And Jobs is deeply into this. He sits there nibbling on dried fruit, quaffing his latest Odwalla fruit juice--he loves the new twist-off caps--and perusing the timeline like a rabbi studying Talmud, looking up every few minutes with another pressing question: When do the TV ads start? What's this NASCAR thing about? How about theme-park events? Can they schedule a later meeting to review the billboards? Which news-mag show should they be pushing for? Is it possible, if the movie opens big on Thanksgiving--like incredibly, unbelievably big--that Disney might delay the date when they change the Disney Store windows from a Toy Story theme to more generic Disney Christmas stuff?
Uncomfortable silence. Well, Disney's senior v.p. of synergy Mike Mendenhall explains gingerly, in the past they've found that classic characters like Snow White and Winnie the Pooh are so popular they can actually drive holiday sales for relative upstarts like Woody and Buzz.
Jobs sighs. "Yeah," he says finally. "Pooh is huge."
These days Steve Jobs is looming pretty large himself. At 44, the Pixar chairman and Apple Computer interim-CEO-for-life finds himself a leading force in not one but two iconic late-'90s American industries. The man who created the Mac embodies, perhaps even more fully than Microsoft's Bill Gates, the personal-computer revolution. And a decade after he bought a fledgling digital-animation studio from George Lucas, Toy Story and A Bug's Life have brought Silicon Valley and Hollywood one huge step closer to connubial bliss. Last week, with Apple's luscious new iMacs unveiled and Toy Story 2 unspooling at an exclusive TIME preview, Jobs, after years spent pacing the sidelines, was suddenly at the top of both his games.
So how did he do it? The popular caricature paints Jobs as a brilliant, driven man-child running around Apple in sandals and shorts, screaming at underlings while trying to build the perfect digital machine. By most accounts, this image remains more or less correct. He really does show up most days in shorts and surfer Ts. And intelligence reports from Cupertino, Calif., indicate that the infamously fiery Jobs still has, um, anger-management issues. "Anyone who has worked with Steve during his second tour at Apple will tell you that he's as driven, tense and temperamental as he has ever been," says author Alan Deutschman, whose unauthorized portrait of Jobs is due out next year. Many Apple employees, Deutschman says, still fear getting in an elevator with Jobs, lest they find themselves fired before they reach their floor.
In midlife, though, Jobs has mellowed enough to chuckle at that elevator story, and seems to have vanquished at least some of his personal demons. Adopted as an infant, Jobs spent his early adulthood on a classic '60s-era quest for personal identity, seeking transcendence and self-realization through drugs and meditation, founding Apple and establishing a New Age "family" of fervent Macintosh partisans while keeping his own out-of-wedlock daughter Lisa and her mother at a sad remove.
Twenty years later, though, the former counterculturalist has, like much of his generation, embraced traditional domestic pleasures. He's happily married and the devoted father of four, including the now college-age Lisa. He has befriended his biological sister, writer Mona Simpson (who wrote him into her novel A Regular Guy) and made contact with his birth mother. It's hard not to be charmed by the sheer joy Jobs derives from talking, mostly off the record, about his family: how his youngest daughter just started waving him off to work; how he won't let his kids watch TV, lest it stifle their creativity; how, over and over, his wife Laurene makes him shave off his salt-and-pepper beard.
Familial bliss may have even helped him learn to conduct his professional life a bit more professionally. "He entered the business world a real novice," says Regis McKenna, the renowned Valley marketing guru, who's known Jobs since he was a teenager. "He had no management training, no business skills." It showed. Young Jobs was a my-way-or-the-highway iconoclast who cared only that his employees embrace his apocalyptic vision for Apple as passionately as he did. "If you had religion," recalls McKenna, "you had the job." Such absolutism helped give birth to the Mac, but it wasn't exactly conducive to building a stable corporation, and by the mid-'80s Jobs, with strong encouragement from Apple's CEO and designated grownup John Sculley, had hit the highway himself.