How this money man helped Steve Jobs turn Pixar into a powerhouse [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

By

Lawrence Levy former Pixar CFO
Lawrence Levy, Pixar's former CFO and author of To Pixar and Beyond.
Photo: Lawrence Levy

In the early ’90s, Pixar was in the middle of creating its first movie, Toy Story, but the company was in disarray. It was bleeding cash and floundering around looking for a business model.

To help turn it around, Steve Jobs hired Lawrence Levy, a former corporate lawyer, to help figure out how to make Pixar a real business.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk to Levy about how exactly he and Jobs made Pixar into one of the most successful movie studios in history.

Levy this week published To Pixar and Beyond, his fascinating memoir of working for Jobs as Pixar’s CFO. It’s one of the best books about how Steve Jobs worked — full of fascinating detail that gives real insight into how he operated. (Hint: It’s not all tantrums and sudden flashes of genius; just the opposite, in fact.)

But initially, Levy thought he’d made a terrible mistake. Soon after Jobs talked him into joining Pixar, the money man suffered buyer’s remorse. The company was in much worse shape than he had imagined.

In fact, Pixar looked hopeless. Jobs was an absentee owner. The company was losing money hand over fist. It had no business model. It was limping along, making commercials and selling animation software. But the worst thing was a potentially disastrous contract with Disney that would cripple the company even if its movies became successful.

Jobs and Levy doubled down on Toy Story, Pixar’s amazing-looking-but-unfinished feature. For the company to survive, Toy Story had to be a gigantic blockbuster; Pixar had to have a successful IPO; and the company had to get out from under the terrible Disney contract.

Listen to the podcast to hear Levy tell how Pixar did it.

About Kahney’s Korner

Kahney’s Korner is a weekly podcast about the world of Apple. It’s a big Apple world out there, and there are tons of great, fascinating stories to tell.

This week’s sponsor

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Episode

Kahney’s Korner #7: What it was like to work for Steve Jobs, with Lawrence Levy, former CFO of Pixar. Subscribe to Kahney’s Korner on iTunes or Google Play.

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