Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

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Stephen Hart
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Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Stephen Hart » Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:30 pm

I guess the Subject says it all.
I really enjoyed this 2008 documentary, and heartily recommend it to all SMUG members.

Available from Netflix Streaming.
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Richard Serkes
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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Richard Serkes » Thu Apr 14, 2011 10:04 pm

Stephen, let me suggest you say a little something about the tangled web that includes Steve Jobs' NeXT computer, the NeXT OS, Pixar, the need for a new OS for the Mac, and Jobs return to Apple to make it what it is today.

This might stir more interest in this documentary.
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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Stephen Hart » Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:19 am

The movie doesn't touch on NeXT, the computer company* Jobs founded after he was ousted from Apple.
But it does give some face time to Jobs, who invested $10 million of his own money in Pixar. He was very well rewarded for that investment.
He talks a bit about the "second product" syndrome. Think Apple III. Pixar, on the other hand, pulled off 7 megahits in the first 7 tries.
You certainly get a sense that Jobs thinks that making good products is what a company should be about.

*NeXT, while always a bit player in the computer market, was the darling of the scientific computing community, partly because of its reliance on Unix. Jobs brought the NeXT OS to Apple when he returned, and it became OS X.

There's a lot written about Jobs, NeXT and Pixar. Here's a primer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jobs

And there's an authorized biography coming.
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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Richard Serkes » Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:35 am

I'm surprised more wasn't said about NeXT. Without that hardware and most especially the NeXT Unix based OS, Pixar wouldn't have been able to put the animation world on its ear. It takes serious computer power to do what modern computer based animation does, even with today's computers. When Pixar was getting off the ground it was virtually impossible. Then came NeXT so mainframes were no longer needed.

Who knows if Jobs understood what he was doing when he bought into the Pixar family. Who knows what Jobs is thinking other than Jobs. It may have been a serendipitous event or he may be a real smart guy with a keen knack for seeing the future. Either way the marriage of an idea for animation and Jobs' vision of computing came together at just the right moment.

Anyway, I might spend an afternoon watching it (the movie, of course). And as to that authorized biography I have a not of "I bet I know why" statements to make. But that would be a separate thread so I won't start it here. But I will buy a copy.
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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Stephen Hart » Sat May 14, 2011 12:41 pm

And, as a wonderful followup, I offer

"The Fun Factory"
Life at Pixar.
by Anthony Lane
in the May 16, 2011 issue of The New Yorker

This excellent, long article covers much of the same ground as the documentary. Well worth reading in the library or even worth buying a copy at a book store. (You might have to act quickly, as the mailed copies get to subscribers rather late.) Lane is one of the New Yorker's movie writers, and one of the best writers at work today.

In the same issue is this interesting article. Not as well written, and has Gladwell's patented straw man strategy--everyone thinks X, but everyone's wrong. As is so often the case, everyone doesn't think X. The X in this case is that Steve Jobs stole the personal computer from Xerox PARC. The second X, not stated baldly, is that Steve Jobs is a hippy dippy, everything goes kind of CEO.

"Creation Myth"
Xerox PARC, Apple, and the truth about innovation.
by Malcolm Gladwell
in the May 16, 2011 issue of The New Yorker

Here's a slideshow of mouse prototypes at The New Yorker's web site. Unfortunately, the full articles aren't available.
Last edited by Stephen Hart on Sun May 15, 2011 1:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by JerryFreilich » Sun May 15, 2011 7:29 am

Richard Serkes wrote:When Pixar was getting off the ground it was virtually impossible. Then came NeXT so mainframes were no longer needed.
With due deference to my esteemed colleague, I think this statement is WAY over the mark. NeXT was not the "big thing" that made mainframes no longer necessary. I think that role would have to go to Silicon Graphics or perhaps others of the "scientific workstation" genre so big during the 1990's. NeXT was never more than a tiny (but much loved) slice of the industry. I think that if Jobs had not returned to Apple and if NeXT had not been adapted as the core of the Mac OS that we would never even remember NeXT today. In truth, there were many other competing Unix based or similar operating systems vying to be the core of the Mac back in the mid 1990's. How many of us remember Jean Louis Gassé and the BeOS?

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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Stephen Hart » Sun May 15, 2011 8:52 am

Also, though many don't remember these days, there was an intermediate step between main frames and PCs: the minicomputers like the DEC PDP 8e I worked on in the early 70s. Not much bigger than a Mac Pro.
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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Richard Serkes » Sun May 15, 2011 10:11 am

JerryFreilich wrote:
Richard Serkes wrote:When Pixar was getting off the ground it was virtually impossible. Then came NeXT so mainframes were no longer needed.
With due deference to my esteemed colleague, I think this statement is WAY over the mark. NeXT was not the "big thing" that made mainframes no longer necessary. I think that role would have to go to Silicon Graphics or perhaps others of the "scientific workstation" genre so big during the 1990's. NeXT was never more than a tiny (but much loved) slice of the industry. I think that if Jobs had not returned to Apple and if NeXT had not been adapted as the core of the Mac OS that we would never even remember NeXT today. In truth, there were many other competing Unix based or similar operating systems vying to be the core of the Mac back in the mid 1990's. How many of us remember Jean Louis Gassé and the BeOS?
Yes, I remember BeOS. They shot themselves (the programmers and promoters) in the foot when they made darn sure BeOS would run on one hardware platform only. They wanted to be the next Microsoft but that train had already left the station.

Were there other Unix based OSes other than NeXT? Yes. Were they any good? No. What hurt NeXT was the lack of foresight on the part of third-party programmers to write for the new OS. The NeXT computer had the best hardware and most stable and flexible OS. What it didn't have was applications.

The point I was trying to make was that Pixar couldn't have happened with the mainframe mentality of the 60s and even the 70s. What was needed was a personal computer (think desktop) with the muscle of a mainframe and NeXT was just that.
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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Jay Cline » Sun May 15, 2011 12:50 pm

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Re: Movie Recommendation: The Pixar Story

Post by Stephen Hart » Sun May 15, 2011 1:43 pm

Richard Serkes wrote:The point I was trying to make was that Pixar couldn't have happened with the mainframe mentality of the 60s and even the 70s. What was needed was a personal computer (think desktop) with the muscle of a mainframe and NeXT was just that.
Pixar had hardware before ILM decided to sell to Jobs.
Initially, Pixar was a high-end computer hardware company whose core product was the Pixar Image Computer, a system primarily sold to government agencies and the medical community. One of the buyers of Pixar Image Computers was Disney Studios, which was using the device as part of their secretive CAPS project, using the machine and custom software to migrate the laborious ink and paint part of the 2-D animation process to a more automated and thus efficient method. The Image Computer never sold well.[9] In a bid to drive sales of the system, Pixar employee John Lasseter—who had long been creating short demonstration animations, such as Luxo Jr., to show off the device's capabilities—premiered his creations at SIGGRAPH, the computer graphics industry's largest convention, to great fanfare.[9]
As poor sales of Pixar's computers threatened to put the company out of business, Lasseter's animation department began producing computer-animated commercials for outside companies. Early successes included campaigns for Tropicana, Listerine, and LifeSavers.[10] In April 1990 Jobs sold Pixar's hardware division, including all proprietary hardware technology and imaging software, to Vicom Systems, and transferred 18 of Pixar's approximate 100 employees.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixar
"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."
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