A long time ago in a galaxy not so far, far away…Pixar was a division of Lucasfilm Ltd. Before Marlin found Nemo, before Carl flew up, and before Woody had a snake in his boot, Pixar had a long history marked by innovation, creativity, and the ability to overcome any obstacle by focusing on one goal: to make the first full feature-length CGI film.
Pixar did just that in 1995 with Toy Story and has been making us laugh, cry, and get a whole bunch of goosebumps ever since. But there’s much more to Pixar than filmmaking. Get a special behind-the-scenes look at Pixar with these 9 did-you-knows:
1. In its early days, Pixar was a hardware sales company. Their main product at the time was the Pixar Image Computer, a graphics designing system.
Pixar’s customers were in medicine, graphic arts, and intelligence. In 1986, Pixar signed a deal with their biggest client for a hardware and software system called CAPS, Computer Animation Production System. That client was Disney.
2. The name “Pixar” comes from a combination of “radar” and “pixer,” a made-up Spanish word.
“Pixar” stemmed from two different ideas from co-founders, Alvy Ray Smith and Loren Carpenter. Alvy, who grew up in Texas and New Mexico, was fascinated by the Spanish language and how some English nouns looked like Spanish verbs, like “laser.” With that, Alvy invented the word “pixer,” meaning “to make pictures.” Loren liked the high-tech sound of “radar” instead. Put the two together, and you get “Pixar.”
3. “Luxo Jr.” was the first 3D computer-animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award.
The short debuted in 1986 at SIGGRAPH, an annual computer graphics conference. Now, Luxo Jr. is a Pixar icon, best known for bouncing on (and squashing) the “i” in the Pixar logo.
4. In building up its portfolio to make the first full-length feature film, Pixar created several commercials in the early 1990s.
Computer graphics in commercials at the time were used to create flying logos, cheesy glow effects, and morphs. Pixar made a name for itself by focusing on character animation instead.
5. “A113,” which refers to John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton’s former classroom at CalArts, is in every Pixar film.
“A113” can be found in…
• Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3: The license plate number on Andy’s mom’s minivan.
• A Bug’s Life: On a cereal box as Flik walks into Bug City.
• Monsters, Inc.: On a sign in the background when Smitty and Needleman load the trash compactor.
• Finding Nemo: The model number on the dentist’s underwater camera.
• The Incredibles: The conference room number in Syndrome’s lair. Also, the prison level where Mr. Incredible is held is “Level A1” in Cell #13.
• Cars and Cars 2: Mater’s license plate number.
• Ratatouille: On the side of a train on the TV in Linguini’s apartment.
• WALL•E: The mutiny directive to detain the Captain.
• Up: The number on the courthouse when Carl goes to plead his case.
• Brave: Above the entrance door to the witch’s cottage (as Roman numerals ACXIII).
• Monsters University: The Scaring 101 classroom number.
7. …They don’t really do conference tables.
At Pixar, the open space encourages teamwork and collaboration. In Ed Catmull’s book, “Creativity, Inc.,” he talks about a long, skinny conference table they once had. Thirty or so people would gather around the table for meetings, and the creative leaders sat in the middle, which implied that the farther you sat from the middle, the less important your voice was. They soon scrapped the long table and replaced it with a more intimate square, where everyone’s voice could be heard. “Unhindered communication was key, no matter what your position,” Catmull says.
In other words, Toy Story came to theaters nearly 20 years ago. Suddenly, we’re feeling a little older.