The Pixar Formula: keep reworking until it's right

Toy Story 3 is Pixar's highest-earning movie with US$415 million

Pixar Animation Studios, which turns 30 years old this year, has proved itself one of the most productive creative machines of the age.

Now a division of Disney, Pixar is not just the world’s best-known animation studio; it’s also the company that transformed how we think of animation. No longer do we associate it purely with children’s movies, but rather as a medium that can explore emotions in a unique way. 

Over the years, its key creative personnel have evolved a distinctive philosophy about the nature of creative work – a philosophy based on the idea of constant refinement through the course of production.

Related: Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar: Why Disney bought them all

“You are sure right about the importance of a good story in movies. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of work (and rework and rework and rework) to get it right. And even then, quite often we're not 100 per cent pleased. As John Lasseter likes to say, our films don't get finished, they just get released.” - Pete Docter, director of Monsters, Inc., Up and Inside Out

“Every single Pixar film at one time or another has been the worst movie ever put on film. But we know. We trust our process. We don't get scared and say, 'oh no, this film isn't working’.”  John Lasseter, Pixar chief creative officer and director of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars

“The fundamental tension is that people want clear leadership, but what we’re doing is inherently messy ... Rather than thinking, ‘OK, my job is to prevent or avoid all the messes’, I just try to say, ‘well, let’s make sure it doesn’t get too messy’.” Ed Catmull, Pixar president

US$415 million

Lifetime box office gross takings of Toy Story 3, Pixar’s highest-earning movie


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