Part 3: NeXT and Pixar went through some rough years and I thought neither company would make it. All eight of the original team at NeXT aside from Steve, including Randy’s heroine Susan Kare, had left. We had been driven out of hardware, so Steve’s dream of running a computer company was over forever, or so we thought. Pixar had also been driven out of hardware, had dabbled in selling 3D rendering software through CompUSA, had dabbled in processing medical and satellite images, and had spent 10 years living payroll-to-payroll hoping Steve would continue to fund it from his own money.
Steve sent me to Pixar one day to talk to Ed Catmull, its long-time president. It was a day Steve had instructed Ed to lay off half the company and if I remember, headcount had gone from something like 72 to 36. But Steve wanted to hold onto John Lassiter’s creative team.
I remember how agonizing Ed’s sorrow was. The good news is Steve had committed another $10 million to keep Pixar alive, despite telling his accountant to stop him from pouring more money into it. Ed asked me if I thought this might be the last Steve would ever invest. I didn’t know.
Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed the next part. I have vivid dreams like this. My memory says Ed asked if Steve was pitching a movie to Disney. I said I thought he was. Jeff Katzenberg had been there. Ed said I should tell him they can’t make a full-length movie, it’s too much. He wanted me to tell Steve they could do an episode for Disney TV, but not a movie. I told Ed you know how it is with Steve, and he nodded.
Steve got his contract from Disney and as we know from the books, it was a struggle for years to make Toy Story. Randy left NeXT for a stint at Kaleida labs as developer trainer, but when Apple bought NeXT, they hired Randy. It was rough there too, but I’m told Randy stayed a beacon of positive energy. There must be a lesson in that, because this happened after Randy had been at Apple two years: