5 Things You Should Know About Disney’s Billion Dollar Lunch

Billion Dollar Lunch
Billion Dollar Lunch

Once upon a time, at the Hidden City Cafe in Point Richmond, CA, several Walt Disney animators and producers met to have lunch. When Disney creative-types get together for a meal there is friendship, laughter, and creativity galore. If you’re a career individual, you know how nice it is to get out of the office to brainstorm business tactics, ideas and the like… Now just imagine what one of these “power lunches” is like for the incredibly talented individuals working for Disney. Following is the story of one such lunch.

5. Timeline

With the soon-to-be-released “Toy Story”, Disney’s Pixar was at a pivotal moment in its’ history. In the summer of 1994 before “Toy Story” became known to every family in the universe, this lunch bunch raised the question “What is Pixar going to do next?”

4. The Brainstorm

Pixar-based producer and director Andrew Stanton recalled the lunch conversation. “Toy Story was almost complete and we thought, well geez, if we’re going to make another movie, we have to get started now.” And start, they did! John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer at Pixar), Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter (Director, Animator, Screenwriter Voice Actor, and Producer), and Joe Ranft (Screenwriter, Animator, Storyboard Artist, Voice Actor, and Magician) began sketching the outlines of more characters that would ultimately make up four of the studio’s greatest films. On nothing more than the napkins on their table, rough outlines to many of our favorite characters were born. 1998’s “A Bug’s Life,” 2001’s “Monsters, Inc.,” 2003’s “Finding Nemo,” and 2008’s “WALL-E” grew out of this highly creative group.

3. Bringing Out The Best

“There was something special that happened when John, Joe, Pete and I would get in a room,” Stanton told the Post and Courier. “Whether it was furthering an idea or coming up with something, we just brought out the best in each other.” The lunch was a starting point and became a teaser trailer for “WALL-E”. To minimize the growth of a legend around the lunch, Stanton later told the Times-Picayune, “Well, I’m trying to dispel a little bit of it, before it turns too mythical. The truth is, there are people who worked really hard at making things like ‘Monsters’ and ‘Nemo’ really turn into the great stories they were way after those lunches.” Since that lunch, Pixar has gone on to be one of the biggest and most critically acclaimed studios in the history of animation. That is why one lunch meeting at the Hidden City Café in Point Richmond, California may be one of the most important moments in Pixar’s history. Another interesting fact to note: the Hidden City Café was included in “Monsters, Inc.” and now serves as a memorial for the real restaurant that has since closed its’ doors.

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2. Accolades and Awards

Pixar’s 14 films have brought in $3.5 billion at the domestic box office. Of that, the four films created at the table that day have brought in nearly $1 billion combined. Those four films have also given rise two sequels (2013’s “Monsters University” and the upcoming “Finding Dory”) and have been nominated for a combined 15 Academy Awards, winning 3.

1. Now For The Future

Those around the table that day would play critical roles in bringing these billion dollar films to life. Lasseter went on to direct “A Bug’s Life” before becoming the Chief Creative Officer at Disney. Docter would go on to direct “Monsters, Inc.,” Stanton would direct “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E,” and Joe Ranft would also go on to create other features at Pixar before his death in 2005.

Hearing this story just goes to show how magical our thoughts and ideas really are. They seed the creation of all mankind’s greatest achievements and continually shape our civilization. And in the case of Disney’s Pixar, create entire worlds and characters that inspire us all! Thanks Pixar!

About Donna Yvonne

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