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The Pixar Touch

The Making of a Company


David A. Price (View Bio)
Hardcover: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

The Pixar Touch

David Price tells the story of a business that began with a dream, remained true to the ideals of its founders—antibureaucratic and artist driven—and ended up a multibillion-dollar success. A story of technical innovation revolutionizing animation, and based on interviews with dozens of insiders, THE PIXAR TOUCH examines the early wildcat years when computer animation was thought of as the lunatic fringe of the medium and follows its development to today, showing how writers, directors, and animators make their astonishing films.

Pixar's technical genius and founding CEO, Ed Catmull, inspired by Disney's "Peter Pan" and "Pinocchio," dreamed of becoming an animator, realized he would never be good enough, and instead enrolled in the then new field of computer science at the University of Utah. Catmull founded the computer graphics lab at the New York Institute of Technology and wound up at Lucasfilm during the first Star Wars trilogy, running the computer graphics department. He found a patron in Steve Jobs, just ousted from Apple Computer, who bought Pixar for five million dollars. Catmull went on to win four Academy Awards for his technical feats and helped to create some of the key computer-generated imagery software that animators rely on today. Price also writes about John Lasseter, who catapulted himself from unemployed animator to one of the most powerful figures in American filmmaking; animation was the only thing he ever wanted to do (he was inspired by Disney's "The Sword in the Stone"), and Price's book shows how Lasseter changed computer animation from a novelty into an art form. The book delves into Pixar's corporate feuds, between Lasseter and his former champion, Jeffrey Katzenberg ("A Bug's Life" vs. "Antz"), and between Jobs and Michael Eisner. It explores Pixar's complex relationship with the Walt Disney Company as it went from Disney satellite to multi-billion jewel in the Disney crown.

Chosen by the Wall Street Journal as a "Best Book of 2008" and by Library Journal and Fast Company magazines as a "Best Business Book of 2008"

"This account of the ensuing 20 years, as Pixar evolved from a nervous-making money hole into a wealth-creating animation powerhouse, is remarkably thorough, covering corporate deals, tech developments, and script rewrites with equal care." — Henry Jones, San Francisco Magazine

"This history of the company that made the world's first fully computer-animated feature is an entertaining look at digital derring-do…. Happily, author Price focuses less on technology than on Pixar's culture, maneuverings, filmmaking, corporate feuds and colorful, creative players…. Most of all, it showcases the transubstantiation of a dream." — Jane Summer, Dallas Morning News

"Now comes the first comprehensive look at the phenomenon of Pixar, David A. Price's THE PIXAR TOUCH. Price, the author of LOVE AND HATE IN JAMESTOWN, a much lauded history of the Jamestown colony, successfully brings to life the band of animation enthusiasts behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. The book deserves a thumbs-up for its artful recounting of the studio's formative years…. Full of fascinating characters, all struggling—in classic Pixar film style—to overcome seemingly impossible odds…. Parts of THE PIXAR TOUCH are so richly told that I wished I'd written it myself." — BusinessWeek

"Brisk history of an entertainment juggernaut that is also the history of computer animation…. Pixar’s relationship with corporate parent Disney provides much of the book’s drama…. But the heart of the story is the animators, gentle revolutionaries and oddball alchemists who never faltered in their quest to wed hard science to creative visions and bring animation into a new era of artistic accomplishment. A heck of a yarn, full of vivid characters, reversals of fortune and stubborn determination: Pixar should make a movie out of it." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Price here chronicles the short but dynamic history of Pixar Animation Studios. He sets the stage by describing the Walt Disney Company of the 1950s and 1960s, considered to be the unrivaled film animator of the time, and then reveals how Disney fell into complacency, losing its creative edge over the decades. This, in part, opened the way for young computer geeks like Ed Catmull and animators like John Lasseter to abandon the traditional cell animation technique, opting for those of the emerging computer era. The success of the technological breakthroughs they developed while working for filmmaker George Lucas resulted in the founding of Pixar in 1986. Prior to this, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer had invested heavily in the company, later becoming its owner. In the early 1990s, after much experimentation, Pixar succeeded in creating its first feature-length hit, "Toy Story", quickly followed by others, including "Finding Nemo" and recent Academy Award winner "Ratatouille". Despite these critical and financial triumphs, Jobs eventually sold Pixar to Disney.... A most fascinating and entertaining story of how a struggling little company overcame many odds to become a major Hollywood entity." — Library Journal  (Read the full review)

"The conventional wisdom—not discouraged by the company itself—is that Pixar’s genius flows from Steve Jobs.... The truth is much more complex and far more interesting, as David A. Price reports in THE PIXAR TOUCH. Mr. Price, in addition to offering unprecedented detail about the notoriously press-shy company's workings, tells a story that abounds with lessons for business people and creative artists alike." — The Wall Street Journal

"Price, a tough, unsentimental reporter, ferrets out lots of backstage drama from fresh sources, weaving a commendably unvarnished history." — Entertainment Weekly

"Price is a smart reporter and a solid writer. He deftly makes computer arcana palatable, even interesting. And he is excellent at explaining how much work went into creating the complex images we take for granted today…. As early as the 60s, when computers filled entire rooms and the rendering of even simple images took days, men like Catmull and Lasseter saw … something. For decades they followed promising animation research like surfers stalking tasty waves, took repeated wrong turns, risked their savings for the most abstract of dreams, stuck with it and ultimately brought us a brilliant run of animated movies…. This is an inspiring tale." — Michael Hirschorn, The New York Times Book Review

"It’s a rags-to-riches story, a classic example of the cream rising to the top. And it’s as entertaining and heartwarming as, say, a Pixar movie. It’s THE PIXAR TOUCH, and its topsy-turvy, roller-coaster plot has all the thrills of a ride at Disneyland. In this unauthorized account of Pixar, journalist David A. Price paints the most complete picture yet of the little studio that could. He talks to scores of insiders, Pixar colleagues and members of the 'fraternity of geeks,' true believers in the potential of the pixel to revolutionize animation. With the precision of a technical writer and the sensitivity of an artist, Price spins the story of the Pixar vision, its achievement, and its art. His ability to turn geekese into plain-old English is a real gift to the reader." — John Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor

"Well-crafted…. [Price tells] the Pixar story briskly and with great clarity." — James Sullivan, The Boston Globe

"Highly readable." — Christian Caryl, The New York Review of Books

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