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The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

David A. Price
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 13 2008
The roller-coaster rags-to-riches story behind the phenomenal success of Pixar Animation Studios: the first in-depth look at the company that forever changed the film industry and the “fraternity of geeks” who shaped it.

The Pixar Touch
is a story of technical innovation that revolutionized animation, transforming hand-drawn cel animation to computer-generated 3-D graphics. It’s a triumphant business story of a company that began with a dream, remained true to the ideals of its founders—antibureaucratic and artist driven—and ended up a multibillion-dollar success.

We meet Pixar’s technical genius and founding CEO, Ed Catmull, who dreamed of becoming an animator, inspired by Disney’s Peter Pan and Pinocchio, realized he would never be good enough, and instead enrolled in the then new field of computer science at the University of Utah. It was Catmull who founded the computer graphics lab at the New York Institute of Technology and who wound up at Lucasfilm during the first Star Wars trilogy, running the computer graphics department, and found a patron in Steve Jobs, just ousted from Apple Computer, who bought Pixar for five million dollars. Catmull went on to win four Academy Awards for his technical feats and helped to create some of the key computer-generated imagery software that animators rely on today.

Price also writes about John Lasseter, who catapulted himself from unemployed animator to one of the most powerful figures in American filmmaking; animation was the only thing he ever wanted to do (he was inspired by Disney’s The Sword in the Stone), and Price’s book shows how Lasseter transformed computer animation from a novelty into an art form. The author writes as well about Steve Jobs, as volatile a figure as a Shakespearean monarch . . .

Based on interviews with dozens of insiders, The Pixar Touch examines the early wildcat years when computer animation was thought of as the lunatic fringe of the medium.

We see the studio at work today; how its writers, directors, and animators make their astonishing, and astonishingly popular, films.

The book also delves into Pixar’s corporate feuds: between Lasseter and his former champion, Jeffrey Katzenberg (A Bug’s Life vs. Antz), and between Jobs and Michael Eisner. And finally it explores Pixar’s complex relationship with the Walt Disney Company as it transformed itself from a Disney satellite into the $7.4 billion jewel in the Disney crown.

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Review

“Well-crafted. . . . [Price tells] the Pixar story briskly and with great clarity.”
The Boston Globe
“It’s a rags-to-riches story, a classic example of the cream rising to the top. And it’s as entertaining and heartwarming as, say, a Pixar movie. It’s The Pixar Touch, and its topsy-turvy, roller-coaster plot has all the thrills of a ride at Disneyland. In this unauthorized account of Pixar, journalist David A. Price paints the most complete picture yet of the little studio that could. He talks to scores of insiders, Pixar colleagues and members of the ‘fraternity of geeks,’ true believers in the potential of the pixel to revolutionize animation. With the precision of a technical writer and the sensitivity of an artist, Price spins the story of the Pixar vision, its achievement, and its art.”
The Christian Science Monitor

“Using vivid character profiles and lucid descriptions of complicated technology, Price gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look more accessible than any television special. His admiration for Pixar is palpable but contagious, and The Pixar Touch is an engaging modern history that tears back the Wizard’s curtain without breaking the spell.”
The Buffalo News

“Price is a smart reporter and a solid writer. He deftly makes computer arcana palatable, even interesting. And he is excellent when explaining how much work went into creating the complex images we take for granted today.”

The New York Times Book Review

“[Price] weaves an absorbing chronicle that functions not only as the history of an unconventional business but also serves as witness to the dawn of a digital revolution in mass entertainment.”

Newsday

“You don’t have to belong to the computer-animation generation to enjoy The Pixar Touch. This history of the company that made the world’s first fully computer-animated feature is an entertaining look at digital derring-do.”

The Dallas Morning News

The Pixar Touch is a little like a Pixar movie. It has a compelling mix of interrelated story arcs (technological, financial and artistic) and an impressive cast of intriguing characters.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch

“A number of interesting things about Disney emerge in this excellent, readable account of Pixar’s early years.”

