A Brief History of Pixar Studios
by Matt McDaniel March 6th, 2009
Up Nine for nine. Nine movies, nine hits. Since they created the first entirely computer animated feature film in 1995, Pixar Animation Studios have been on an unparalleled winning streak. In addition to grossing over $2 billion domestically, Pixar has won ten Academy Awards, including last month's Oscar for Best Animated Feature for "WALL-E." But success has never come easy for their band of Hollywood outsiders, and each film has its own unique story behind how it was made. Here's a look inside every one of Pixar's movies, along with the exclusive trailer for their next film, "Up," coming this summer.
* Toy Story Toy Story - 1995
Director John Lasseter originally conceived this to be a half-hour TV Christmas special, but when executives at Disney looked at the numbers, they decided the investment would be so big it made more financial sense to do a full-length film. The script was in development for over four years, and at one point Disney shut down production entirely so it could be entirely rewritten. The script went on to be nominated for an Oscar.
* Pixar A Bug's Life - 1998
To familiarize themselves with life at ground level, the filmmakers stuck tiny video cameras on sticks to see what they world looks like through ants' eyes. The biggest technical challenge was animating the entire ant colony. At first, the technicians didn't think their computers could handle more than 50 characters at a time, but they were eventually able to animate over 800 ants in a single shot.
* Pixar Toy Story 2 - 1999
This sequel was originally going to go direct-to-video, but when Disney decided to release it theatrically, Pixar scrapped nearly all of the work that had already gone into the project. That left them with less than a year to complete the movie. "Toy Story 2" is the only computer animated movie to win the Golden Globe for Best Comedy.
* Pixar Monsters, Inc. - 2001
Billy Crystal turned down the role of Buzz Lightyear in the first "Toy Story," which he later called one of the worst decisions of his career. So he jumped at the chance to voice Mike Wazowski in this movie. 2 1/2-year-old Mary Gibbs provided the voice of Boo, but she could not stand still long enough to record her lines. Instead, the filmmakers followed her around with a microphone and taped her speaking as she played around the room.
* Pixar Finding Nemo - 2003
Every Pixar movie starts with research, which can go on for years. For "Nemo," animators learned how to Scuba dive and observed fish off the coasts of Hawaii and California. They also heard lectures from visiting professors and studied sea life in the studio's 25-gallon aquarium. Writer/director Andrew Stanton also does several voices in the film, including the "surfer dude" sea turtle Crush and all of the seagulls who shout, "Mine!"
* Pixar The Incredibles - 2004
This was the first Pixar film from writer/director Brad Bird. Bird became friends with John Lasseter when they studied animation at Cal Arts (director Tim Burton was also a classmate). This is also the first Pixar film with all human characters, and the only one to be rated PG. Though the characters aren't taken directly from a comic book, the movie is full of references to DC and Marvel heroes and villains. The bit about the dangers of wearing a cape in inspired by a scene from the graphic novel "Watchmen."
* Pixar Cars - 2006
Many people assumed the character of "Lightning McQueen" was named after Steve McQueen, the star of the movie "Le Mans" and a racing enthusiast in real life. But actually, he was named after Glenn McQueen, an animator at Pixar who died in 2002. "Cars" grossed less money worldwide than the previous four Pixar movies, but related merchandise brought in nearly $1 billion in 2006.
* Pixar Ratatouille - 2007
Research for this movie took the Pixar crew to Paris, where they rode around the city on the backs of motorcycles videotaping the sights of the city. Director Brad Bird was originally unsure that ratatouille, a simple stew, would be visually impressive enough for the climax of the movie. But then they invited world-renowned chef Thomas Keller to the studio to prepare a unique presentation of the dish, and it's a digital recreation of Keller's creation that Remy the rat cooks up.
* Pixar WALL-E - 2008
Because so much of this movie is presented without dialogue, director Andrew Stanton and his team spent a year watching silent films every day at lunch. WALL-E's voice was created by sound designer Ben Burtt, and even though he previously worked on every "Star Wars" films, there are more sound effects in "WALL-E" than in any other movie he's worked on. When they previewed the film, about half of the test audiences thought that the humans wouldn't survive when they returned to Earth, so Pixar added the animated closing credits to show that they were able to revive life on the planet.
* Pixar Up - 2009
"Up" tells the story of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen, who decides to take an expedition into the wilds of Venezuela that his late wife always wanted to do but never got the chance. So to get there, he inflates thousands of helium balloons that lifts his house into the sky. "Up" will be the first Pixar movie released in 3-D, but not the last. The first two "Toy Story" movies are being revamped for a 3-D re-release, with the new "Toy Story 3" to follow in the summer of 2010.
To see a preview of the high-flying adventure, "Up," watch the exclusive trailer below. "Up" lands theaters on May 29th.
Need to Know: The History of Pixar
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