Toward the end of Leslie Iwerks’ documentary “The Pixar Story,” the inevitable occurs: A relative of Walt Disney — in this case, his grandniece, Diane Disney — compares John Lasseter to him. It’s an apt comparison, although I hope John doesn’t possess Walt’s dark side, what with the man’s alleged anti-Semitism and proven anti-unionism, among other things.
Iwerks, the granddaughter of Mickey Mouse co-creator Ub Iwerks, offers us interviews with not only Lasseter but also “Toy Story” stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” director Brad Bird, and Pixar directors Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, and Andrew Stanton, among many others. Stacy Keach narrates, bringing his distinctive gravitas to the story.
We also hear from George Lucas and Steve Jobs — the latter bought the company from the former; it was originally a division of ILM. While I knew the basic facts of Pixar’s early years, it was interesting to hear how Lucas didn’t see the point in selling hardware, which was Pixar’s original focus, and how Jobs lost a big chunk of change during his first few years of ownership, which he admits wasn’t a savvy business move.
In the end, however, Lasseter achieved his dream of directing the first-ever full-length computer-animated film — after surviving a threat by Disney to pull the plug because the first “Toy Story” treatment wasn’t up to snuff — and we know the rest of the story. I think Jobs made his money back, and then some and then some more, and Lucas may be wondering if he should have stuck with the company after all.
“The Pixar Story” also serves up some other facts I didn’t know, such as Lasseter being fired from Disney (I knew he worked there, but I figured he left on his own accord) and his rush to fix “Toy Story 2,” after thinking he was going to take a well-deserved vacation. Hardcore animation fans may know all of this stuff, but people like me who love Pixar’s output but haven’t followed the company’s every step will learn plenty from Iwerks’ movie. It’s a must-see, if you want to get caught up on how this new golden age of animation began.