So what's their secret?
In a blog post, screenwriter Scott Myers argues that an interview with Toy Story 3 writer, Michael Arndt, in Creative Screenwriting magazine (no link to the full interview), reveals the foundations of Pixar's success.
Pixar's films are such rousing successes because of the attention each individual at the studio dedicates to the screenplays. "Andrew Stanton's rule of thumb is that it takes 10 man-years of labor to make a good screenplay," Arndt explains. "Either two writers working five years or 10 guys working one year. For Toy Story 3, it was even more than that -- probably the equivalent of 10 people working two or three years."Billy Mernit has some interesting reflections on Myers's post on his own blog (now, sadly, retired). At Pixar, he points, out
"To me, this is what separates Pixar from almost everyone else," Arndt concludes. "They realize how hard it is to come up with a great screenplay."
...instead of throwing everything and everyone at a weak story until something seems to stick, they start with a writer and an idea they believe in, then do it, do it, do it till they're satisfied....
What most studios call development is ass-backwards. The operative ethos amounts to "It doesn't work, but we can fix it... with writer after writer after writer," so we shouldn't be surprised by the results.