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Pixar Myth No. 6: Steve Jobs's Investment Saved Pixar

No, it didn't. Jobs did not come along and pour money into a dying company and save it, as is sometimes depicted. Pixar was failing despite his money which was the only money the company had. That is, the company built from scratch with Jobs's investment was the company that was in trouble, DESPITE Job's financial involvement. It was failing as a hardware company. What saved Pixar was Disney's asking it to make a movie. That wasn't Jobs's idea at all. In fact, the idea all along (Ed and Alvy's idea) was to keep the company alive with hardware manufacturing as long as necessary to reach the next stage in Moore's Law, when computing a movie would become feasible, then make movies. Jobs invested in that initial hardware company. He ran another hardware company, Next, at this time. Hardware was what he knew, not animation.

The company ran out of money several times in the initial hardware days. Jobs poured more money in to cover the losses each time. It's sometimes construed that he did this because he saw the long-term potential of the movie business and held on to "his vision" with further investments. This wasn't the case at all, however. Jobs kept pouring money into the company so that he wouldn't have to sustain the embarrassment that his first company - after being booted from Apple - was a failure. The result is the same: His money kept the company afloat, but the idea that it was his grand vision is not right. In fact, he would have sold the company to ANYBODY for $50 million (to cover his total investment) during that pre-movie period. The company (Ed and Alvy, in particular) wrote several business plans during those years for just that purpose. They all failed to attract a buyer. Jobs would have bolted if he could have without embarrassment.

What Jobs WAS good at was seeing the grand opportunity when it appeared, and moving fast to take advantage of it. That opportunity wasn't Disney's approach in 1991 to the company to make the movie. It was when the completed movie, over three years later (late 1994), was taken to New York City and the critics went wild, saying it was going to be a smash. THEN Jobs quickly stepped forward, pushed Ed Catmull aside as apparent head of the company, and took brilliant advantage of the opportunity to take the company public, cover his investment finally, and make it appear that it had been his idea all along to do it this way. He was a marketing genius, including self-marketing.

It was Disney's money that saved Pixar. They paid for the production of Toy Story, which went on to great success for the company. Animated movies were Pixar's vision, from its earliest days at NYIT on Long Island, not Jobs's vision.