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On November 22, 1995, the release of Toy Story not only introduced Woody and Buzz Lightyear to audiences, but also it represented the culmination of more than 16 years of work and innovation from some of the biggest names in Hollywood (George Lucas) and Silicon Valley (Steve Jobs).

The story of Pixar began in 1979, when George Lucas hired Ed Catmull from the New York Institute of Technology to lead the Lucasfilm Computer Division and create digital film and sound editing systems, as well as explore computer graphics. In 1984, Catmull hired animator John Lasseter, and the Computer Division released a partial version of “The Adventures of André & Wally B,” the first example of computer character animation. The division also released a prototype of the Pixar Image Computer.

Their work caught the attention of Steve Jobs, who purchased the Computer Division from Lucas in 1986 and established it as Pixar. (“Pixar” is a faux-Spanish word.) The company worked to make and sell the Pixar Image Computer, but the hardware was slow to take off. After the Pixar short film “Tin Toy” became the first computer animated film to win an Academy Award, the sole focus became movie-making.

Enter Disney

In 1991, Disney and Pixar entered into an agreement to produce a feature-length computer-animated movie. That movie, the story of the beloved toy cowboy Woody and his gradual acceptance of the flashy astronaut Buzz Lightyear, was Toy Story. It opened at No. 1, and six days after its release, Pixar’s IPO (the largest of the year) took place.

With hits including Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo, it’s safe to say that Jobs had an eye for what would take him to infinity and beyond.

Photo: Aisyaqilumaranas/ Shutterstock

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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