To give the company funding and to build up their company, as well as give itself practice towards their animation and skills and to build up a production team for future projects, PIXAR put their focus towards commercials in the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s for a better start for their company (as do many animators and animation companies starting out or continuing in the field of animation) at the decision of Steve Jobs after the company had been losing a lot of money for years, by opening up their commercial division in 1989.
These commercials would gradually help the company become stand alone and lead them to work their way to making a fully CGI-animated movie. The commercial brands, like Tropicana, Listerine and Lifesavers, were impressed by PIXAR's shorts so much that they came to them to propose the idea of them making CGI commercials for their brands. And these commercials were different in that PIXAR would only produce the ads if they could be part of the creative development on them, where as most animated adverts would only have the animation company just make the animation. And thus, PIXAR was given much more creative freedom, in advertising and in general. And as mentioned before, a lot of notable PIXAR alumni worked on these in animation or directing, from John Lasseter to Pete Doctor to even Henry Selick, with the same couple people working in the producing and technical directing department. And the success surely showed as PIXAR gained $2 million per year from these while continually getting exposure to the mainstream public.
The commercial division was officially closed on July 8th, 1996; shortly after the success of Toy Story. However, they did still make some commercials for McDonald's coinciding with the releases of A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2 in 1998 and 2000 respectively, and of course the company continues to make commercials with their characters to this day. And despite all of this only some of the commercials have made their way to the internet in recent years, and even though they have mentioned and have shown clips of the commercials in documentaries (The Pixar Story & Pixar Shorts: A Short History) they have yet to properly re-release the commercials in a current format. There lies hope that PIXAR may release these on one of their "PIXAR Shorts" DVDs. But until something like that happens, we have to rely on personal VHS recordings for the old ads, with quite possibly not every single last one intact.
Definitely worth noting for lost media in particular is one of the Levi's commercials called "Pinheads" that premiered at SIGGRAPH but never aired on TV publicly, making any reuploads of it becoming available seem kind of unlikely.
All of the original 79 PIXAR commercials made by the commercial division are listed on pixartalk.com. A playlist of 28 of them (including alternate versions of some) can be found on YouTube and two more can be found on Retro Junk, which currently leaves 49 out of 79 ads still unfound or unknown as to their whereabouts to these areas. Notably, some of the PIXAR commercials, including unresurfaced ones, can be briefly spotted in Toy Story 2 while the toys are flicking through the channels on Andy's TV, as well as some PIXAR shorts.
UPDATE 15 Nov' 2014: One of the Twizzler ads had been found! Expect a proper compilation video of the found ads some time soon!
- ↑ pixartalk.com page on PIXAR's commercials. Retrieved 15 Sep '13.
- ↑ YouTube playlist containing 28 PIXAR produced commercials. Retrieved 15 Sep '13.
- ↑ Retro Junk upload of two PIXAR produced McDonalds commercials. Retrieved 15 Sep '13.