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As you've undoubtedly heard by now, Apple founder, iPod inventor and all-around genius Steve Jobs has died. It's hard to quantify the massive impact he had on technology, from turning Apple into one of the world's most profitable entities to creating products that, as soon as they existed, felt like you couldn't live without them. But his impact on the world of movies is very specific, and maybe just as important. Without Steve Jobs, we wouldn't have Pixar.
No, Jobs didn't found Pixar, or participate in the company when it was part of Lucasfilm and helping out with graphics on movies like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But in 1986, when Pixar consisted of about 45 people and was more about the technology than the animation, Steve Jobs bought Pixar for $5 million, and gave the company $5 million to work with. That same year the studio released its iconic short "Luxo Jr," and the history of animation began to change forever. Jobs was named the Chairman and CEO of Pixar and was responsible for the company's sale, nearly 20 years and several Oscars later, of the studio to Disney.
It's hard to say exactly what impact Jobs had on Pixar when he was its CEO, since the credit for the studio's genius generally goes to its animators and storytellers. But Apple and Pixar are clearly simpatico companies, born of innovation and a desire to break away from the norm, pioneering new designs and ideas that aren't just fabulous, but game-changing. It's something of a fluke that Jobs wound up owning the company that would change movies as much as his own Apple changed technology, but given the way things turned out, it's impossible to imagine it happening any other way.
There will be plenty of tributes to Jobs from the knowledgeable tech-heads and the media in the coming days-- his death, at an age when he should have been at his prime, is truly seismic-- but as movie fans, there's a very easy way to acknowledge his loss. Pick a Pixar movie, any Pixar movie, the one that you love the most, watch it, and remember the man without whom it wouldn't have been possible.