The death of Steve Jobs, 56, Wednesday marked the end of the Apple co-founder's life, but not the end of his legacy. With Pixar, Steve Jobs changed the film industry and animated motion pictures forever.
Pixar began as a division of George Lucas' LucasFilm, known as The Graphics Group, but Lucas lost interest in the project when it strayed from focusing on imaging technology to animation. In 1986, Lucas sold The Graphics Group to visionary Steve Jobs for $5 million, who then invested an additional $5 million in capital in the company, which he renamed Pixar.
Jobs initially intended for Pixar to be a high-end computer hardware company that would sell its Pixar Image Computer to agencies and corporations.
In the beginning Pixar was a hardware store, Tom Sito, a veteran of Disney, remarked. But Steve was won over to the idea of making animated film by the successful short films that Pixar and John Lasseter were making, like Luxo Jr. and Tin Toy.
Disney commissioned Pixar to create three computer-generated animated films. Toy Story, was the first film produced by Pixar in 1995 and the first ever feature film to be created entirely with CGI.
Toy Story grossed $360 million worldwide and subsequent Pixar films also performed extremely well. Since Jobs' initial investment in the company, Pixar has produced a stream of extremely popular films including, Toy Story (1995), A Bug's Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Cars 2 (2011).
Pixar's films are loved by children, adults, and critics alike and have grossed a staggering $7.2 billion worldwide.
Although Jobs was CEO of Pixar, he let John Lasseter, Pixar's Chief Creative Officer, and Ed Catmull, Pixar's Chief Technical Officer at the time (and current President of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios), run the creative parts of the company. Still, Jobs' insistence on high quality products and confidence encouraged Lasseter and Catmull to take as much time as they needed to produce the films millions of Americans have come to love.
Steve's major impact was on the strategic direction of the company, said David Price, author of The Pixar Touch. He had the crucial insight that Pixar could one day be the equal of the Walt Disney Company in animation. He made this vision a reality by overseeing the IPO of Pixar stock in 1985, a week after 'Toy Story' was released. He foresaw that if they had that capital, it would give them the independence to create a body of work and to become a brand that would become as powerful in entertainment as Disney. He was very explicit about this.
Jobs provided the vision and support that Pixar needed to flourish and change the film industry forever. Pixar has since become one of the most important and influential film studios in history.
Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend, and the guiding light of the Pixar family, said Lasseter and Catmull in a public statement upon news of Jobs' passing. 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.
Original Toy Story (1995) Trailer, Pixar's first feature film
Knick Knack (1989), Pixar Short Film
For the Birds (2000), Pixar Short Film