June 08, 2011
When Pixar was working on their first film, Toy Story, the original draft closely followed a checklist of required elements provided by Disney. Disney has been producing animated films since 1923. Lion King, released a year before Toy Story, won two Academy Awards and grossed $783 million.
Then, why was the checklist-driven draft of Toy Story so terrible that Disney shut down production?
Pixar was writing a story they didn’t own. One of the checklist items: edgy characters. Applying that edge to Woody, the main character, resulted in an unwatchable jerk.
Pixar’s crew, led by John Lasseter, rewrote the film in their own voice:
We went back to what we wanted, and that was: the characters liked each other. Because we like each other.
Focusing on telling a great story instead of a checklist worked: in the eight years since the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was created, a Pixar film has won it six times.
Each of their 11 films are among the 50 highest grossing films of all time.