The Economist
“The first comprehensive look at the phenomenon of Pixar…[that] successfully brings to life the band of animation enthusiasts behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. The book deserves a thumbs-up for its artful recounting of the studio’s formative years ….full of fascinating characters, all struggling–in classic Pixar film style–to overcome seemingly impossible odds.”
Business Week

“Unprecedented detail about the notoriously press-shy company’s workings, a story that abounds with lessons for business people and creative artists alike.”

Wall Street Journal

“David A. Price, a tough, unsentimental reporter, ferrets out lots of backstage drama from fresh sources, weaving a commendably unvarnished history.”

Entertainment Weekly

“It’s quite a story, and David Price has finally got it right, it’s details and the players. This is the definitive history of Pixar.”

—Alvy Ray Smith, co-founder of Pixar

“[A] brisk history of an entertainment juggernaut that is also the history of computer animation…a heck of a yarn, full of vivid characters, reversals of fortune and stubborn determination: Pixar should make a movie out of it.”

—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A tale of our times, and David Price tells it with page-turning drama, total veracity, and wonderful wit.”

—Mark Cotta Vaz, author, of The Art of Finding Nemo, The Art of The Incredibles and Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong

About the Author

David A. Price was raised in Richmond, Virginia, and was educated at the College of William and Mary, where he received his degree in computer science. He graduated from Harvard Law School and Cambridge University. Price has written for The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Business 2.0, The Washington Post, Forbes, and Inc. and is the author of Love and Hate in Jamestown. He lives with his wife and sons in Washington, D.C.

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By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I re-read this book after reading the more recently published book co-authored by Bill Capodaglio and Lynn Jackson, Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World's Most Creative Corporate Playground. (They also co-authored The Disney Way, Revised Edition: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company.) Karen Paik is the author of another book,
To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios, that also provides a wealth of information about a unique organization and the brilliant people who have been centrally involved in it for more than 20 years.

Others have their reasons for thinking so highly of The Pixar Touch. First, David A. Price's does a brilliant job of delineating the complicated chronological sequence that began with the hiring of Edwin Catmull (then at the New York Institute of Technology) to head the graphics group within the computer division at Lucasfilm (1979). Subsequently, Pixar Animation Studios (later shortened to Pixar) was purchased by Steve Jobs in 1986. After a highly successful IPO (11/29/1995), Years later, Jobs sold it to the Walt Disney Company for $7.4 billion (in an all-stock deal) in 2006. Price covers each of the company's transitions thoroughly without bogging down in details. With the predictable exception of Jobs, those who provided leadership at Pixar demonstrate remarkable composure, indeed style and grace, during difficult times and sincere appreciation when lavished with praise, awards, and wealth. (Jobs's primary - if not only - motive was and remains, the creation of "insanely great work.") Price's mini-biographies of the major figures probably provide the information that most people require.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome and interesting read Nov. 3 2009
By Tom
Format:Paperback
I bought this book a few weeks back and read it in a matter of days. It's a very interesting read and doesn't read like a documentary. You get a lot of information and facts but the author makes it interesting to read. It's an amazing story and well worth reading if you're even remotely interested in Pixar, animation, or business.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  61 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The magic touch June 13 2008
By Julie Neal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was glued to this book about Pixar's humble beginnings and inspiring ascension into the firmament. In true Cinderella fashion, the company starts with nothing, gets no respect, but eventually its dreams come true. It's a thought-provoking journey.

Pixar's story interweaves with that of the Walt Disney Company throughout its history. Founding CEO Ed Catmull's college dissertation involved creating a texture map projecting Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh onto undulating surfaces. When Disney decided to replace its ink-and-paint process with computers, it had Pixar test the system with a scene from The Little Mermaid. In 1991, Disney agreed to finance Pixar's first full-length feature film, Toy Story, but production was shut down in late 1993 because the plot dictated that Woody be mean and petty. Disney rewrote the script to make the toy cowboy more sympathetic. And in January 2006, Disney agreed to acquire Pixar for 287.5 million shares of Disney stock.

The story works in the biographies of some fascinating men. Catmull turned down Disney when it approached him to help design the Walt Disney World attraction Space Mountain. Steve Jobs, newly thrown out of Apple Computer, bought Pixar for just $5 million, only to discover he had to spend twice that to keep it afloat. You read how John Lasseter advances from a skipper on Disneyland's Jungle Cruise to the principal creative advisor of Disney and Pixar animation.

