The Dream Factory: The rise of Pixar and the secret of their success.


From its humble beginnings producing animated shorts such as Luxo Jr up to its latest cinematic offering ‘Finding Dory’, Pixar have always displayed an innate affinity for telling a good story that works its way into our hearts & minds. Everybody loves Pixar movies, if you say you don’t you are either a liar or a heartless monster who hates the happiness of others.

From Toy Story to Monsters Inc, The Incredibles to Up, the world fell in love with the work of this unique animation studio but what is it that’s garnered them so much success?

Pixar animation was founded as the Graphics Group a division of Lucasfilm. With memorable early work including Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan and most prominently on the stained glass knight in the film Young Sherlock Holmes, the 40 strong team became Pixar as we know it in 1986 with the introduction of its first animated short and what would also become their company logo, Luxo Jr, an anthropomorphised table lamp, the brainchild of Pixar employee, now CCO, John Lasseter. 

Intended mainly as a tech demo of what their company was capable of, it quickly became clear that there was genuine heart behind the computer wizardry. Much of the company’s early days was taken up by development of computers & computer software for other companies but Luxo Jr and other animated shorts changed that. The big change came when Pixar signed a 3 picture deal with Disney, the first of which being Toy Story in 1995, it grossed more than $362 million worldwide. From there they have given us some absolute gems, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, The Toy Story sequels, Wallie, Up, Inside Out. The list is long and it is getting longer with each new release surprising us in new ways.

But what is it that makes Pixars films so personable, So loveable, What is the secret of this studios success? First of all these films have heart, they have a pulse and they have the capacity to affect you, I think the first 5 minutes of Up can attest to that. They have the ability to speak on a social level but not in such a way to dumb down their message and speak down to us, Inside Out did a remarkable job of explaining the intricacies of human emotion to a younger audience to much praise from mental health organisations. 

There is another point I think could be a contributing factor to the success of Pixar. I only discovered recently details on how Pixar works on ideas. They have something they call the Pixar ‘braintrust’, it is how they basically develop a proposed project into fully realised production. Directors, artists, writers and the like all look at each other’s projects on a routine basis, giving each other input to see their project come to fruition. It makes for a company that is creatively driven to help each other on their films rather than the Hollywood executive model most companies work by. They are not motivated by a cynical studio system, they all work together to see all their ideas come to pass, they are a creative community of artists all striving for the same goal, and the fruits of those labours have blossomed into some of the most remarkable, heartfelt, socially conscious animated films the world has ever seen.

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