Pixar Animation Studios is an American computer animation film studio based in Emeryville, California, United States. The studio has earned twenty-six Academy Awards, seven Golden Globes, and three Grammys, among many other awards and acknowledgments. Its films have made over $6.3 billion worldwide. It is best known for its CGI-animated feature films created with PhotoRealistic RenderMan, its own implementation of the industry-standard RenderMan image-rendering application programming interface used to generate high-quality images. Pixar began in 1979 as the Graphics Group, part of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm before it was acquired by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in 1986. The Walt Disney Company bought Pixar in 2006 at a valuation of $7.4 billion; the transaction made Jobs the largest shareholder in Disney. Pixar has produced eleven feature films, beginning with Toy Story in 1995. It was followed by A Bug's Life in 1998, Toy Story 2 in 1999, Monsters, Inc. in 2001, Finding Nemo in 2003, The Incredibles in 2004, Cars in 2006, Ratatouille in 2007, WALL-E in 2008, Up in 2009 and Toy Story 3 (to date, the highest-grossing animated film of all-time, grossing over $1 billion worldwide), in 2010. All eleven films that Pixar has produced have been largely successful, both critically and commercially. The $602 million average gross of their films is by far the highest of any studio in the industry. All the films produced by Pixar are among the fifty highest grossing animated films of all time. Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up and Toy Story 3 make it to the top 50 list of highest-grossing films of all time, with Toy Story 3 at #5, Finding Nemo at #21, Up at #39, and The Incredibles at #50. All eight Pixar films released since the inauguration of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2001 have been nominated for that award, commencing with Monsters, Inc.. Six of the eight have won the award: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. Up and Toy Story 3 are among the only three animated films to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. On September 6, 2009, executives John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich were presented with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement by the Biennale Venice Film Festival. The award was presented by Lucasfilm founder George Lucas.
Pixar was founded as the Graphics Group, one third of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm that was launched in 1979 with the hiring of Dr. Ed Catmull from the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), where he was in charge of the Computer Graphics Lab (CGL). At NYIT, the researchers had pioneered many of the CG techniques and worked on an experimental film called The Works. After moving to Lucasfilm, the team worked on creating the precursor to RenderMan, called Motion Doctor, which allowed traditional cel animators to use computer animation with minimal training. The team began working on film sequences produced by Lucasfilm or worked collectively with Industrial Light & Magic on special effects. After years of research, and key milestones in films such as the Genesis Effect in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the Stained Glass Knight in Young Sherlock Holmes, the group, which numbered about 45 individuals back then, was purchased in 1986 by Steve Jobs shortly after he left Apple Computer. Jobs paid $5 million to George Lucas and put $5 million as capital into the company. A factor contributing to Lucas' sale was an increase in cash flow difficulties following his 1983 divorce, which coincided with the sudden dropoff in revenues from Star Wars licenses following the release of Return of the Jedi and the disastrous box-office performance of Howard the Duck. The newly independent company was headed by Dr. Edwin Catmull, President, and Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, Executive Vice President and Director. Jobs served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pixar. A large model of the animated lamp from Luxo Jr at Pixar's studio in Emeryville. Initially, Pixar was a high-end computer hardware company whose core product was the Pixar Image Computer, a system primarily sold to government agencies and the medical community. One of the buyers of Pixar Image Computers was Disney Studios, which was using the device as part of their secretive CAPS project, using the machine and custom software to migrate the laborious ink and paint part of the 2-D animation process to a more automated and thus efficient method. The Image Computer never sold well. In a bid to drive sales of the system, Pixar employee John Lasseter—who had long been creating short demonstration animations, such as Luxo Jr., to show off the device's capabilities—premiered his creations at SIGGRAPH, the computer graphics industry's largest convention, to great fanfare. As poor sales of Pixar's computers threatened to put the company out of business, Lasseter's animation department began producing computer-animated commercials for outside companies. Early successes included campaigns for Tropicana, Listerine, and LifeSavers. In April 1990 Jobs sold Pixar's hardware division, including all proprietary hardware technology and imaging software, to Vicom Systems, and transferred 18 of Pixar's approximate 100 employees. The same year Pixar moved from San Rafael to Richmond, California. During this period, Pixar continued its relationship with Walt Disney Feature Animation, a studio whose corporate parent would ultimately become its most important partner. In 1991, after a tough start of the year when about 30 employees in the company's computer department had to go (including the company's president, Chuck Kolstad),which reduced the total number of employees to just 42, Pixar made a $26 million deal with Disney to produce three computer-animated feature films, the first of which was Toy Story. At that point, the software programmers, who were doing RenderMan and CAPS, and Lasseter’s animation department, who made television commercials and a few shorts for Sesame Street, was all that was left of Pixar. Despite the total income of these products, the company was still losing money, and Jobs often considered selling it. Even as late as 1994, Jobs contemplated selling Pixar to other companies, among them Microsoft. Only after confirming that Disney would distribute Toy Story for the 1995 holiday season did he decide to give it another chance. The film went on to gross more than $350 million worldwide. Later that year, Pixar held its initial public offering on November 29, 1995, and the company's stock was priced at US$22 per share.
Disney announced on January 24, 2006 that it had agreed to buy Pixar for approximately $7.4 billion in an all-stock deal. Following Pixar shareholder approval, the acquisition was completed May 5, 2006. The transaction catapulted Steve Jobs, who was the majority shareholder of Pixar with 50.1%, to Disney's largest individual shareholder with 7% and a new seat on its board of directors. Jobs' new Disney holdings exceed holdings belonging to ex-CEO Michael Eisner, the previous top shareholder, who still held 1.7%; and Disney Director Emeritus Roy E. Disney, who held almost 1% of the corporation's shares. Pixar shareholders received 2.3 shares of Disney common stock for each share of Pixar common stock redeemed. As part of the deal, Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, by then Executive Vice President, became Chief Creative Officer (reporting to President and CEO Robert Iger and consulting with Disney Director Roy Disney) of both Pixar and the Walt Disney Animation Studios, as well as the Principal Creative Adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering, which designs and builds the company's theme parks. Catmull retained his position as President of Pixar, while also becoming President of Walt Disney Animation Studios, reporting to Bob Iger and Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studio Entertainment. Steve Jobs' position as Pixar's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer was also removed, and instead he took a place on the Disney board of directors. John Lasseter appears with characters from Up at the 2009 Venice Film Festival. Lasseter and Catmull's oversight of both the Disney and Pixar studios did not mean that the two studios were merging, however. In fact, additional conditions were laid out as part of the deal to ensure that Pixar remained a separate entity, a concern that analysts had expressed about the Disney deal. Some of those conditions were that Pixar HR policies would remain intact, including the lack of employment contracts. Also, the Pixar name was guaranteed to continue, and the studio would remain in its current Emeryville, California location with the "Pixar" sign. Finally, branding of films made post-merger would be "Disney•Pixar" (beginning with Cars). Jim Morris, producer of WALL-E, has been named general manager of Pixar. In this new position, Morris is in charge of the day-to-day running of the studio facilities and products. On April 20, 2010, Pixar Animation Studios opened a new studio in the downtown area of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The roughly 2,000 square meters studio is primarily producing shorts and TV-specials based on characters from Pixar's feature films.