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

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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.

New book paints intimate portrait of Steve Jobs at work [Review]

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To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levy
In To Pixar and Beyond, Lawrence Levy offers an insider look at Steve Jobs' early struggles at the animation studio.
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

After his death, Steve Jobs became mythic. He’s remembered as an asshole and a technology seer: a Tony Stark-like figure who could uniquely divine the sci-fi future, conjuring magical products from whole cloth almost single-handedly.

He’s also seen as infallible: a business and technology genius with powers of divination beyond those of us mere mortals.

But To Pixar and Beyond, a new book by Lawrence Levy, the former CFO of Pixar, paints a very different picture.

Want to make your own Toy Story?

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The software that made this happen is now free. Photo: Pixar
The software that made this happen is now free. Photo: Pixar

Steve Jobs was, of course, formative to developing the software for the Mac, iPhone and iPad, but he was also formative to the development of another company and its software: Pixar, the computer animation studio behind Toy Story, Ratatouille, Up and more.

Now Pixar has released RenderMan, the company’s in-house rendering software, to the public for free. It’s the tool that gave the world Toy Story and countless other modern day classics, and it is now totally free to download for non-commercial use on the Mac, as well as Windows and Linux.