'The Steve Jobs Building': Pixar Honors Its Late Founder

 @redletterdave
on November 07 2012 4:34 PM

Pixar Animation Studios, which would've been dumped and sold were it not for Steve Jobs' smart acquisition of the company in 1986, honored the visionary man that saved the studio this month by naming its building after the late founder of Apple, Inc.

Junn Lee, a Pixar employee, shared a photo with the newly-minted "Steve Jobs Building" with his Twitter followers.

"Love you Mr. Jobs!" Lee wrote.

Jobs, who died last October after a long fight with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, will now be a permanent fixture at the company that perhaps best embodied his spirit for innovation and bravery.

When he bought Pixar from under George Lucas and his Lucasfilm production company, Steve Jobs was not the icon we will always remember him as; quite the contrary. Back in 1986, Jobs was still recovering after getting dumped in 1985 by the company he founded, and most expected him, at 30 years old, to quit while he still had his millions. On the contrary, he took a chance on a tiny animation company that badly desired to make feature-length films on computer power alone.

With Jobs working alongside Pixar's own creative Genius John Lasseter, Pixar reversed its own downward spiral and ended up revolutionizing the filmmaking world, proving that computers can do anything cameras could, and that movies don't need live actors to have a heart and soul.

This feeling was no more evident than the company's first full feature-length release, "Toy Story." Released in 1995, Lasseter's buddy tale of a young boy's cowboy doll and astronaut action figure was immediately met with rave reviews. Nobody thought sophisticated computers could accurately pull off such a heartfelt story, but they did, and the world of animated films was forever changed. "Toy Story" went on to become the top-grossing movie of 1995, raking in $360 million worldwide, and sparking a new genre in the world of filmmaking.

Once Toy Story achieved critical success, Jobs again stepped in to defend and later save Pixar from   future partners and rivals, including Disney; in fact, it was Jobs' idea to take Pixar public in Nov. 1995 after "Toy Story" was released, to strike while the iron was hot -- this solidified Pixar's standing in the stock market, launching the company at $22 a share, and rewarding those early employees with the benefits of a successful IPO as well. 

Jobs' business sense helped defend the new hot property after he helped take Pixar public. Disney, which signed a contract with Pixar to help release "Toy Story," immediately tried to cash in by commissioning Pixar to do a direct-to-video sequel of its toy tale. Unfortunately, the film was extremely misled, and were it not for Lasseter single-handedly saving the film -- and, as a result, Pixar's reputation -- by ordering his team to trash the film and start from scratch, Disney could have easily been the company to destroy Pixar. Again, it was the teamwork of Jobs and Lasseter as business and creative leaders, respectively, that helped save the fledgling animation studio.

Pixar and Disney had originally signed a co-production deal for five films, but by the end of the contract, Jobs demanded more equitable terms for his company. When they couldn't work out a deal, the partnership dissolved. However, that was largely a result of Michael Eisner, the stubborn Disney CEO at the time; the two companies would later reconvene in 2006, when Disney's newly-hired CEO Bob Iger, a man respected by Jobs and Lasseter alike, arranged to buy Pixar for $7.4 billion. This deal made Steve Jobs the single largest individual shareholder of Walt Disney Co. that year.

John Lasseter is and will always be the soul of Pixar Animation Studios, but Jobs was its heart, and the company honors the late visionary by branding the facade of its studio with his name. Jobs' imagination and willingness in business, as well as his own desire to push technology further, was a perpetual source of inspiration for Pixar's earliest employees, including Brad Bird, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton, all of which later went on to direct their own feature films at the company ("The Incredibles," "Monsters, Inc." and "Finding Nemo," respectively).

Pixar's 12 animated movies have grossed an unbelievable $7.2 billion worldwide. Since the 2001 introduction of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature -- the award itself a direct result of Pixar's emergence -- Pixar has always seen one of its films receive a nomination. Six of its eight nominees have won the Oscar, including "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille," "WALL-E," "Up," and "Toy Story 3."

"Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family," Lasseter said after Jobs' death. "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."

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