am a 3D animator and Pixar has been a huge inspiration in continuing in my quest in becoming a success in my field.

    If I had to pick my favorite toy story character, it would have to be Buzz Lightyear. He is a loyal character that’s not afraid to get his plastic hands dirty in order to get the job done.

  7. Kevin Surzyb says:

    Mrs Nesbit for sure! Comic humor but hilarious in all situations!

  8. Joey says:

    My favorite character is Slinky Dog. His sense of humor always had me laughing and his elongated body save the toys on more than on occasion. Additionally, he was voice by Jim Varney who lived in the same small town I grew up in. I even got a chance to play a small role in Ernest Scared Stupid. Does that make me biased? 😉

  9. Amy says:

    Woody is my favorite. I related to his feeling of being “replaced” and eventually learning to share the love

  10. Mark Payne says:

    Buzz. Unfettered, blind naive optimism and a heart of Gold,

  11. Renata says:

    I’m a huge fan of Toy Story. My favorite character is Woody, because he’s loyal and always be there for his friends. I would really love to have this book.

  12. Oooh, I wonder how this compares to Price’s “The Pixar Touch”! And I’d have to say that Rex is my favorite Toy Story character.

  13. Brittany White says:

    Although it isn’t very original, my favorite Toy Story character is Woody. I’ve always admired his love and loyalty to Andy regardless of circumstances. Woody is how I have always imagined a cowboy would be.

  14. Chris says:

    Sheriff Woody is my absolute favorite! And he’s voiced by my favorite actor! There’s a snake in my boot! Thanks, Hanks

  15. Nigel Davies says:

    After the Portuguese Buzz, it’s hard to think of another favourite. His character has been changed the most over the course of the 1st three films – and is the main reason why I am getting impatient for Toy Story 4. And Incredibles 2…

  16. Buzz Lightyear is my favorite Toy Story character. He was wings, he glows in the dark, he talks, and his helmet does that whoosh thing. He is such a cool toy.

  17. Stefan says:

    After staying at Toy Story hotel in Shanghai our new favourite is Lotso. Yes he is kind evil but as a result of bad circumstances.

  18. Kate Hudson says:

    Hamm is played by a very fine actor. 😎

  19. Jaimie says:

    I would have to say my favorite character is Slinky!

  20. Kaley Sheppard says:

    Odd that I wouldn’t choose a toy, but I think Andy is my favourite Toy Story character. I quite literally grew up alongside Andy and see a lot of myself in his journey through the first three films. If I have to choose a toy I think it would be Woody, I admire his optimism.

  21. Betsy Johnson says:

    Buzz Lightyear. To infinity and beyond.

  22. Absolutely Buzz Lightyear!

  23. Well being a lifelong fan of Pixar characters, among all I’d say Luxo (yes the one that kicks Buzz out of the window) whose spin kicks that storytelling to a new level.

  24. Amy H. says:

    My favorite character is Jessie. I love her optimism and heart, and her trust issues are relatable, very human.

  25. Mitchell says:

    Probably would have to be Woody.

  26. Paul Greenwood says:

    It would Have to be Hamm The a pig, He Is My Favorite Toy Story Character.

  27. Hi there, I just listened to the book as an audiobook in my car on a long business trip. It was amazing! I highly recommend it.

    My favourite character – it’s a tough one, there are so many! But it would have to be
    P.T. Flea from a Bugs’s Life ‘Flaming Death’.

  28. Matthew Lish says:

    My favorite Toy Story character is Geri. He has one of my favorite movie lines of all time, “You can’t rush art.”

  29. Nicole says:

    Buzz!!! Toy Story will always hold a special place in my heart bc Toy Story 3 was the last movie I watched with mom before she passed away. I can’t wait to read this.

    • Simoa Simoa says:

      Hi Nicole, thanks for sharing such a special memory. Congratulations on winning a copy! Please check your email for further instructions.

  30. Mary H. says:

    “OoooOO0000oooo strangers from the outside” – my Toy Story favs are the Little Green Men in the claw machine! Strong character design featuring aliens that aren’t creepy, they’re adorable, have a real sense of peril, and are very quotable!

  31. WoodyFan says:

    Woody is my favorite Toy Story character.

  32. Jarett says:

    Stretch from toy story 3!

  33. Sean McMann says:

    I love Little Bo Peep. Not only does she always believe in Woody, she brings a certain sweetness and sincerity to the cast — while principal characters like Woody and Buzz have their own agendas (the former looking to supplant Buzz as Andy’s favorite toy, the latter looking to be an rockstar for his new colleagues in Andy’s room), Little Bo Peep is all about lifting up Andy (even against all odds) and restoring harmony among all the toys. She’s the ideal to which all toys should aspire: Her main goal is the happiness of others. Love her!

    • Simoa Simoa says:

      Great choice! Bo Peep is quite underrated. Congratulations on winning a copy of the book! Please check your email for further instructions.

  34. Brian (@b16tran) says:

    From the original cast: Etch was a neat character. I always played with Etch A Sketches in stores but never officially got one.

  35. Jen Taylor says:

    My favourite character is Woody. I’ve loved toy story since I was little. I always had a buzz lightyear growing up, which I ended up giving to my nephew, but never had a woody doll. I finally got one on my 27th Birthday! This book would be amazing, and would sit pride of place with my woody doll on my display shelving. ❤️

  36. Jack says:

    Favourite character is easily Woody. He has the best heart and love for Andy, and always makes the right decision for the other toys.

  37. Lee B says:

    I love Mrs. Potato Head. She reminds me of my mother, with her NY accent and everything spoken is yelled. She cares about Mr Potato Head and always makes it known!

  38. Belinda says:

    Woody, for sure. No matter the circumstance, his unwavering dedication and love towards Andy is incomparable to any other character. Truly inspiring.

  39. Rex. No question. He’s hilarious.

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