The Early Works of Pixar

Exploring short films and commercials before the days of Toy Story.

by | June 23, 2011 | Comments

Before becoming a trusted global brand and before fostering the greatest animation renaissance since the pie-eyed dreams of Walt Disney, Pixar was a small Lucasfilm unit creating industry tools and movie effects.

And before even that, John Lasseter, Pixar CFO and chief visioneer for much of the company’s life, was working at Disney. Below is a 1983 animation test he directed at Disney, demonstrating the potential of 3D computer graphics with a Where The Wild Things Are adaptation.

The potential of CG came into clearer focus when Lucasfilm distributed The Adventures of Andre and Wally B in 1984. Developed in-house by The Graphics Group (directed by Alvy Ray Smith, animated by Lasseter), the fully CG short was attached to showings of Brazil.

In 1986, Steve Jobs, ever the plucky entrepreneur, purchased The Graphics Group from Lucasfilm. Rechristened Pixar, the company grew on a business model that maintained their path of creating computer industry tools while exploring their more artistic inclinations. Beach Chair is one of two famous animation tests from that year. (The other, Waving Flags, can be found as an easter egg on the Pixar Short Films Collection.)

Pixar also produced their first short in 1986, Luxo Jr., featuring the signature desk lamps and star ball. (See Pixar’s three other pre-Toy Story shorts on page 2.)

As the CG short film market was tough (e.g. non-existent) in the 80s, Pixar supported themselves with commercial and educational work. They produced a series of Sesame Street shorts with Luxo Jr. and Luxo Sr. teaching the principle of opposites. (See three more Pixar-created Sesame Street shorts on page 3.)

Along the way, Pixar amassed a huge portfolio of television commercial work, many instantly recognizable to all the ’90s kids reading this today. Just like the previous efforts, the commercials lean heavily on giving life to inanimate objects, a talent and joy carried over into the creation of Toy Story. (See six more Pixar commercials on page 4.)

Then in 1995, as an alternative to their traditional animated work, Disney sent Toy Story out into theaters. The rest is history. Pixar’s 12th feature, Cars 2, arrives nationwide this Friday.

Pixar produced four shorts from 1986 to 1989. The first, Luxo Jr., was nominated for the Best Animated Short Oscar. 1988’s Tin Toy took home the big trophy.

Get ’em when they’re young: Three education shorts created by Pixar for Sesame Street.

Six commercials created by Pixar. And thus giving rise to a generation of children with lifelong allegiance to Nabisco.

Tag Cloud

Sundance Now war Cosplay composers Spring TV Opinion Esquire MSNBC BBC America dramedy Creative Arts Emmys Podcast USA Network Superheroe TCA Fantasy period drama what to watch Lionsgate Red Carpet Fall TV Box Office docudrama PaleyFest TV Land technology VH1 Shondaland thriller Christmas biography 21st Century Fox Super Bowl BBC GIFs Polls and Games harry potter Summer CBS All Access NYCC YouTube Red politics serial killer IFC Lifetime FXX binge based on movie cops AMC Infographic supernatural The CW Oscars Food Network 45 Grammys Logo Western CMT Countdown TCA 2017 Comedy Central Crackle cats Music Extras dceu El Rey SundanceTV Calendar Cartoon Network cooking dc crime thriller Reality Competition diversity psycho Superheroes Musicals BET Sony Pictures singing competition Musical TIFF GLAAD Ghostbusters Star Trek Showtime Pop vampires Ellie Kemper ratings Biopics 2015 medical drama Nickelodeon romance Adult Swim cults Sci-Fi First Look Pixar Martial Arts ITV History adventure Reality travel E3 Photos President Animation Year in Review Warner Bros. Tumblr MTV Watching Series See It Skip It Rom-Com Rocky TNT comiccon police drama 007 cinemax Holidays Dark Horse Comics APB Sundance Awards Trailer justice league sports TV OWN Interview Amazon FX Election Winter TV Tomatazos Mystery 20th Century Fox HBO CNN Mindy Kaling X-Men Pirates Premiere Dates Certified Fresh NBC Drama A&E CBS Horror crime drama Toys USA IFC Films RT History Disney ABC Family The Arrangement Freeform Winners Nat Geo 2017 Country Sneak Peek Syfy spy thriller ABC DC Universe Spike TBS science fiction Comedy Disney Channel DirecTV discovery historical drama CW Seed Thanksgiving golden globes Action political drama Bravo Trivia Mary Tyler Moore Britbox talk show unscripted ESPN 24 frames 2016 TLC Acorn TV Netflix Star Wars Lucasfilm DC streaming service LGBTQ Rock Kids & Family aliens social media Teen TruTV YA Universal E! boxoffice Masterpiece zombie Video Games crime Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TCM DC Comics Paramount Hulu Paramount Network robots Marathons Set visit PBS Comic Book Best and Worst Fox News GoT Schedule sitcom Marvel American Society of Cinematographers Starz Nominations VICE transformers Valentine's Day SDCC Emmys FOX WGN Writers Guild of America Character Guide