The Cinematic Color Palette: Pixar

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last twelve years, you have probably seen at least one Pixar film. The famous animation studio seems to be releasing one delightful film after another, consistently producing family-friendly fare that speaks to both children and adults. Any lover of vivid color will find great delight in any of their films, as they tend to be a sensational assault on the senses. Some fans have voiced their feelings about Pixar as the “new voice” of Disney, as they continue to produce beautiful films with what appears as effortless grace.


Of course, things are not always quite what they seem, and a look behind the scenes proves that Pixar has worked quite tirelessly to achieve the success they now enjoy. Pixar’s beginning reach all the way back to 1979, when they were founded as The Graphics Group, which was one third of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm. The team worked on the precursor to the programming interface RenderMan, which was called Motion Doctor at that time. The most remarkable quality about this program was that it allowed cel animators to use computer animation with very little formal training.

The team went on to work on several Lucasfilm and projects such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Young Sherlock Holmes. In 1986 ownership of the group changed hands, purchased by Steve Jobs shortly after his departure from Apple Computer. After plowing a cool 5 million into the company, he renamed it Pixar, a made-up Spanish verb meaning “to make pixels” or “to make pictures”.


Pixar started off as a top-notch computer hardware company whose main product was the Pixar Image Computer, which was intended for government and medical use only. How funny to think that the creative demon that is Pixar now could have spent their days in a very different way! Disney were actually one of the leading buyers for these computers, but as a whole they did not sell well. The future was looking dismal until employee John Lasseter decided to take matters into his own hands by premiering his own short demo animations at a major trade show called SIGGRAPH and met with a positive reception.


It was after this that Disney’s relationship with Pixar grew stronger. In 1991, Pixar made a $26 million dollar deal to produce three fully computer-animated feature films, the first being the highly successful Toy Story. Pixar and Disney did always see eye to eye as the films progressed, resulting in Disney’s full acquisition of the company in May 2006. The company has rocketed further and further since, creating classic films such as A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. Since A Bug’s Life, Pixar have traditionally created extra content for each film that is not a part of the main story, but can usually be seen in outtakes. Recently their shorts were released in a DVD collection, much to the delight of fans.

Wall*E is next up on Pixar’s menu, a tale about a lonely little robot who finds a new purpose in life when he meets a search robot named EVE and sets after her on a journey. The film comes out this month and is anticipated by millions of fans all over the world. If you haven’t indulged in any Pixar outings as of yet, I must encourage you to do so, especially if you love all things colorful, but even more so if you love the feeling of reliving childhood delights in your adult years.

More pictures from the films of Pixar:








Images from Pixar

Colette has written for a number of video game websites including Gamasutra, Kotaku, and Destructoid and co-hosted one hundred episodes of gaming podcast RetroforceGo! She also founded her own collectible toy culture blog in 2008,, which has since served the needs of over 2 million plastic-obsessed readers.