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Book review: To Pixar and Beyond

Lawrence Levy, Review, Steve Jobs, To Pixar and Beyond, Toy Story

Posted by Simoa • November 16, 2016

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.

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Woody’s News Round-Up! (11/20/12)

Academy Awards, Blu-Ray, Brave, La Luna, Monsters, Inc., Pixar Employees, Round-Ups, Steve Jobs

Posted by Brkyo614 • November 20, 2012

As the year comes to a close, the excitement surrounding Brave and other 2012 Pixar releases is settling down; all that’s left is the December 19 release of Monsters, Inc. 3D. Nonetheless, a few worthwhile Pixar stories have made the rounds recently.

Pixar Honors Steve Jobs: Many forget the influence of the late Steve Jobs on Pixar’s upbringing, providing essential financial support and leadership for the company up until his death. The studio’s staff, though, have certainly not forgotten – in honor of Jobs’ legacy, the studio recently erected a sign above the entrance to its main building in Emeryville, officially declaring it "The Steve Jobs Building". (Via Pixar Times)

Enrico Casarosa Unveils La Luna Statue: Following his previous tease, La Luna director Enrico Casarosa recently tweeted a first look at a maquette based on the short’s lead character, Bambino. Just 500 will be available exclusively at the Pixar studio store next month, and a wider release is unfortunately unlikely.

Amazon Lists Monsters, Inc. for 3D Blu-ray Release: A month prior to the 3D theatrical release, Amazon is already listing a 5-disc 3D Blu-ray edition of Monsters, Inc. for pre-order. No release date has been announced yet, but check back in the coming months. (Via Pixar Talk)

First "For Your Consideration" Ad for Brave: With the movie awards season rapidly approaching, Pixar is aiming to drum up some enthusiasm among critics through a new ad for Brave, recently seen in Variety. Likely the first of many, the print ad aims to net the film a few Oscar nods by reminding readers of the visceral beauty of Brave. (Awards Daily, via Pixar Talk)

Your thoughts?

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Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Steve Jobs

Posted by Thomas • October 6, 2011

L-R: Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, Bob Iger and John LasseterSteve Jobs. Pioneer, innovator, dreamer, inventor, businessman, husband, father.

I’m finding this piece difficult to write. There is a mix of emotions swirling around my mind. Seeing what to write, and writing it simply and clearly is difficult. Steve Jobs saw clearly, and simply. We all know who he was, and what he achieved.

So I’ll keep this short, clear and simple.
Steve, you dared to think different and you changed the world. You are sorely missed and we will never forget you. To your wife Laurene, your children, and everyone you have ever met and those you have not, our deepest sympathies.
I’ll leave you with some words of Steve from his 2005 Stanford Address

"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Share your thoughts, memories, and condolences at rememberingsteve@apple.com

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John Lasseter and Ed Catmull Remember Steve Jobs! [UPDATE]

Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Steve Jobs

Posted by Martin • October 5, 2011

On this day, the world lost a true visionary.

As the genius behind Apple, Steve Jobs will never be forgotten thanks to his abundant contributions to the world of electronics and digital media. In addition, we must remember his efforts to invigorate a once fledgling hardware company into the leading animation powerhouse that we know today as Pixar Animation Studios.

John Lasseter and Ed Catmull remind us of Jobs’ contributions to the Lamp in a newly released statement:

"Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family. He saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply ‘make it great.’ He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA. Our hearts go out to his wife Laurene and their children during this incredibly difficult time."

-John Lasseter & Ed Catmull

Update: The Pixar homepage has been updated to reflect Jobs’ passing.

R.I.P. Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

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John Lasseter, Steve Jobs on the Newsweek 50

John Lasseter, Steve Jobs

Posted by Martin • December 20, 2008

WALL•E isn’t the only one getting on the Top ** lists at this time of year, Mr. Pixar and Mr. Apple have made it on the Newsweek 50. The list counts down the fifty most influencial people of the year with John Lasseter at #35 and Steve Jobs at #34.

Each article has a brief history of the two giants (although the John Lasseter bio is a bit flawed) and gives you perspective on how much Pixar has influenced the world. To view the full list check out Newsweek.com or search Newsweek 50.

Congratulations!

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Animation is Not a Genre, Apple!

