by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & The Pixar Touch & r & by David A. Price & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & aybe Pixar's next film should be about old King Midas, the guy who turned everything he touched into gold. It would make sense, because every one of Pixar's nine films has delivered box office gold. This summer, it's a timely fable about a loveable robot who's winning hearts and wallets -- and even earning speculation of an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Not Best Animated Feature, mind you -- Best Picture.
That would be another first for a company that's had a lot of them, as detailed in this lively recollection. As most of these rags-to-computer-generated-riches tales go, it all started in a garage -- this one was on Long Island, where an eccentric millionaire welcomed the team that would ultimately become Pixar to the New York Institute of Technology on an old estate.
Although it can read like an official history, David A. Price does a nice job of blending the pizzazz of Pixar's film with the technical benchmarks they ascend on their path to Toy Story in 1995. First bought by George Lucas (who wanted somebody to digitize the Death Star), Pixar was later bought by the just-kicked-out-of-Apple Steve Jobs, who thought it could be a nice little computer hardware company. Apparently Pixar's creative force, former Disney animator John Lasseter, didn't read the memo: He pushed for Pixar to become a computer animation studio instead.
You also get a behind-the-scenes look at the kind of brawling that goes on with any up-and-coming Silicon Valley firm -- squabbling over stock options, feuding with Dreamworks, dickering with Disney. And for fans of the films, there's lots of fun trivia to savor. Billy Crystal, for example, turned down the job of voicing Buzz Lightyear. Disney CEO Michael Eisner predicted that Finding Nemo would flop. (It became the highest-grossing animated feature of all time.) And, yes, there will be a Toy Story 3.
But in the end, it's about art trumping technology. Without the skill to tell stories and the tenacity to stick to a creative vision, Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird and the rest of the Pixar team wouldn't have that golden touch.