The Walt Disney Companylater acquired Pixar in 2006.
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.
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, Steve Jobs sold Pixar's hardware division, including all proprietary hardware technology and imaging software, to Vicom Systems, and transferred 18 of Pixar's appoximate 100 employees. The same year Pixar moved from San Rafael to Richmond, California. During this period, Pixar continued its relationship withWalt 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), 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 in late 1994 he contemplated to sell 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.
Relationship with Disney
The two companies attempted to reach a new agreement in early 2004. The new deal would be only for distribution, as Pixar intended to control production and own the resulting film properties themselves. The company also wanted to finance their films on their own and collect 100 percent of the profits, paying Disney only the 10 to 15 percent distribution fee. More importantly, as part of any distribution agreement with Disney, Pixar demanded control over films already in production under their old agreement, including "The Incredibles" and "Cars." Disney considered these conditions unacceptable, but Pixar would not concede.
Disagreements between Steve Jobs and thenDisney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisnermade the negotiations more difficult than they otherwise might have been. They broke down completely in mid-2004, with Jobs declaring that Pixar was actively seeking partners other than Disney. Pixar did not enter negotiations with other distributors. After a lengthy hiatus, negotiations between the two companies resumed following the departure of Eisner from Disney in September 2005. In preparation for potential fallout between Pixar and Disney, Jobs announced in late 2004 that Pixar would no longer release movies at the Disney-dictated November time frame, but during the more lucrative early summer months. This would also allow Pixar to release DVDs for their major releases during the Christmas shopping season. An added benefit of delaying Cars was to extend the time frame remaining on the Pixar-Disney contract to see how things would play out between the two companies.
Pending the Disney acquisition of Pixar, the two companies created a distribution deal for the intended 2007 release of "Ratatouille", in case the acquisition fell through, to ensure that this one film would still be released through Disney's distribution channels. (In contrast to the earlier Disney/Pixar deal, Ratatouille was to remain a Pixar property and Disney would have received only a distribution fee.) The completion of Disney's Pixar acquisition, however, nullified this distribution arrangement.
Acquisition by Disney
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.
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.