Animation, Brad Bird, Steve Jobs

Posted by Thomas • September 10, 2008

I was looking through the files in iTunes 8 today and found all the images for the different Genre’s that appear now if you sort by Genre. I noticed that Apple had labeled Animation as a Genre in the picture (Click for a larger view).

Brad Bird would not be impressed. Let’s hope he doesn’t punch Steve Jobs in the face.

NB: For those of you who are unaware, in the director’s commentary on The Incredibles DVD, Brad Bird made it clear that animation is not a genre and that he would punch the next person that came up to him and asked "What’s it like to work in the animation genre?"

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Pixar in the Vanity Fair 100

Andrew Stanton, Bob Iger, Brad Bird, John Lasseter, Steve Jobs

Posted by Martin • September 4, 2008

Vanity Fair 100: The New Establishment lists the world’s most influencial people in business, government and entertainment and Pixar has a big presence this year.

Steve Jobs is among the individuals listed, the co-founder of Apple and former CEO of Pixar is at number 4. Vanity Fair recognizes:
"[Jobs can be proud of] Pixar, his animated-film powerhouse." 
Steve Jobs is now Disney’s biggest shareholder and sits on the board of directors.

Also very high on the list is Disney and Pixar Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer and director extrordinaire John Lasseter; Finding Nemo and WALL•E director Andrew Stanton; and The Incredibles and Ratatouille director Brad Bird (all tied at #28).

Other Pixar-related persons of interest on the list include Disney CEO Bob Iger (at #35) famous for reuninting Pixar with Disney and Tom Hanks (at #34) the voice of Woody in Toy Story and Toy Story 2, as well as the upcoming 2010 sequel Toy Story 3. Also listed is George Lucas (at #23) known for directing the Star Wars series and owning the Lucasfilm Graphics Group that would later be bought by Steve Jobs and become Pixar.

Great to see Pixar being recognized for their impact on the world.

(via The Pixar Blog)

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Apple’s Influence On WALL•E

Steve Jobs, WALL-E

Posted by Thomas • June 27, 2008

Cult of Mac‘s Pete Mortenson has put together a list of things in WALL•E that appear to be influenced by Apple, Steve Jobs’ other company. 

Included on the list are Apple’s Jonathon Ives influence on EVE’s design and WALL•E‘s full charged sound. 
Read it here and be sure to watch the video at the top. 

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Brad Bird on Fostering Innovation

Animation, Brad Bird, Interview, Pixar, Steve Jobs

Posted by Thomas • April 29, 2008

The McKinsey Quarter interviewed Brad Bird on innovation recently, and Gigaom have provided a run down of the article for us. 

There are 9 lessons in total on fostering innovation. These include, "Herd your Black Sheep", "Perfect is the enemy of innovation", and "High morale makes creativity cheap". One bit I found particularly interesting is this on Pixar HQ:

Then there’s our building. Steve Jobs basically designed this building. In the center, he created this big atrium area, which seems initially like a waste of space. The reason he did it was that everybody goes off and works in their individual areas. People who work on software code are here, people who animate are there, and people who do designs are over there. Steve put the mailboxes, the meetings rooms, the cafeteria, and, most insidiously and brilliantly, the bathrooms in the center—which initially drove us crazy—so that you run into everybody during the course of a day. [Jobs] realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen. So he made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company.

Check out hte rest over at Gigaom. Thanks Jan.

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SEC Troubles Head To Former Pixar CFO

Business, Disney, Pixar, Steve Jobs

Posted by Thomas • April 29, 2008

The SEC stock options abuse surrounding Steve Jobs and his companies doesn’t seem to end. CNN Money is reporting today that Ann Mather’s, former Pixar Chief Financial Officer and board member at Google Inc., might face charges from the SEC on stock options backdating during her time overseeing the books at Pixar.  

Google said the SEC told Mather last week that the agency’s Los Angeles staff will recommend a civil complaint be filed against her for alleged stock option abuses that occurred during her five-year stint overseeing Pixar’s books.

says the article. Pixar founder, Steve Jobs, was cleared last year of backdating stock options at Pixar. Mather’s was not an employee at Pixar at the time of the Disney•Pixar merger, having left in November 2005. 

Disney have acknowledged that some of Pixar’s stock options were improperly backdated, and released a statement on Monday confirming it had no new evidence that would change it’s conclusion "or that would lead the company to believe that the SEC staff will recommend an enforcement action as to any individual currently associated with the Walt Disney Company."
Read the full story here.

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