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15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Pixar Universe

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15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Pixar Universe

It feels like we’ve seen some of the world’s greatest movies thanks to Pixar. But believe it or not, this studio – which is one of the most powerful in Hollywood – has been around for almost 40 years. Originally starting out as part of the Lucasfilm computer division, Pixar was bought from Steve Jobs (who acquired it in 1986) in 1995 by the Walt Disney Company in what was deemed a detrimental move at the time. However, shortly after Disney bought out the company, Toy Story was released, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But that’s not even the coolest did-you-know fact about Pixar. In fact, in the process of our research, we found some of the most amazing factoids you could ever possibly find about a movie company. What was once deemed a detrimental move for the House of Mouse has now morphed into a multi-billion-dollar company, earning more than 16 Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, and eleven Grammy Awards. The average Pixar film, according to Box Office Mojo, nets more than $600 million for the Walt Disney Company. Not a bad day’s pay!

Here’s a list of some of the most mind-blowing facts about Pixar.

15. In The Early Days, Pixar Only Did Computer Graphics

Pixar used to do computer graphics

When Pixar was still part of Lucasfilm, it was part of the so-called “computer graphics division.” As such, they did special effects for movies like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. To supplement their income in between movie gigs, they did commercials, as well. Later on, Pixar would sell high-end computer imaging software (which was mostly sold to other movie companies because it was so expensive), and even sold a Pixar Image Computer! But there was no way that the average person could afford it: in 1986, the first-generation machine was created, and sold to the tune of $135,000 USD (which is over $300,000 in 2017 money! Compare, then, the MacBook, which sells for about $2,000 in 2017 USD, and you’ll realize how far we’ve come with computers). It came as a surprise to no one, then, when the Pixar Image Computer was discontinued in 1990 for being “too costly.”

14. Steve Jobs Saved Pixar

Steve Jobs saved Pixar

In 1986, Pixar was hemorrhaging money – so much so, in fact, that it was on the verge of closing. Had Steve Jobs not infused $5 million (which is the equivalent of more than $11 million in 2017) into the company, it would have, indeed, closed. But even after Pixar got the influx of money, it was still hemorrhaging money – in fact, it was hemorrhaging so much money that Steve Jobs subsequently tried to sell his shares of Pixar stock to Microsoft (who wouldn’t take the bait). Things began to turn around in 1986, though, and when the Walt Disney Company bought out Pixar in 1995, Jobs became the single-largest Walt Disney Company shareholder in the world. So when the Toy Story money started coming in, Steve Jobs (may he rest in peace) became a very wealthy man, indeed.

13. The Pixar Logo Comes From One Of Their First Short Films

Pixar Logo

1986 was a game-changer for Pixar in a lot of ways. In addition to the Steve Jobs infusion of money, the company released Luxo Jr., which was only the second short film they’d ever released. Somehow, though, it resonated with the public more so than their first film did, because not only did it do well, it became the first Pixar film to be in serious contention for the Academy Awards, having been nominated for Best Animated Short at the 1987 awards ceremony. And though it didn’t win, it provided two important things for Pixar that continues to define them to this day: one, it proved that the company was planning to become a major player in the Hollywood game, and two, it provided the company with their logo (the bouncing lamp who is, incidentally, named Luxo Jr.). If you watch some Pixar films carefully, you’ll see Luxo Jr. making a special guest appearance!

12. WALL-E Provides Valuable Sci-Fi Lessons

WALL-E Pixar

The hit Pixar film WALL-E tells the story of a sentient robot who, in the distant future, works collecting garbage on an otherwise-decimated Earth. And while the film was seen to be a criticism of many American philosophies – including consumerism, corporatism, nostalgia, waste management, human environmental impact and concerns, obesity, and global catastrophic risk – it also provides impressionable young minds with valuable sci-fi lessons. Namely, WALL-E gives kids insight into Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, which all the robots in the film follow. The first law states that a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, make a human being get hurt; the second law states that robots will follow all the rules that human beings give them, except if the rule commands the robots to violate the first law; and finally, the third law states that robots must always protect their own existence, except in instances where said protection violates the first and second laws.

