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

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