1. Franchises work. If you have one winner, keep it going, either a sequel like “Cars II” or a prequel like “Finding Dory.”
2. Reviews don’t matter: Some Pixar movies are better than others, but young viewers are less interested in critical reviews as they are new adventures with recognizable characters.
3. Cartoons work: Pixar raised Disney’s bar higher for animated features with quality productions and emotional, original stories. “Up” was even nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and “Finding Nemo” was nominated for 36 Oscars.
4. Nice stories: Though there are sad or scary moments in every Pixar film, the stories are heartwarming and teach good morals and choices.
5. Write for everyone: Along with nice simple stories that children can follow, Pixar also includes subtle humor that grown-ups appreciate.
6. Star power: Pay for big names. They’ll help grow interest and eagerly return for sequels, like Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks.
7. Vulnerable characters: Even if they’re toys, race cars or fish, characters have human frailties.
8. Keep on making money: Why stop at $380 million for Finding Nemo when audiences will keep coming?
9. Announce early. “Finding Dory” won’t come out until 2015, fans began building buzz the moment the project was announced in winter 2013.
10. Anticipate a long haul: The marketing campaign will continue for another two years, unlike some movies that start ramping up publicity 4-6 months before opening.
11. Easter eggs. Pixar has a reputation for inserting characters from other movies or hidden in-jokes, everything from Mike from “Monsters Inc.” snorkeling in “Nemo” to “Toy Story” toys in the backgrounds.
12. Merchandising: Kids love to act out scenes with action figures or plush versions of a favorite character.
13. Licensing: Even better is when a kid wants everything related to a particular movie, from beach towels to fruit snacks.
14. Nostalgia: “Finding Dory” will open 12 years after “Finding Nemo.” So new parents may enjoy taking younger viewers to experience similar magic.
15. Untraditional marketing: Rather than a normal “new movie” site with trailers and wallpaper, Pixar does more. For “Monsters University,” it created a site for a fictitious college, with info for staff, alumni, students, applications and a campus map.
16. Traditional marketing: Pixar/Disney also bought a Super Bowl ad for a “Monsters U” preview and other online and magazine ads.
17. Make it fun: The Monsters U site sells official MU apparel, including sweatshirts with three arm holes or two heads.
18. Answers consumer demands: One of Pixar’s objectives has been to build audiences by answering “what’s in it for me?” rather than simply saying “look what we can do.”
19. Keep trying. Like the characters in “Finding Nemo,” Pixar has had some failures along the way. But it keeps moving forward with new projects.
20. Anyone can achieve: A little fish with a broken flipper, or a forgetful Blue Tang like Dory can still accomplish a goal.