The book includes a handful of black and white photos, and eight glossy, full-color pages with images from Pixar movies Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars and Ratatouille.

Here's the chapter list:

1. Anaheim
2. In the Garage
3. Lucasfilm
4. Steve Jobs
5. Pixar, Inc.
6. Making it Fly 1
7. Making it Fly 2
8. "It Seemed Like an All-Out War"
9. Crisis in Monstropolis
10. Emeryville
11. Homecoming

Appendix 1: Pixar Academy Awards and nominations
Appendix 2: Pixar Filmography
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid, interesting chronicle of Pixar from early days to Disney acquisition Aug. 10 2011
By Brian Frankenfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a long time fan of Pixar and a fan (and critic at times) of Disney animation, I found this to seemingly be one of the better books written about Pixar and the evolution of 3D animation from Pixar's perspective. It is a solid look at Pixar from the Catmull's early years at the newly formed New York Institute of Technology to the arrival of Lasseter, to the investment of Jobs and his evolution from seeing Pixar as a hardware company to an animation studio, and finally to the Iger's epiphany (although perhaps obvious to others) that Disney Feature Animation needed Pixar. This book not only serves as a good case study of Pixar, but as a reminder that great animated films all start with a great story and are made absolutely fantastic in the execution of the details of that story's characters - concepts that held true when Disney first introduced animated features and still hold true today. It also makes clear something I had long thought, that Disney Feature animation lost its way under Eisner, substituting short term profit for long term value. The whole reason for the Disney Company's rise to success in the first place was its feature animation work. That work flowed to everything - it's theme parks, merchandising, resorts, etc. Pixar and Lasseter, ironically, brought this back to Disney. I would recommend this book to anybody interested in feature animation, story-telling and/or the business of either. It's filled with rich experiences of how business works and sometimes doesn't, and how a group of passionate animators with a knack for storytelling and drive for their trade brought animation into the mainstream once again.
79 of 107 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another whitewashed PR job for Pixar/Disney Aug. 17 2008
By Steven R. Boyett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I don't expect anyone to believe this, but I have to get it off my chest. Price's book gives credit to John Lasseter's wife for creating the character of Jessie in Toy Story 2. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wrote the second draft of TS2 as an independent contractor at Pixar for three months when Ralph Guggenheim was the producer and Ash Brannon was the sole director. Ken Mitchroney was a story artist on the project and the person who had recommended me to try to fix the ungodly mess that was the first draft. He had suggested the film have a cowgirl, and I agreed.

Ken did preliminary character sketches, one of which was quite similar to the final character (and modeled on his redheaded wife). The final design was done by Jill Colton, also uncredited. I created Jessie on the page -- she was named and partially modeled after my friend Jessie Horsting, former West Coast Editor of Fantastic Films Magazine -- along with most of the film structure as it currently exists (the major exception being the third act, which I was much less involved with).

Not only did Lasseter's wife not have a thing to do with the movie, Lasseter didn't have much to do with it either. I never saw him once during my time at the production (and his taking co-credit for, and accepting awards on behalf of, the movie was a factor in Ash Brannon [SURF'S UP] leaving Pixar as well). After I left Disney showed up with their army of useless middle management, fired everybody, replaced them with their corporate flunkies, and let the project languish for another year. Rita Hsiao wrote a credited version, yet as far as I know what she did was stick post-its under storyboards. But, you know, she worked for Disney and was credited with Mulan. Woo hoo.

Finally Lasseter threw Andy Stanton at the project, the smartest thing he could have done. He made changes I wish I'd thought of and gave it a strong third act. Of Rita Hsiao's influence on the script I can't imagine a trace. Yet when story credit was handed out, Disney (yes, Disney; nobody actually involved with the picture determined story credit, and as a result people who literally did not write a word on the project got equal or higher billing, along with, quelle surprise, the aforementioned Ms. Hsiao) did not credit my script. If anything, I created Jessie and the Woody's Roundup scenes.

Ken Mitchroney designed the character of Zurg as well. Ken was a friend of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and has done a ton of Rat Finks and Hotrod/Tiki designs. Hey, what a surprise: Zurg is really a Tiki head! Look at him again. Ken also conceived, storyboarded, and pretty much created the traffic cone scene. He's the voice of Zurg on the ride at Disneyland.

