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Pixar is led by Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Computer) as its chairman and CEO. The company started as a division of Lucasfilm. It was purchased by Jobs for US$10 million in 1986, establishing itself as an independent company. The sale was based on George Lucas' desire to see Pixar succeed on its own, as it was unable to shine in the shadow of Industrial Light & Magic.
Jobs co-founded the newly independent company with Dr. Edwin E. Catmull, who still remains a member of the executive team. John Lasseter —a two-time Academy Award-winning director and animator— oversees all of the company's projects as Executive Vice President of the Creative Department. Other notable members of the executive team are Sarah McArthur (Executive Vice President of Production), Simon Bax (Executive Vice President and chief financial officer), and Lois Scali (Executive Vice President and General Counsel).
Pixar's initial focus was as a high-end hardware company: they produced a visual processing computer, which primarily sold to government agencies and the medical community. The machine required a computer built by Sun Microsystems to operate. While the machine never sold well, John Lasseter began creating short animations to show at SIGGRAPH to demonstrate the power of the system. These animations, such as Luxo Jr., impressed audiences at the show because they demonstrated not simply a raw rendering, but personality.
As poor sales of Pixar's computers threatened to put the company out of business, Lasseter's animation department began selling commercials to outside companies, including successful campaigns for Listerine and LifeSavers. In addition, Pixar was key in the development of CAPS, a computer-assisted animation post-production software system for Walt Disney Feature Animation. After substantial cuts to most of the computer department, Pixar began its current life by making a $26,000,000 deal with Disney, to produce Toy Story.
Disney & Pixar
All of Pixar's major features thus far have been made in collaboration with Walt Disney Pictures. All aspects of production (writing, development, animation production, post-production) have been handled in-house by Pixar, with production costs split between Pixar and Disney. Disney has handled all distribution aspects, including all distribution and promotion costs. In 1997, after the release of their initial film, Toy Story, both companies signed a 10-year, 5-picture deal, in which the two companies split production costs and profits. Disney alone, however, retained the rights to the films and characters. In addition, Disney collects 10 to 15 percent of each film's revenue as a distribution fee. 
The arrangement has been very profitable for both companies, with Pixar's five feature films having grossed more than $2.5 billion. This gives Pixar the highest per film average gross of any production company . The working relationship between Pixar and Disney will end in 2006 with the movie Cars being the last joint venture between the two companies.
The main contention between Pixar and Disney began with the production of Toy Story 2. Originally intended as a straight-to-video release (and thus not part of Pixar's five picture deal), the film was upgraded to a theatrical release during production. Pixar demanded that the film then be counted toward the five picture agreement, but Disney refused.
The two companies attempted to reach a new agreement in early 2004. The new deal would only be for distribution, with Pixar controlling production and owning the properties themselves. As part of any distribution agreement with Disney, Pixar demanded control over films already in production under their old agreement, including The Incredibles and Cars. More importantly, Pixar wanted to have complete financial freedom: they wanted to finance their films on their own and collect 100 percent of the profits, paying Disney only the 10 to 15 percent distribution fee. This was unacceptable to Disney, but Pixar refused any concessions. Pixar is currently looking for a new company to distribute its films, and many other firms are eager suitors. Disney retains the rights to all films under the five picture agreement and can make sequels to them. It has begun production of Toy Story 3, without Pixar's involvement.
- Toy Story (1995)
- A Bug's Life (1998)
- Toy Story 2 (1999) (Originally slated as a direct-to-video film, Disney concluded this film did not count towards the '5 picture' contract when it was released in theatres)
- Monsters, Inc. (2001)
- Finding Nemo (2003, Academy Award winner 2004)
- The Incredibles (2004, Academy Award winner 2005)
- Cars (scheduled for release in June 2006)
- Ratatouille (scheduled for release in 2007)
A movie called Ray Gun was rumored to be released by Pixar in 2007, but latest reports indicate that this will be a 2D feature which Pixar has no interest in developing. Currently Warner Brothers owns the rights to develop this film.
There are several things that Pixar puts in every one of their feature films.
John Ratzenberger (most commonly known as Cliff Clavin from the television sitcom Cheers) is always a character voice, referred to by the studio as their "good luck charm". The following is a list of his roles in the first seven Pixar movies:
- Toy Story – Hamm (a piggy bank)
- A Bug's Life – P.T. Flea (the manager of a travelling insect circus)
- Toy Story 2 – Hamm (a piggy bank)
- Monsters, Inc. – The Abominable Snowman (a yeti)
- Finding Nemo – a school of moonfish
- The Incredibles – the Underminer
- Cars – a Mack truck (character name yet to be revealed)
Pizza Planet truck
A rusty Toyota pick-up truck for the fictional restaurant "Pizza Planet" first appeared in Toy Story (and again in Toy Story 2) as a main plot device. The truck also appeared in A Bug's Life and Monsters, Inc. just outside a trailer in a trailer park, in Finding Nemo during the escape plan sequence, and on a freeway in The Incredibles.
Every Pixar film has included cameo appearances of characters or objects from their other movies or short films. For instance, in Toy Story 2, when Hamm is flipping through the channels, many of Pixar's short films, including Pixar's old logo, were briefly represented. Also, there are "A Bug's Life" toys in Al's Toy Barn. Also, in that movie when Mr. Potato Head found Mrs. Potato Head's earring, Mrs. was reading "A Bug's Life" book. At the end of Monsters, Inc., Boo plays with a Nemo plush toy and a Jessie doll (from Toy Story 2), and in Finding Nemo, there is a Buzz Lightyear action figure, a Mr. Incredible comic book in the dentist's waiting room and Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. can been seen during the end credits swimming through the ocean.
The Pixar teaser trailers always have footage that was created just for the trailer. In the movie, there might be a scene with similar footage, but the teasers only have a specially created scene.
- Monsters, Inc.: Sulley and Mike stumble into the wrong bedroom.
- Finding Nemo: Marlin asks the school of fish for directions and Dory scares them away.
- The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible struggles to get his belt on.
This is the name of a restaurant on Monsters, Inc. and was selected as a homage to Ray Harryhausen, pioneer of special effects on films and stop motion animation. The name of the restaurant is especially fitting, however, since most of his animation techniques were developed by animating models of monsters for adventure movies.
Short films ("Shorts")
- The Adventures of André and Wally B. (1984, Lucasfilm, prior to creation of Pixar)
- Luxo Jr. (1986, became the source of today's Pixar logo)
- Red's Dream (1987)
- Tin Toy (1988, Academy Award winner 1988)
- Knick knack (1989)
- Geri's Game (1997, Academy Award winner 1997))
- For the Birds (2000, Academy Award winner 2001)
- Mike's New Car, (2002, based on characters in Monsters, Inc.)
- Boundin' (2003)
- Jack-Jack Attack, (2005, based on characters and situations from The Incredibles)