Its groundbreaking animations have captivated us for over two decades. But can it survive growing competition from its rivals?by Francine Stock / May 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History by Lawrence Levy (Oneworld, £18.99)
The story begins in 1994. Lawrence Levy, a tech executive in his thirties, is at home with his wife Hillary discussing his new job. Go and see Steve, she says—tell him your concerns. Cut to exterior, early evening, in the amber light of Old Palo Alto. Levy approaches the entrance to Steve Jobs’s Tudor-style “cottage.” In Jobs’s den the two men mull over Pixar, the tech company Levy has just accepted Jobs’s invitation to run.
Levy is worried: Pixar, founded in 1986, has many promising divisions (advertising, RenderMan graphics software and an unfinished feature film provisionally entitled Toy Story); but no profits even after Jobs has sunk $50m into the company. How can it be viable for Pixar to go public? Would Jobs interfere? Would they be allowed stock options? Meanwhile, Pixar’s distributor Disney is waiting to gobble up or even crush the upstart start-up. Will this be an edgy thriller or will the story end happily, like a feel-good family film?
To Pixar and Beyond, Levy’s memoir of his time heading the most dazzling entertainment studio of our times, has all the twists and turns of one of Pixar’s own films. You will know the films even if you don’t recognise the studio name. Most famously Toy Story, the film that brought an adult sophistication to the animation genre; Finding Nemo (2003), which followed a single-father fish in search of his lost son; and the topsy-turvy Inside Out (2015), a kind of Being John Malkovich for children.
As Levy describes it, the first intimation that Pixar would be saved was in 1995, when hardened Hollywood bankers and lawyers saw an early version of Toy Story. They emerged dazzled and enchanted, though they didn’t initially produce the finance. In just two decades, however, Pixar’s 17 animated films have earned $11bn at the box office and won 13 Academy Awards, eight of them for Best Animated Feature.