11. Dory Is The Most Popular Pixar Character Of All Time

Dory Finding Nemo Pixar

It’s not surprising that the characters in Finding Nemo and its sequel, Finding Dory, are so beloved. After all, they teach children – and yes, even adults – about the values of love, family, and loyalty. But while one would think that Nemo, for instance, would be the most popular Pixar of all time, it’s his surrogate mother, Dory, that takes home that prize. The blue tang fish, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, earned the title because of the number of “likes” her page received on Facebook – a staggering 25 million! The clown fish Nemo, however, comes in at a close second, with more than 22 million likes on his Facebook page. Just keep swimming, kids!

10. Pixar Didn’t Bring Home All The Toy Story Money

Toy Story Pixar

When a company like Pixar is hemorrhaging money, they have to figure out how to make it back in as short of order as possible. Before the Walt Disney Company purchased Pixar in 1995, they made a three-film deal with the company in 1991. But that deal didn’t come with no strings attached: Pixar, according to Disney’s deal, would only take home 15% of the profits earned from the three films they released with Disney. The good news was, the first film that Pixar released under that deal was 1995’s Toy Story, and it was a literal cash cow for both Walt Disney and Pixar. The worldwide box office, to date, is over $360 million, and even though Pixar only got 15% of that money, it was still a nice payday for them. But more than just being a payday, Toy Story finally established Pixar as a serious contender in the Hollywood game.

9. Dory And Marlin Originally Sounded Very Differently

Pixar Dory and Marlin

Today, everyone on Earth recognizes the voices of Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks as Dory and Marlin, respectively, from the Pixar hit film Finding Nemo and its follow-up, Finding Dory. But originally, the voices of Dory and Marlin were supposed to be very different. Megan Mullally of Will and Grace fame recorded the voice of Dory, but she didn’t want to do the same voice she became known for on the hit NBC series, even though that’s what got her cast in the role of Dory in the first place. When she continued to refuse to comply, the producers let her go. Meanwhile, William H. Macy, best known today for his role as the messed-up Frank Gallagher in Shameless, recorded for the voice of Marlin. Producers, however, didn’t think his voice was “gentle” enough to play the role of Marlin.

8. Some Of The Characters In The Incredibles Were Based On Celebrities

Pixar Frozone

Aside from being the first Pixar movie to have an entirely human cast, The Incredibles was the first Pixar film to have some members of its cast based off of real life human people, and the more famous ones at that. Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) was based on Olympic Gold medalist Shani Davis. In fact, Davis was such an obvious influence on Frozone that he joked on a Dutch radio program that he should have gotten royalties for his contributions. Meanwhile, Edna – who was the costume designer for the superheroes – was based on legendary Hollywood fashion stylist Edith Head. In addition to winning an Academy Award for her work, she dressed the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Princess Grace Kelly, Jane Fonda, and Kim Novak.

7. Charlie Muntz, The Villain From Up, Is Based On A Real-Life Villain

Pixar Up

The villainous Charlie Muntz from the Pixar film Up is someone that Carl and Ellie look up to when they were younger, but ultimately turns out to be the worst of the worst when it was revealed that his “discovery” was a fake. If this story line sounds familiar, it’s because it is: Charlie Mintz was the studio executive who, in February 1928, stole Oswald the Lucky Rabbit away from the Walt Disney Studios. He even went so far as to hire away all of Disney’s animators and move them to his Winkler Studios. But, ultimately, Karma got the best of Charlie Mintz, because he ultimately lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

6. The Sequels To The Pixar Films Were Originally Meant To Be Direct-To-Video

Sequels To Pixar Movies

As a general rule, The Walt Disney Company doesn’t like sequels. The reason for their distaste goes back to the failure of The Rescuers Down Under, which was meant to be a sequel to the hit film The Rescuers. Unlike its forefather, The Rescuers Down Under tanked at the box office, and Disney made all its animated sequels go direct-to-video from that day forward. That is, of course, until Pixar released Toy Story 2 – originally, Disney was going to release that sequel directly to video, but Pixar pushed back and asked it to be released to the theaters. It was a wise decision on both Pixar and Disney’s part, because Toy Story 2 went on to become just as successful as its predecessor. Good thing, too, because otherwise Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 may not have ever come to pass, and neither would have Finding Dory.

