Book Review: ‘To Pixar And Beyond’ Is Highly Recommended

Set in the worlds of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, the book takes readers inside Pixar, Disney, law firms, and investment banks. It provides an up-close, first-hand account of Pixar’s stunning ascent, how it took risks, Levy’s enduring collaboration and friendship with Jobs, and how Levy came to see in Pixar deeper parallels that apply to all aspects of our lives.

This story, by any account, should bore the pants off of you. I mean it is all about money and finances but as it turns out, author Lawrence Levy is a very humorous and intelligent guy and he relates a great story here, although I am still not going to apply for a degree in finance, but I have to say that this is a terrific book and you are going to enjoy every minute of it. Forget about Hollywood and its glamor, read this and you are going to have an insight into the real world of entertainment and how it all works.

According to Lawrence, one day, the phone rang and Steve Jobs was on the other end. The bottom line was simple, could Lawrence, along with all of his financial genius, save a little company owned by Jobs, called Pixar. Already the company was well into production on its first feature, “Toy Story,” and had not produced anything else. Utilizing brand new, cutting-edge technology, Lawrence ascertained that Jobs wanted the company to go public and needed a strategist to help plot its course. After having seen some of the footage, Levy was amazed and very impressed overall by the artists’ passion for their work. Levy agreed to come on board as Pixar’s CFO and tries to make sense out of it all. Disney had a contract with Pixar that pretty much gave everything to them and it was a very stringent contract and Levy knew he was in no position to renegotiate anything without some financial clout. They needed to take Pixar public and it is referred to as an IPO and to do that, they needed banks, financial backers, with clout, and on top of that, they needed “Toy Story” to be a big success, in order for them to possibly renegotiate the contract.

The ongoing discourse between Jobs and Levy was fascinating, but a mean side to Jobs began to rear its ugly head. Apparently, it was commonplace for staff options to purchase shares of the company but Jobs refused. However, this did not deter Levy from pushing as hard as he could to get this IPO going. A lot depended on “Toy Story” being a big hit and the rest, as they say, is history. Pixar went public, turning Jobs into a billionaire in the process. Then came the negotiations with Disney, and with only one hit on its hands, it was going to be difficult. In the entertainment business, when you are first starting out and you are hungry, you have an edge but sometimes, you lose it if you let success go to your head but the crew managed to pull it off, the dealing with Disney was a very passionate affair and eventually, it all came together. It is a very convoluted business at times but definitely worth the wait.

In the final analysis, Disney bought Pixar but it retained its name and character. In 2011, after having battled cancer for a long time, Jobs passed away. Levy wanted to move away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood and he became a student of Eastern Philosophy, and co-founded the Juniper Foundation, giving him the peace of mind he had been searching for. While there is a ton of detail throughout the book, be patient, you will be rewarded my dear readers, and you are going to enjoy the heck out of it. Highly recommended.

Available in bookstores now

Ann McDonald

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