Cinemanic: Pixar

Like Andy in Toy Story, audiences have a choice: they can drop their $7.50 on the technologically advanced new kid on the block or the familiar veteran. But in actuality, Pixar and Disney are more like the Buzz Lightyear and Wood of Toy Story 2. A blend of the new and old has equated victory. Buzz and Woody work together in Toy Story 2 to get Woody home after being kidnapped. Since 1989, Pixar and Disney have worked together to achieve mega financial and critical success and to blow the competition away.

Once a division of Lucasfilm, Steve Jobs bought it out in 1986, renaming it Pixar Animation Studios. Within its first year as a spin-off, Pixar won its first Academy Award nomination for Luxo Jr. Establishing its presence in computer animation and graphics industries, Pixar quickly moved into movies. It's Renderman software created the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the liquid metal cyborg in Terminator 2. Year after year, Pixar won kudos for its innovations in animation.

Being the new kin on the movie block, Pixar had yet to be a force in the movie industry. Luckily, Pixar and Disney teamed up in 1991 and committed to making up to three feature-length animated films. The first project, Toy Story rocked the movie industry. Under the terms of the relationship, Disney took over the finance side; Disney financed the movie and took charge of distribution, marketing, and distribution and took nearly 90% of the profits. With some 50 years of experience under its belt, Disney achieved financial success with Toy Story which grossed $360 million at the box office, making it the third highest grossing animated film of all time, behind Disney films The Lion King and Aladdin. Working with companies such as Burger King Disney made sure that Buzz, Woody, and all their friends were everywhere. It wasn't merely a money-maker either. Pixar handled the animation and writing side and achieved critical success. Toy Story is the first animated feature to ever be nominated in the Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen category and it received numerous nominations and awards in the areas of animation, music, direction, special effects, and more. As Peter Scheider, president of Walt Disney Studios explains, "Disney and Pixar have been partners for over ten years now and the relationship is a seamless one. Clearly they are an amazing animation studio with a brilliant technique and great instincts for storytelling I think it's been an amazing partnership of sharing on both sides and I'm so proud of what we all do together and what John and Pixar have accomplished."


With the success of their first venture, Pixar and Disney's friendship formalized in 1997 with a five-picture deal. The first picture, A Bug's Life, was released in 1998. Again, the friendship achieved critical and financial success. A Bug's Life broke the 1996 record for biggest Thanksgiving opening and critics dubbed it the winner of the bug movie war with rival movie Antz. And in 1999, Pixar and Disney released Toy Story 2. And again, Toy Story 2 is achieving critical and financial success. It didn't merely break the previous Thanksgiving record, it blew it away with a gross of $80.7 million in five days.

So now that Disney has shown the ropes to Pixar, is Pixar ready to conquer new toy boxes on its own?

Not quite. With the 1997 agreement, Pixar assumed more control of distribution, marketing, and merchandising. With this, Disney has exclusive rights to Pixar films for the next 10 years and about 2.5% ownership of Pixar with the option of further stock purchases. Moreover, Pixar is still grappling with internal issues. One Pixar insider comments, "The work hours get long, and Pixar tends to keep the pay scale low, just because the name is big." The financial picture is not as rosy as it appears; despite a huge opening for Toy Story 2, Pixar stock still dropped slightly.

Disney is not likely to let go either. Not only to three pictures remain in their contract, Disney still needs Pixar. Not only does Disney rely on Pixar for the latest developments in animation technology, their joint efforts have been the Disney's last few animated films, although financial and critical successful, still have not been able to match the success of such films like The Lion King and Aladdin. Although it has only been a few weeks since its release, Toy Story 2 is already expected to do better than Disney's latest efforts such as Mulan and Tarzan.

What's the next adventure for the dynamic duo? To repeat their previous success with Monsters, Inc., slated for release in 2000. Clearly, Pixar and Disney will continue to dominate the industry. The blend of incredible animation, writing and song make them near unstoppable. A comparison between Toy Story and its sequel reveals the great strides in technology; the humans and clothes in Toy Story 2 have become markedly more realistic. Pixar and Disney's look "To infinity and beyond!"

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