As the public mourns the death of Steve Jobs and contemplates his achievements, the first word that immediately comes to mind is: Apple. As Hank Stuever writes in his appreciation of the technological visionary — who died Wednesday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56 — it’s the MacBooks and iPods, the iPhones and iPads that are the most obvious, tangible proof of the man’s legacy.
But Steve Jobs also gave us something else. He gave us Pixar.
When he purchased the company from Lucasfilm in 1986 and put both his money and support behind it, he laid the foundation for some of the finest children’s films — for that matter, films in general — of the past two decades. Company pioneers like John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, as well as other creative storytellers and animators at Pixar, would ultimately be responsible for making those movies. But what is true for them is true for virtually anyone who has permission to be inventive in any field: They could not have achieved greatness without the finances that gave them the freedom to do it.
As noted in the book “The Pixar Touch” by David A. Price: “Jobs had driven a hard bargain in buying Lucas’s Computer Division [which would later become Pixar] for five million dollars (not ten million, as is sometimes reported), but as it turned out, he put ten times that amount into the company over the course of a decade to keep it afloat. Few other investors would have had the patience of Jobs.”
As Price’s book also explains, it was Pixar — not Apple — that would ultimately elevate him to billionaire status.
Yes, we should be grateful to Jobs for giving us the devices that allow us to discover that, for every need we have in life, there is, indeed, an app for that. But we also owe him thanks for Nemo. And for Woody and Buzz Lightyear. For Lightning McQueen, and for that montage in “Up” that always makes us weep softly so we don’t betray our emotions to the open-mouthed 5-year-olds sitting beside us, falling under the spell of a sweeping story about big, beautiful balloons and hope.
The so-called “patience of Jobs” provided us with permanent cinematic gifts, ones that allow parents to bond with their kids and anyone who loves movies to reconnect with his or her inner child. With his achievements at Apple, Jobs, as Stuever writes, gave us the future. By supporting Pixar, he also made it possible for all of us to go to the multiplex and continue dreaming, in the dark and long after the lights come up.