Skip to main content

See also:

Pixar vs. Disney, Who will be the Animators for the 21st Century?

Pixar vs. Disney
Pixar vs. Disney
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Point of order, Disney does now own Pixar as of 2006, in a $4.7 Billion acquisition. Most large corporations buy out their competition to take them out of play, but Pixar was acquired because the Mouse recognized a cash cow when he sees one. Part of the deal was a freedom from domination. Pixar kept its own campus, its own people and its own sense of purpose. Disney simply uses its worldwide reach for distribution and cashes the checks. The original Disney Studio is still producing animated shorts and features with a 50/50, hit or miss, result over the past decade.
Walt Disney dominated the animation world in the 20th century with innovative ideas, new technologies and by trusting his instinct. He employed young artist who wanted to challenge the norms and create things never seen before. They were the first to put sound with cartoons, (Steamboat Willy 1928), the first full length cartoon and the first use of multiple layered glass cells that created the illusion of depth between the foreground and back ground. (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937), and the company was one of the first to use computer assisted animation. (Beauty and the Beast 1991). Despite the Disney company’s promising beginnings, once Walt stepped away from the artist table they began a slow downward spin from warm art to cold business.
In the latter half of the 20th century the Disney Company tried desperately to hold onto its control of animated entertainment by recruiting the best animators from the top art schools, but that was their down fall. Their strategy was to find the artist when they were just getting started and teach them how to draw “The Disney Way”. From a marketing view it was a way of protecting the brand, but from a creative perspective it was death.
John Lasseter, the man behind Pixar, started out wanting to be part of the Disney magic. He even worked for the Disney Co. early in his career, but left because he wasn’t given the creative freedom he needed to bring his visions to life. In 1983 he joined Lucasfilm's Computer Division where e worked on such projects as The Adventures of André & Wally B, eventually becoming a full time member of their studio. The studio quickly became known for their leading edge animation and entertaining projects. In 1986 Steve Jobs purchased the studio from Lucasfilm and it became Pixar. From there the sky was the limit. Job’s gave them the financial support and the creative freedom to do whatever they wanted. The result was a string of blockbuster animated films including Toy Story, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Cars and many more.
Lasseter approach is much the same as Disney’s was in the beginning, to put the creativity first and the business second. In a recent interview, from a documentary titled Inside:Pixar, Lasseter was quoted as saying “Failure is part of the process.”, a contrast from most other big budget studios. It is that approach that got a little robot named Wall-e, a box full of toys and a little fish named Nemo to the big screen when most studio executives would pass on such pitches. The big difference between Mr. Disney and Mr. Lasseter is the culture they created. Disney had originally created a wonderful environment for artist, but the money men eventually took over. Lasseter has successfully put the money men in a box, away from his playground. If his successors can stay true to that vision Pixar will be the animation studio for the 21st century.