Does Prices' book go even mention us? It is to laugh. This is just another book-length press release in which the writer nods his fannish head excitedly and scribbles on a legal pad while essentially acting as a mouthpiece for someone who is more than happy to take credit for the considerable work of others far more creative than he will ever be. It happily abandons any attempt at research and jumps on the bus of easily digestible corporate myth. Do you seriously think John Lasseter co-directed Toy Story 2? If you folks saw the pile of bodies those cute li'l characters stand on -- well, I have no doubt you'd still pony up your $12 and pack the theaters.

You never hear about this stuff because writers are afraid they won't work in this industry again. I, on the other hand, have nightmares that I will. Maybe this will help prevent that.

Is Price's book worthless because I didn't get credit? No, that's not the axe I'm grinding here. It's worthless because it's essentially a souvenir, a piece of memorabilia created, by proxy, by its subject matter. And I'm mad about it even now because I get to see paper towels and toy store aisles and coupon ads chock full of stuff that came out of my head (without any credit or compensation beyond a weekly salary -- and try finding a lawyer who will take on Disney), and continually witness people fed this lying corporate pablum, and here's yet another example by a lazy fanboy who doesn't bother to go beyond the same self-serving sources. It ain't so, folks.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An effortless, informative read Aug. 8 2008
By Jerry Saperstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"The Pixar Touch" is a book about business and technology and filmaking. Author David Price is remarkable in his skill at keeping all three themes not only interesting, but engrossing as well.

Pixar began as something of a Quixotic quest three decades ago with some young men having a vision not only of applying computer technology to traditional animation, but making full-length computer animated movies as well.

Their pursuit takes some of them through stints at the mecca of traditional animation, the Disney Studios, while others were to be found at universities. All the Pixar founders and some of their creative stalwarts found themselves at Lucasfilms, where they tried to peddle their concept and do things beyond special effects, commercials and impressive short films. Along the way, they invent or refine many of the techniques at the core of sophisticated computer animation.

It is not the land of milk and honey, though. Lucasfilm wants to be rid of Pixar and tries to peddle it to everyone they could think of. One of the first to be offered Pixar was Steven Jobs, who had been forced out of Apple. Lucas wanted ten million - Jobs offered five. A year later, after failing to sell Pixar at their asking price, Lucasfilm sold the company to Jobs for five million dollars.

There follows an almost heroic story of a few men struggling to acheive their vision of computer generated animated feature-length movies. Over the next few years, backed by more than fifty million dollars of Jobs' money, Pixar finally makes a deal with Disney to distribute a feature length animated film.

It is a fascinating process to see how the now legendary "Toy Story" came to be. None of the principals in Pixar had ever made a feature length movie before. And no one really knew how audiences would react to 90 minutes or so of computer created animation.

"Toy Story", of course, was a major success as were the next several Pixar produced films.

Price excels at telling the business story of Pixar from its beginnings to its ultimate $7.4 billion acquisition by Disney, which left Steve Jobs as the major stockholder of Disney. And quite a story it is, by turns, of good luck and then hard business dealings. He also does an excellent job of explaining the technology of computer generated animation and the agonies of creating feature length movies.

Overall, Price does a simply superb job of telling the stories of Pixar, the development of computer animation, Steve Jobs and Disney (in part) and the lives of the Pixar founders and many who joined along the way.

It is quite a story and exceptionally well told by Price.

Jerry
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book went to Infinity and Beyond!! July 2 2008
By Joel Siegel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am an animator and have always had an affinity for PIXAR. When I heard about this book I knew I needed to read it immeadiately. It goes through the entire history of PIXAR with some detailed background on computer animation itself. Also it gives brief back stories of each of the major players that started PIXAR and/or have been major players since then. I have never found a non-fiction book more interesting in my life. Once you pick up this book you actually will no be able to put it down. There is however a lot of tech talk so if you do not know much about computers or animation you may not like it as much, but it really is a good and fast read. I recommend it to all who are truly interested in PIXAR, computer animation, and even the growth of a small business.
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