To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levy

Summarized by Trevor McKendrick
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The Book in Two Sentences

Pixar's story from the point of view of its CFO from Toy Story through the Disney acquisition.

Underrated book that should be talked about more!

Book Notes

Focusing on what you can control

  • As we sat there talking, I realized Steve had no interest in looking back. He didn’t defend the contract. He didn’t justify it. He listened carefully to everything I had to say about it, taking it all in. That was pretty much it.
  • “There’s nothing you can do about where the pieces are,” he’d say. “It’s only your next move that matters.” I had worked at training myself in this way of thinking. It was a lot more productive than getting emotional about things that were out of my control. Business can be harsh, but the stakes are rarely a matter of life and death. It was not going to help me to fret over the reasons why Pixar may or may not have entered a one-sided contract a few years earlier. I simply had to remain focused on the task at hand: find a way for Pixar to flourish.

Technical challenges

  • I began to fathom how these technical challenges imposed enormous constraints on the film. I learned that there was a reason the film was specifically about toys, and not about animals or people. Toys are made of plastic. They have uniform surfaces. No variation. No skin. No clothing that needs to wrinkle with every movement. Toys have geometries that are much easier to create with computers. For similar reasons, the opening scenes of the film take place inside Andy’s bedroom. The bedroom is a square box. Its features—bed, dresser, fan, window, door—are more geometric than outdoor features. Easier to draw. Much easier to light.

Taking the leap before you're ready

  • Somewhere on those drives, in the quiet of my own car, I realized that no amount of deliberation was going to resolve my worries. Sometimes there comes a point when you jump not because you feel ready or are sure that you’ll make it across the chasm, but because the conditions are forcing you off the edge. That’s when you find out if you can fly. I felt this was the time to jump. We had to start moving.

Overcoming long odds

  • So that was all we needed to do. Besides making films that would enjoy unprecedented box office success the world over, we simply had to: 1) QUADRUPLE OUR SHARE OF THE PROFITS, 2) RAISE AT LEAST $75 MILLION TO PAY FOR OUR PRODUCTION COSTS, 3) MAKE FILMS FAR MORE OFTEN THAN WE KNEW HOW, 4) BUILD PIXAR INTO A WORLDWIDE BRAND. Piece of cake.
  • Adding even more pressure was how much Pixar’s IPO meant for Steve. It carried with it the full weight of his return from the wilderness into which Apple had banished him ten years earlier. If there was one event that would unquestionably signify Steve’s redemption, it would be Pixar’s IPO. This would seal his comeback like nothing else could. It was no wonder, then, that whenever we talked about it, his tone took on a weight and importance of almost biblical proportion.

Steve on when Pixar should IPO

  • “We also have to consider when the market will be most receptive to Pixar,” I replied, “before we release Toy Story or after. If we do it before, and Toy Story sinks, we’ll have a disaster on our hands.” “Why’s that?” Steve retorted. “We don’t have to promise a blockbuster to take Pixar public. We’re building a company, not a film. Investors will be buying into the idea of a new kind of entertainment company. If Toy Story disappoints, we might never be able to raise the capital we need. Maybe we should do it sooner.”

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