[Editor's note: This is the first part of a three-part feature about worldwide stamps devoted to Disney/Pixar films and the fun characters that animate them. Part II: Australia, Austria, U.S. stamps feature Disney-Pixar characters; Part III: Lightning McQueen, WALL-E, others shine on Disney-Pixar stamps]
By Bill Silvester
The company that would become known as Pixar Animation Studios had its origins in 1979, in the special-effects computer section called the Graphics Group of George Lucas’ company, Industrial Light and Magic. This group was primarily concerned with special effects for the Star Wars movies.
The first Pixar-produced film to be distributed by Disney was called Toy Story. It was released in November 1995, and the story of toys coming to life was an immediate sensation, grossing more than $200 million in North America alone.
The Disney Company immediately began negotiations to expand their contract with Pixar, and in 1997 an agreement was reached to jointly produce five animated features.
The first Disney/Pixar stamps were issued by Uganda in 1997, consisting of one souvenir sheet of six stamps (Scott 1479a-f), two souvenir sheets of nine stamps each (1480a-i and 1481a-i), and a set of three souvenir sheets (1482-84), all showing scenes from Toy Story.
The Scott 1483 sheet is shown here: toys belonging to Andy, the little boy who is the main character, including his favorite, Woody the cowboy doll.
Controversy accompanied the release of A Bug’s Life in 1998. Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios since 1984, left Disney in 1994 due to problems with CEO Michael Eisner.
Katzenberg quickly joined with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to form a company called DreamWorks, with Katzenberg primarily responsible for animation projects.
Word leaked out that Katzenberg was working on a film called Antz, and Eisner and Jobs accused DreamWorks of stealing the idea from Disney/Pixar. Katzenberg denied this, but the race was on regarding when the competing films would be released. DreamWorks got Antz out on Oct. 2, 1998; A Bug’s Life was released on Nov. 25, 1998.
Palau issued four souvenir sheets of four stamps each (Scott 467a-d, 468a-d, 469a-d and 470a-d) and four accompanying souvenir sheets (471-74) in December 1998 depicting characters and scenes from A Bug’s Life.
Toy Story 2 was released in November 1999, breaking opening weekend box-office records around the globe and becoming the first movie sequel to out-gross its original. Toy Story 2 also is the first film to be created, mastered and exhibited digitally in its entirety.
By 2001, when Monsters, Inc. was released, Pixar’s employee numbers had swollen to 600. Ed Catmull was now president, with John Lasseter executive vice president. Monsters, Inc. became the third-highest-grossing animated film at the time.
Finding Nemo, a computer-animated comedy-drama about an overprotective clownfish and his son, Nemo, was released in 2003 and won an Oscar for best animated film. Finding Nemo appears on two 2008 souvenir sheets (Scott 3803a-e and 3804a-e) issued by the Republic of China, each with five stamps in various shapes depicting characters from the film.