Today we've come to associate animation with one word: Pixar. From "Toy Story" to the upcoming "Monster's University, " the award-winning animation studio has spent the last two decades bringing some of our favorite characters and stories to life.
Though you likely know every Pixar film by heart, there are many fun facts and secrets you may not know about the animation empire. From Steve Jobs's history with the company to the many secrets and easter eggs within its films, Pixar is full of fascinating surprises.
Test your Pixar knowledge below and see if you can catch all the hidden secrets.
Gallery | 25 Things You Didn't Know About Pixar
- 1. Pixar Started Under George Lucas
Pixar began under the wing of George Lucas as part of the computer division of Lucasfilm in 1979. At that time the company was known as the Graphics Group.
- 2. The Pizza Planet Truck Is Everywhere
- 3. The Origin of the Pixar Logo Is a Lamp
Pixar's very first animated short was "Luxo Jr." (1986), produced by John Lasseter after he left Industrial Light and Magic. The short film, about two desk lamps and a small rubber ball, became the company's signature logo (you know, the intro before every Pixar film of the jumping lamp).
- 4. 'Luxo Jr.' Shows Up in 'Toy Story'
Does the short look familiar? That's probably because you saw it before 1999's "Toy Story 2" and during the film, as it appears briefly on the TV when Ham frantically changes the channels. Can you catch it below? (Hint: it appears twice!)
- 5. Steve Jobs Once Bought Pixar
Steve Jobs was the co-founder and CEO of Pixar. Jobs bought the Graphics Group from Lucasfilm in 1986 for $10 million, $5 million of which he gave to the company as capital.
- 6. Steve Jobs Also Saved Pixar
In fact, Jobs even saved Pixar from folding under at one point by investing more money into it. This led him to eventually owning the entire company for a total investment of $50 million.
- 7. Pixar Has Won (Many) Awards
Pixar has won 27 Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, and eleven Grammy Awards.
- 8. The Pixar Team Has 'Star Trek' Origins
The original team (which was only about 40 employees) worked on special effects sequences in films with Industrial Light and Magic, Lucas's visual effects company. Together they created the Genesis Effect (to the left) in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and the Stained Glass Knight in "Young Sherlock Holmes," the first full CG character in a movie.
- 9. Pixar Made a Computer
Before Pixar had a fully functioning animation department the functioned as a high-end computer hardware company, with their main product being the Pixar Image Computer. This computer helped begin Pixar's relationship with Walt Disney Studios, who was one of the first buyers of the computer. The studio used the system to computerize the ink and paint process of their traditionally animated films. Check out the video to see the many things the computer helped to create.
- 10. The 'Luxo' Ball Shows Up in Every Pixar Movie
The small blue and yellow rubber ball with a red star in the middle from "Luxo Jr." makes an appearance in almost every Pixar film. Can you name all its appearances? (Check your answers here and someone make a supercut of this already!)
- 11. Pixar Made a Major Deal With Disney
When Pixar made a $26 million deal with Disney in 1991 to produce three CGI feature films (the first of which became "Toy Story"), Pixar was still struggling financially and had lost 30 employees including their president.
- 12. The Critics Helped Save Pixar, Too
It was word from New York critics about the destined success of "Toy Story" that gave Jobs hope for the company.
- 13. Pixar Helped Steve Jobs Become the Biggest Disney Shareholder
There initially was much heated debate and disagreement between Jobs (middle) and Disney regarding the Mouse's eventual acquisition of Pixar. When Disney finally bought the animation company in 2006 for $7.4 billion in stock, Jobs automatically became the largest individual Disney shareholder, beating out the previous Disney CEO Michael Eisner (left) and Disney Director Roy E. Disney (right).
- 14. That Voice Sounds Familiar...
John Ratzenberger (formerly Cliff from "Cheers") has voiced a character in every single Pixar feature film and is regarded as their "good luck charm." Can you name all his characters? We'll give you a hint: He's Ham in "Toy Story."
- 15. In the Early Days, Pixar Hired Lots of College Grads
Most of Pixar's animators in their early feature film days were college graduates. Since 2D animation was still dominant at the time and Pixar's studio was located in San Francisco, nearly six hours away from the animator industry in Los Angeles, it was difficult to hire professional animators. Thus fresh college grads were the top choice.
- 16. 'Toy Story 2' Was Almost Direct-to-Video
"Toy Story 2" was originally planned as a direct-to-video movie (can you imagine?). Lasseter wasn't very pleased with the material at the time so he had the Pixar team start over from scratch and, voila! we got the much-loved sequel to the talking toys adventure.
- 17. It All Happens at Pixar Studios
Everything that goes into making a Pixar movie -- designing, modeling, location scouting, shooting, voiceovers -- all happens inside the Pixar studio.
- 18. Animators Climbed Through Trash for 'Toy Story 3'
To create the final climactic scene in "Toy Story 3" where the toys escape the garbage incinerator, the Pixar animators engaged in a similar experience. In the studio the animators climbed their way through a giant inflatable hallway filled with trash. Gross, but fun!
- 19. The Animators Pull Double Duty
Animators are cast just like actors! Some animators specialize in comedy, some in emotional scenes, and others in drama. Pixar casts animators based on their sensibilities so each character is brought to life as realistically as possible. Just look at how many different emotions this single shot from "Finding Nemo" had to depict (evil, scared, and of course the always-jolly Dory).
- 20. Pixar HQ Has a Secret Room
There is a secret room in an office in the Pixar studio known as the Lucky 7 Lounge. Animator Andrew Gordon discovered the hidden space in his office when he first moved in and after some decorating it suddenly became the hottest spot for the Pixar team, Steve Jobs, and even huge celebrities. While people used to have to climb through an air conditioning shaft to get to it, now there's a secret bookcase doorway that opens from a hidden key (so cool!). Skip to (3:43) to see the room!
- 21. Pixar Once Made Commercials
When Pixar was on the brink of going bankrupt before Jobs saved them, the animators began making commercials for companies such as Listerine, Lifesavers, and Tropicana. Check out the "Luxo Jr."-like jumping straw in Pixar's Tropicana commercial.
- 22. So What Does 'Pixar' Mean?
The word 'Pixar' is a combination between "pixer," an invented Spanish verb that means "to make pictures," and "radar." Pixar co-founder Loren Carpenter has said, "radar ends in 'ar' and it's got a kind of high-tech feel to it." Thus Pixar was formed as a hybrid between pictures and technology.
- 23. A Real 'Cars' Commercial
The European car manufacturer Opel sold special "The Incredibles" editions of their cars and did TV promo spots for "Cars" as well.
- 24. 'Tin Toy' Was the Original 'Toy Story'
Pixar's 1988 short "Tin Toy," the first CGI film to win an Oscar, was the original inspiration for "Toy Story." The move was supposed to be based on lead character Tinny from the short film. Tinny was supposed to have gotten lost on a family trip with his owner's other toy, a ventriloquist dummy. However, Tinny was changed into a toy astronaut named Larry Lunar, who then became Buzz Lightyear. The ventriloquist dummy became a cowboy that eventually got the name Woody.
- 25. Pixar Movies Make Money
All of Pixar's films are among the 50 highest-grossing animated films of all time. "Toy Story 3" has made over $1 billion worldwide, the first animated film to do so.
Sources: Wikipedia, New York Times, Pixar Wiki
EARLIER: Best Pixar Movies: Ranking All 14 Films