The three men were engaged in a spirited conversation when I
took a seat directly behind them. This was a screening room at the Walt Disney
Studio and we were there to get a look at a new animated feature film being
produced by Pixar Animation Studios. In front of me and to my right was the
Vice Chairman, Roy Edward Disney and to my left was animation veteran and
Disney Legend Joe Grant. Seated in between the two of them was the guy who
owned the fledgling animation company. His name was Steve Jobs.
I made this quick sketch of a
healthy Steve Jobs while working on Toy Story 2 at Pixar in 1998
I'm sure Steve had already read most if not all the books on
Walt Disney. However here was the opportunity to speak with two men who
actually knew and worked with the Old Maestro himself. We had at least eight
minutes or so before the screening would begin, so Steve Jobs took this time to
dig as much information as possible out of these two Disney veterans. "Why did
Walt Disney do that," he inquired, "and what was the motivation behind that
decision?" Each answer only prompted another question, and Jobs probed deeper
and deeper. It became clear he wanted to know everything about Walt Disney and
his decision-making process. Plus, he was able to get his answers firsthand
from the two men who probably knew Disney better than most.
The partnership between The Walt Disney Company and Pixar
Animation Studios was no accident. No one knew that better than Steve Jobs.
Though this was in the early days of the relationship it was already apparent
these two creative companies would blend their talent and technology to build great
products and would thrive in the market place. It was all a matter of time.
years that followed were significant and tremendous value was added to both
companies. Pixar Animations Studios wowed the film community by producing a
string of hit animated motion pictures and the Disney Studios continued their
expansion in the world of entertainment that included theme parks, cruise ships
as well as other media. Though the partnership sometimes suffered under Disney
CEO Michael Eisner's constraints, a truce was finally reached and Jobs sold Pixar to Disney for a fair sum of money. However, the story doesn't end here
and Steve Jobs did not walk away after Disney's acquisition. Steve Jobs took a
seat on Disney's Board of Directors and continued to consult with the Company.
It was no coincidence that Disney, Pixar Animation Studios and Apple were
beginning to come together. I'm convinced that Steve Jobs had a plan, and that
plan was yet to be realized.
It would appear that Apple had no
difficulty selling whatever Steve announced
In the last year of his life, Walt Disney confided to his
son-in-law Ron Miller that he had only one request. Fifteen more years would
probably be enough to accomplish the things the Old Maestro had on his mind.
Walt seemed convinced it would take at least that long, and those years were
needed to bring his dreams to fruition. Sadly, Walt Disney passed away in
December of that same year. We can only wonder what would have been
accomplished at the Disney Company had Walt managed to regain his health. Such
was not to be for Disney, nor was it for Steve Jobs. As Apple continued to move
in the direction of becoming less a technology company and more of a consumer
entertainment company I have no doubt that Steve Jobs, much like Walt, had a
vision for the future. Clearly, the vision included Apple, Pixar and Disney.
I was told by Disney insiders that the former Apple Chairman
and CEO attended a meeting here at the Disney studio only weeks ago. It was
fairly well known that Jobs was consulting with Disney especially in the area
of consumer products. I can't help but wonder what else he was up to. As I
related earlier, Steve Jobs, much like Jim Henson, was a perfect fit for the
Disney Company. Sadly, that was another special relationship cut short by
Henson's unexpected passing. The lesson we've all learned from this is that all
men, even great ones, can suddenly be taken away.
With the loss of Steve Jobs last week I can't help but look
back on that special screening at the Walt Disney Studio so many years ago. I
still remember all the questions Steve asked about Walt Disney and I remember
his insatiable curiosity about the Old Maestro of animation. What was Steve up
to, I wondered? After success with Apple and Pixar, could he possibly have had
his sights on another large media company? Perhaps not, but I can't help but
wonder what might have happened if he did.
A much thinner, gaunt Steve Jobs introducing the iPad just a
few years ago. He was still a great salesman
Did you enjoy the time that you spent with Floyd Norman today? Well,
if you'd like to learn more about the many amazing & amusing adventures
that this Disney Legend has had over the course of the 40+ years that he's
worked in the animation industry, then you definitely want to check out some of
the books which Mr. Norman has written.
Floyd's most recent effort - "Disk Drive: Animated
Humor in the Digital Age" - is available for purchase through blurb.com.
While Mr. Norman's original collection of cartoons and stories -- "Faster!
Cheaper! The Flip Side of the Art of Animation" - is still for sale over
at John Cawley's Cataroo. And if you still haven't had your fill of Floyd, feel
free to move on over to Mr. Fun. Which is where Mr. Norman posts his musings
when he's not writing for JHM.
I don't think you'll find too many Jobs fans among the people that knew him.