Toy Story was ground breaking in that it was the first feature length animated film in movie history. It didn’t just achieve that particular accolade however; it was a bona-fide record breaking, Oscar nominated hit. For the majority of us (who are not film makers) what we can learn from it is not what made its storylines, graphics and characters so effective but rather the journey it took since its inception and the vision of its creators.
Creating anything new means pushing boundaries and taking risks – following tried and tested formulas that work can achieve success but not greatness. Steve Jobs, the man behind hugely successful studio Pixar, had the courage, nerves of steel and vision to develop and run with a completely new format and risk it falling on its feet. It is that level of determination that creates successful people in this world.
The story behind Pixar is an interesting one, starting as far back as 1979. Then, another pioneer, George Lucas saw the potential of computer graphics and took his own risks to create a new subsidiary of Lucasfilms – their Computer Division. He hired technology expert Ed Catmull from the New York Institute of Technology to head it up. This, alongside more financial investment, was so he could plug away at research and development in to computer graphics and the potential of animated films.
It wasn’t until Steve Jobs bought the division in 1986 however that things started to really take off. Prior to that the first (not entirely finished) animated film to be made by George Lucas and his digital team premiered in 1984 – The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. Once Jobs bought the Computer Graphics Division from Lucas he made it his personal goal to release the first animated feature-length film.
So in 1986 Pixar was created, with 44 employees all committed to making Jobs’ passions and goal a reality. Over the years they worked tirelessly to discover and implement computer graphics that would change the film industry, despite the fact it had never been done before and no one was demanding or heralding it. This came to fruition in the 90s – in 1991 Pixar and Disney joined forces, announcing their intention to “make and distribute at least one computer generated movie”.
This they achieved in 1995 with the release of Toy Story, which was the highest grossing film for that year and earned itself 3 Oscar nominations including for Best Song, Best Original Score and Best Original Screenplay. Rather than trying out a new format that fell flat it not only succeeded as a novelty it proved to be a success spanning all genres.
Come 1997 Disney and Pixar had brokered a 10 year, 5 movie partnership deal. What followed was a spate of successful movies we all know and love: A Bug’s Life; Toy Story 2; Monster’s Inc; Finding Nemo; The Incredibles; Cars; Ratatouille; Wall-E; Up and Toy Story 3. Not to mention a spate of other animated films from other studios eager to take their own slice of the pie.
What we can learn from it as individuals, whether in business or in our personal lives, is that risk reaps rewards. In order to achieve something great it often means to create something new, and that cannot be done with lack of conviction and without the strength to overcome fear of failure. The story behind this particular toy is one we can all learn from, adoption the same courage in order to achieve our goals.