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Starz Inside – “The Pixar Story”
Directed By: Leslie Iwerks
Featuring: John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal
Premieres: Tuesday, April 22, 2009 10:00 pm on Starz

Some would say that Toy Story was like the Snow White of 3D animation. I can still recall seeing Toy Story for the first time and being blown away by just how realistic looking the animation was. Since then, Pixar has created a number of amazing 3D animated movies that not only look great but also tell a wonderful story. The start of Pixar as an animation company goes back much further than Toy Story. Through the combined work of great minds like George Lucas, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, the company made great strides in computer graphics that would eventually play a major role in the evolution of animation. The Pixar Story takes us through the history of Pixar as a company and the story of its success.

The beginning portion of the documentary focuses heavily on the earlier days of Pixar which involves a lot of the technical stuff that went into the development of the company. This will come of interest to anyone wanting to better understand the history of 3D animation. Even if you’re not a tech geek or film-history buff, the documentary does a good job of keeping the story interesting by bringing in different perspectives from various people who were involved with the company. One of the things that intrigued me most during this portion of the documentary were the comments about animators’ fears that computer animation would make the traditional hand drawn animation a thing of the past.

As the story gets to the part where Pixar became a household name due to the brilliance of their full-length animated films, we get to see a bit of what went into the development of the films, including the original ideas for Toy Story and the inspiration for A Bug’s Life. Pixar made its first big mainstream splash with the debut of Toy Story and the rest is pretty much history but it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the company. Disagreements with Disney caused some drama but it didn’t stop Pixar from putting out hit after hit (Monsters, Inc, Finding Nemo, Cars, etc). The success of the company in that respect is probably one of the things that makes Pixar’s story (and this documentary) so fascinating. The documentary includes appearances by directors John Lasseter, Glen Kean and Brad Bird, as well as a number of other key players in Pixar’s history. They share their thoughts on the roles they played in making Pixar what it is today.

Technically, the history of Pixar isn’t over as the company is still around and producing new films. So if there’s one downside to the documentary it’s that it’s incomplete but if you’re a fan of Pixar, I suppose that’s a good thing. Immediately following the premiere of Starz Inside: The Pixar Story, Starz is airing a short 25-minute special called Starz Inside: The Pixar Story Continues. This added on special features Richard Roeper as host and includes scenes from Ratatouille as well as Pixar’s latest film, set to premiere this summer, Wall-E.

As with all of the Starz Inside specials, I think it’s pretty much a given that you’d have to have an interest in the subject of the special in order to really appreciate the documentary. That said, the story of Pixar is interesting and Leslie Iwerks does an admirable job of capturing all of the highlights and breaking the story down in a way that even the most casual fan of Pixar’s films would be able to appreciate. We even get to learn the brief story behind the trademark animated lamp that appears in the logo portion of each Pixar film.
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