During Pixar’s early days, the company was a hardware and software computer company that sold to commercial graphics and visualization markets. However, the computers and software were so expensive and advanced that Pixar was losing money on the business, so Steve Jobs—who was a majority shareholder—wanted the burgeoning studio to make commercials for other companies to generate more income.
Pixar hired Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter, two young animators who would go on to direct feature films like Finding Nemo and Inside Out, to help create new TV commercials. As a result of the new venture, the future animation giant made an additional $2 million a year that helped grow the company. Here are 11 TV commercials you might not have known were made by Pixar Animation Studios.
In 1989, John Lasseter directed and Ralph Guggenheim produced “Wake Up,” a 30-second TV spot, for Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice. The pair later went on to make Toy Story (1995).
2. LIFE SAVERS HOLES
Lasseter also directed “Babies” (a.k.a. “Playground” or “The Park”) for Life Savers Holes in 1990.
In 1995—the same year that Pixar released Toy Story—Bob Peterson directed “Pin Box” for Coca-Cola. He would later co-direct Up (2009) with Pete Docter and co-write A Bug's Life (1998),Toy Story 2 (1999), Finding Nemo (2003), Inside Out (2015), The Good Dinosaur (2015), and the upcoming Finding Dory for Pixar.
In 1996, Steve Segal (not that one) and Dave Feiten co-directed “The Tastetations” for Hershey’s.
5. TETRA PAK
Docter directed “Lunchbox” for food packaging company Tetra Pak in 1991. Ten years later, he directed Monsters, Inc. (2001).
6. CALIFORNIA LOTTERY
In 1990, animator Flip Phillips directed “Dancing Cards” for the California Lottery.
At the age of 25, Andrew Stanton directed “Quite a Package” (a.k.a. “Piano”) for Trident gum in 1990. In 2004, he won his first Oscar, for Best Animated Feature for Finding Nemo. In 2009, he took home another Oscar in the same category for WALL·E.
Also in 1990, Stanton directed “La Nouvelle Polo” for Volkswagen for French TV. The commercial also served as a precursor to A Bug’s Life, which was released eight years later.
Pixar animators Henry Selick and Flip Phillips co-directed “Pump” for Pillsbury in 1990. Selick would later direct The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Coraline. He also created the stop-motion animation for Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Animator Henry Anderson III directed a commercial for IBM via Pixar in 1992. Anderson would later take up jobs as the animation director for Mousehunt and Stuart Little, which was adapted by M. Night Shyamalan.
11. TOYS ‘R’ US
In 1991, Stanton directed “Grand Opening” for Toys "R" Us. The ad was produced by Karen Robert Jackson, who also—quite fittingly—produced Toy Story 2 for Pixar.
In 1996, Shawn Krause directed “Shake It” for Levi’s. Kori Rae produced the commercial, which earned a CLIO Award. Currently, Krause and Rae are still at Pixar as a supervising animator and producer, respectively.