The Animation Wars of Two Animation Giants: Disney and Pixar

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As one could say it’s a “Tale as Old as Time”. You can name a favorite you can name a least. You can say you like one studio more then another. All in all, everyone at one point or another have seen a Disney or a Pixar movie. Collectively Disney and Pixar have released over 100 movies and shorts. In 2009, Disney bought Pixar for 7.4 billion dollars making Pixar a subsidiary of Disney and the parent company to Pixar henceforth all movies after are titled “Disney/Pixar”. “There isn’t a difference between DIsney and Pixar”. Shockingly there is when you look at the history, formula and expandable storylines between both companies you see there are many things alike and different about the two powerhouse companies and here's just some history, comparisons and contrasts between Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.

Disney Animation Studios started all the way back on October 16th, 1923 in Burbank, California. Founded by Walt and Roy Disney to create animated shorts and little bit later movies with their first short being released in Steamboat Willie in 1928 which helped introduced sound and picture synchronization. Then in 1937, everything anyone knew about movies changed when the first ever fully animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out and changed movies forever. In the almost 100 years since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Disney Animation Studios has created over 57 feature films and shorts with many more in the process.

From 1937 we fast forward to 1979, Edwin Catmull a student from The New York Institiute of Technology was recruited by George Lucas, the creator of both Star Wars and Indiana Jones, to be the head of LucasFilm's Computer Division later called the Graphics Group, which was the team that helped develop a computer system like no other for future films. In 1984 while creating a The Adventures of André & Wally B.” Graphics Group premiered the semi completed short at SIGGRAPH, a computer graphics conference. This was the first short film created with focusing on featuring complex flexible characters, hand-painted textures, and motion blur which wasn’t done before. Then on February 3rd, 1986 Steve Jobs bought Graphics Group from George Lucas creating Pixar Animation Studios. The first ever short produced by Pixar, Luzo Jr. was directed by John Lasseter, who was also a key member of the Graphics Group and was his directorial debut. Luzo Jr. not became the first ever the first three-dimensional computer animated film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film but was Lasseter’s directorial debut. Since then Pixar has made of 21 feature films and dozens of short films.

Jumping back a little bit back to SIGGRAPH, Graphics Group debuted the prototype of their computer, the Pixar Image Computer that were high end graphics computers. Disney began using Pixar’s Pixar Image Computer that was combined with a software called the Computer Animation Production System, also known as CAPS, then after a few movies Disney made a 26-million-dollar deal to make seven original feature movies, gave Disney the rights to all Pixar feature films that would be made, their characters and sequel rights all starting with Toy Story. Due to the contract while in production of Toy Story 2 the CEO of Disney at the time, Michael Eisner believed that Toy Story 2 would be better off as a direct to DVD film and not a full-length movie while Steve Jobs, who owned Pixar at the time, believed otherwise. This caused a lot of tension between two studios and they believed that the contract would not be renewed following when Cars came out in 2006.

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If the contract wouldn’t be renewed that would mean that Disney had the rights to all movies, characters and sequels to all movies prior to Cars and Pixar would lose them all. This would be very heart breaking to the studio and to the animators due to all the hard work that goes into each film. As quoted by John Lasseter said on the subject matter, he said “It’s like you have these dear children and you have to give them up to be adopted by convicted child molesters.” In a crazy turn of events the shareholders pulled their support for Michael Eisner when they heard that Disney was separating from Pixar. Thankfully the when the current CEO of Disney, Bob Iger reopened negotiations with Pixar and instead of cutting ties he purchased Pixar for 7.4 billion dollars. From then on Disney became the parent company to Pixar and Disney was mainly seen as helpful distributor for Pixar films.

Disney and Pixar both are huge power houses but one big different between them are the animation styles. When Disney started to create animated films, they were using tradition styles of animation such as each scene was made individually then combined and made it a full motion short and then within the following decade full feature pictures. While Pixar uses computer generated animation that is very diverse from traditional forms of animations which makes it easier, more detailed and smoother along. As stated earlier, Disney then started to use CAPS for short by the end of the 80s to investigate computer generated animation. In recent years, Disney has migrated over to computer generation style of animation. Both uses of the styles of animations were groundbreaking and helped change the way animation was perceived and used in film.

It is known that Pixar and Disney both have a formula for success. Together Disney and Pixar movies and shorts have won 30 Oscars and many Golden Globes, so it is evident that the formula works both ways. But some will have noticed that they're both different but also similar. One formula is that the some of the highest grossing films of Disney movies princesses, prince, a villain, longing to a castle/a better life, and a problem. One example is between two classic Disney movies Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. To start, we have Cinderella (soon to be princess) and Princess Aurora. Our princes that we meet are Prince Charming and Prince Phillip. Our lovely villains are Lady Tremaine and Maleficent. The lives that they’re longing to receive are both equally freedom and love.

Then lastly, the problem Cinderella longs to go to the ball and Aroura has been cursed since her christening by Maleficent. Along with this formula another small add in as well is they both fell in love at first sight. After many years Disney has diverted away from the typical formula and changed up what they do and how they do it we can see as the years have passed they’ve experimented with what they do there's a few moments that are still considered the original formula and does show how pure and true Disney magic is. Pixar's formula follows a somewhat rather unique but interesting formula. As stated from Stagecraft.com article, Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling, the article states 22 “rules” that Pixar follows is called, The Story Spine and it follows “Once upon a time there was [blank]. Every day, [blank]. One day [blank]. Because of that, [blank]. Until finally [bank].” Pixar director Pete Doctor has said “What you’re trying to do, when you tell a story, is to write about an event in your life that made you feel some particular way. And what you’re trying to do, when you tell a story, is to get the audience to have that same feeling.”(How Pixar Tells A Story. Common Lit)

Pixar is primarily a story focused. One example is that when Toy Story came out as much as Pixar loved it and was proud of it they were not afraid to go back into the world they created and expand on it until they felt that it was done perfectly henceforth creating Toy Story 2 was then created in just 9 months. Along with making sure the perfect story is crafted Pixar focuses on not just the “Once Upon A Time...” but the “What If...” while considering different worlds and universes for their movies. While with Disney even though they are story focused and the main goal is to tell a story and grab the viewer what has been shown over the years is that Disney creates one full length movie then the sequel would be considered more as a direct to DVD movie.

One example being Aladdin, Aladdin came out in theaters in 1992 then the sequels that followed by The Return of Jafar (1994) and ending with Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996) which were direct to DVD and in some cases considered unknown to many, Many of the sequels that are direct to DVD are sometimes never known or never considered. While Pixar sees the stories as there could be endless opportunities. A prime example being, Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010) and Toy Story 4 (2019) which shows over 20 years of storytelling all from one idea. Disney is switching it up a little bit with Frozen 2 being the first ever Disney Animated Studios movie to have a full-length sequel.

As we close out this exciting topic, Pixar and Disney are both amazing companies all in a big family and just like any other family they have their similarities and their differences. Some of them just being how their companies were developed, animation styles, formulas and storytelling. As Pixar and Disney continue to prosper and change the film industry everyone is ready to see the companies soar to Infinity and Beyond.

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