Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: Pixar IPO

How many of you remember 1995? I would guess there are a few of you who weren't even born! But 1995 had a number of significant events including Finland winning the ice hockey world championship, Microsoft releasing Windows 95, Netscape becoming a public company and the final original Calvin and Hobbes comic strip being published! Of course, it was a big year for Pixar as they released Toy Story, their first and the first ever full length computer animated feature film! You might think the folks at Pixar would be nervous leading up to the film's release, but CEO Steve Jobs must have been confident as he scheduled Pixar's IPO exactly one week after the theatrical release, on November 28, 1995.

Just like the Netscape IPO a few months earlier, the Pixar IPO was highly anticipated. The IPO brought 6.9 million shares to the public market at $22/share. The proceeds from it provided Pixar with almost $140 million which was used to expand the studio as they worked on producing A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2. The stock opened at $47/share, more than double its offering price, and closed its first day of trading at $39, valuing the company at almost $1.5 billion! As Steve Jobs owned approximately 30 million shares, he became an instant billionaire that day.

Looking back, Steve Jobs was right to be confident. Toy Story ended up becoming an immediate classic, earning a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and becoming the highest grossing film of 1995, earning close to $362 million worldwide.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pixarian Start and Birth Dates, November, 2012 Edition

Here are the start and birth dates for November! Sadly, it's a quiet month. Let's begin with start dates!
  • Chris Chua (2007) - Chris, active on both Twitter and his blog, started his Pixar career working as a fix animator on WALL•E. He moved up to animator on Up, Cars 2 and Brave. Prior to coming to Pixar, Chua studied traditional animation at CalArts. He has taught at Animation Mentor and worked at Dreamworks on films such as Flushed Away, Shark Tale and Sinbad.
  • Brad Lewis (2001) - Lewis produced Ratatouille (for which he won the Producer of the Year award from the Producer's Guild), and co-produced Cars 2. Before coming to Pixar, Lewis spent 13 years at Pacific Data Images as Vice President of Productions. He also produced Antz for Dreamworks. Lewis left Pixar in 2011 to go work at Digital Domain's animation group in Florida, which unfortunately was shut down this past September.

  • Derek Williams (1997) - Derek Williams was born and raised in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire in the United Kingdom, and studied film at The London International Film School. At Pixar, Williams first job was as a set dresser on A Bug's Life. He has worked on almost every feature film since, including as the sets supervisor on Brave. Besides feature films, Williams has worked on short films such as For the Birds and Tokyo Mater.

As for November birth dates, these aren't Pixar employees but some actors that have voiced characters in Pixar films:
  • Owen Wilson, November 18, 1968 - Wilson is known for voicing Lightning McQueen in Cars, Cars 2 and Mater and the Ghostlight. He also did voice acting in Fantastic Mr. Fox, and has performed in a number of live-action films such as Meet the Fockers, Zoolander and Wedding Crashers.
  • Wallace Shawn, November 12, 1943 - Shawn is an American actor who voiced Rex in the Toy Story films, and Gilbert Huph in The Incredibles. He has also performed in live-action films including My Dinner with Andre and The Princess Bride.

Friday, November 2, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: Monsters, Inc. Theatrical Release

11 years ago today, what I consider to be Pixar's most creative film, Monsters, Inc., was released. It turned into Pixar's highest grossing film at that time, making over $525 million worldwide, and was the #4 highest grossing film for 2001, behind some very tough competition - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Shrek.

Pete Docter
Monsters, Inc. was the first Pixar film not directed by John Lasseter. Lasseter knew that to continue growing the studio and to reach their goal of producing two feature films a year, other animators would need to step into the directorial role. Lasseter chose Pete Docter to direct Monsters, Inc. (and had Andrew Stanton direct their next film, Finding Nemo). Docter later directed Up, and is now working on the Inside the Human Mind film, scheduled for a 2015 release.

You may not be aware that the release of Monsters, Inc. was almost delayed by a lawsuit brought by Lori Madrid. The lawsuit named Pixar, Disney and Chronicle Books as defendants, and claimed they had stolen Madrid's 28 line story, There's a Boy in My Closet, and used it as inspiration for Monsters, Inc. Madrid wrote the short story in 1999 and sent it to many publishers, including Chronicle Books. Madrid believed Chronicle Books forwarded it to Pixar, who used it to come up with Monsters, Inc.

Madrid requested a preliminary injunction to block the release of the film until the court case was complete. So on November 1, 2001, the day before the film's release, the film's director, Pete Docter, and Dick Cook, chairman of Disney's Motion Pictures group, were in a Wyoming courthouse. Both Docter and Cook took the stand; Docter explained how Madrid's book had had no impact on the Monsters, Inc. story or film development, and how the development of the film had begun years before Madrid wrote her story. Cook then explained to the judge the substantial and negative impact delaying the film's release would have on The Walt Disney Company. After an entire day in court, the judge ruled in favor of Pixar and Disney, and denied Madrid's request. The film was released on its scheduled date, becoming the #1 film and grossing over $62 million that weekend. The entire case against Disney, Pixar and Chronicle Books was completely thrown out in June, 2002.

Much of the above information regarding the Lori Madrid lawsuit came from David A. Price's wonderful book The Pixar Touch. It is full of great stories from the early years of Pixar, beginning even before John Lasseter and Ed Catmull began working together at Lucasfilm, and going through the years until Pixar was purchased by The Walt Disney Company. If you love Pixar (which, if you've read this entire post, you must!), and want to know more about the company's history, I highly recommend this book.