5. There Are References To Star Wars In Toy Story

Pixar Star Wars References

It’s rather interesting that, before Star Wars and Lucasfilm were owned by Disney, a Disney property – namely, Pixar – made references to the blockbuster film. It’s not unusual – after all, from the day it came out, it changed the pop culture zeitgeist – but it is rather interesting. In any event, the hit film Toy Story makes two references to Star Wars: the first happens with Buzz Lightyear, who has a similar mission to R2D2’s – he has sensitive information that needs to get to its recipient. And while that may be considered neither here nor there, the references to Star Wars are really solidified when Sid is torturing Woody, and he says the same thing to him that Darth Vader says to Princess Leia when he’s interrogating her.

4. Sid Phillips, The Villain From Toy Story, Is Based On A Former Pixar Employee Of The Same Name

Toy Story Pixar Sid Phillips

Pixar really has no problem integrating real life people into their films, so it came as no surprise that toy torturer Sid Phillips – who shot to fame in Toy Story – was also based on a real person. In this case, Sid Phillips was a former Pixar employee that creeped out his co-workers because he had an uncanny ability to disassemble toys and reassemble a bunch of them to create mutant, frightening toys. To really solidify that Sid Phillips was a bad guy, the Pixar animators made the cartoon Sid and his family live in a hexagonal home that was similar to the hexagonal home featured in 1981’s horror classic, The Shining.

3. Tow Mater, The Comedic Foil In The Cars Movies, Is Based On A Real-Life NASCAR Fan

Pixar Tow Mater

The Cars movies are chock-full of authenticity – in fact, Pixar went so far as to hire broadcast sports directors as consultants, so that the racing scenes in the film would have true authenticity. In keeping to their quest for authenticity, Pixar executive John Lasseter went to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina to see some NASCAR races in action. While there, he met a rather interesting fellow named Douglas Keever, who was a huge NASCAR fan, and filled Lasseter in on everything about the sport. When he first introduced himself to Lasseter, Keever reportedly referred to himself by his nickname, Mater, and said, “My name is Ta-Mater, but without the Ta.” That same line would be repeated by tow truck Tow Mater, voiced by Larry The Cable Guy. Lasseter later admitted that nearly everything about the Tow Mater character was based on Keever.

2. There’s One Particular Thing About Finding Nemo That Isn’t Authentic

Pixar Nemo

Towards the end of the hit Pixar film, Finding Nemo, Nemo is flushed down the toilet to make his way back to the ocean and to his father. While nearly everything about the film is authentic – as they had before, Pixar animators were required to do extensive research, and that research included visiting aquariums, diving in Hawaii and Monterey, participating in study sessions in front of Pixar’s own 25-gallon fish tank, and listening to in-house lectures from an ichthyologist – that part is not. In fact, if one were to do that to a fish in real life, the fish wouldn’t have a happy ending. “In truth, no one would ever find Nemo and the movie would be called Grinding Nemo,” said the JWC Environmental Company in Costa Mesa, CA.

1. You Would Need A Lot Of Money To Do What Ratatouille Did

Pixar Ratatouille

The concept behind the hit Pixar film Ratatouille is that a poor mouse “made good” and lived his dream to become a five-star chef. But if that were to happen in real life, said mouse would have to make more money than the average American makes today. While Chef Anthony Bourdain called the film the “best food film ever made,” and commended Pixar for their dedication to authenticity to a chef’s life, they could have done a little more to show people the real prices of things. First, the restaurant is based off of The French Laundry, a Michelin three-star restaurant in Yountville, California. Run by celebrity chef Thomas Keller, the daily “Chef’s tasting menu” will set you back $310 per person, but fortunately, “service is included.” Second, and perhaps most importantly, the wine ordered by the villainous Antone Ego – the Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947 – is, in fact, a real wine, but it isn’t one a food critic can afford: originating from the Saint-Emillion region of France, the Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947 would sell for more than $135,000 today, according to The Daily Mail.

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