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History of Computer Animation

  • Walt Disney opens his first animation studio.

    Walt Disney opens his first animation studio.
    Before there was 3D computer animation there was hand drawn 2D animation, the building block of everything that has come since then. Walt Disney, considered the father of animation, began his career and long lasting legacy with his first animation studio in Hollywood, CA. Walt Disney's work and influence in the early advancement of cartoons regarding color, sound, character development, and fluid animation have had long lasting effects on the computer animation of today. (Schickel, 1998)
  • Disney debuts new creation - Mickey Mouse

    Disney debuts new creation - Mickey Mouse
    From the ashes of a tough and unfair business transaction that went down in flames Walt Disney, with the help of his wife, creates the famous and beloved Mickey Mouse. Disney was also the first person to add music and sound effects to cartoons which was a huge leap forward in technology at the time.
  • First use of Technicolor in film making.

    First use of Technicolor in film making.
    With another amazing technological feat, Disney becomes the first person to use a new process for coloring film known as Technicolor. The title of the animation was called "Flowers and Trees" and it ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Cartoon in 1932.
  • John Whitney Sr. creates a computer/camera hybrid.

    John Whitney Sr. creates a computer/camera hybrid.
    John Whitney Sr. founds "Motion Graphics Incorporated". He recognized the expansive possibilities that computers could play in the role of creating amazing and innovative animation. After building a revolutionary computer/film camera hybrid from an old World War II anti-aircraft gun sight he began creating a never before seen type of "motion harmony" animations. (Alves, 2005)
  • Sketchpad is created.

    Sketchpad is created.
    MIT graduate student Ivan Sutherland creates Sketchpad, the first actual computer animation program. This program allowed the user to create complex graphic designs by using a light pen and control board. "Sketchpad was a groundbreaking interactive computer-aided design system. Its innovations included hierarchical drawings, constraint-satisfaction methods, and an interactive GUI." (Burton, 2012)
  • George Lucas founds Lucasfilm, Ltd.

    George Lucas founds Lucasfilm, Ltd.
    George Lucas, creator of two of the worlds largest and most beloved movie franchises of all time – Star Wars and Indiana Jones, founds Lucasfilm, Ltd. This forward thinking company believed in pushing the limits and exploring new technologies in computer animation and visual effects. George Lucas is a key figure in the advancement of computer animation through the many companies he has created and the development projects he has had a hand in bringing to the world stage. (Lucas, 2015)
  • Robotic gunslinger comes to life!

    Robotic gunslinger comes to life!
    The first application of computer graphics being used in a feature film was in the movie Westworld. "The technique used for Westworld involved sampling the pixels of a photographic image, averaging the intensity of the light from 50 to 60 pixels at equal intervals and separating the red, blue and green signals. The resulting large squares of color were enough to provide a recognizable image of a previously known object, especially when the object moved." (Crichton, 2015)
  • Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is created.

    Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is created.
    After already founding Lucasfilm Ltd., LLC., George Lucas creates the revolutionary and state-of-the-art special effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), as well as the sound studio Sprocket Systems/Skywalker Sound. ILM has become an incredible forerunner and innovator of the technological advances in computer animation.
  • Star Wars has come to our galaxy!

    Star Wars has come to our galaxy!
    Star Wars hits theatres and a mega-franchise is born! Much of the popularity of this franchise revolves around the fantastic imagery we are treated to courtesy of the groundbreaking computer animation technology introduced in the first trilogy of movies. Specifically the Death Star briefing and Trench Run scenes have had a huge impact on professionals and fans alike.
  • Empire Strikes Back drops!

    Empire Strikes Back drops!
    The second installment in the famed movie series, widely seen as the most influential, well written, directed, and pivotal movie of the whole franchise, treated all who had seen it with an impressive array of computer animation at its best during the incredibly entertaining battle on the ice planet Hoth. The advancements in computer animation and the expert techniques utilized by ILM to create realistic AT-ATs, Snowspeeders and Tauntauns are truly impressive.
  • The Genesis Effect!

    The Genesis Effect!
    Lucasfilm's Graphics Group was tasked with creating a stunning visual representing a planet being brought bakc to life in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This animation would be called the Genesis Effect. The impressive animation was created by Bill Reeves and marked the first time particle systems were ever used in computer animation. (Vintage Computer Graphics!, 2009)
  • SythaVision is born.

    SythaVision is born.
    In the movie Tron, the innovative company MAGI created the Lightcycles and Tanks using a completely new computer animation process called SythaVision. It's main purpose was to read basic geometric shapes as solid objects with density which could then be varied in size and at that point animated in three dimensions. The shapes you made weren't very complex, but the motion created would be smooth and fluid. (CGW, 2011)
  • Raster graphics are first introduced in computer animation.

    Raster graphics are first introduced in computer animation.
    Robert Abel & Associates are credited, among many other innovations, with being the first company to utilize raster graphics, a key essential building block when talking about the basics of computer animation and effects, in the making of computer generated animation. Their movie High Fidelity introduced raster graphics which paved the way for Wavefront Technologies which ultimately created the first off-the-shelf computer animation tool.
  • The Adventures of Andre and Wally B

    The Adventures of Andre and Wally B
    John Lasseter, world renowned computer animator, worked in the computer division of Lucasfilm Ltd., where he designed and animated The Adventures of Andre and Wally B, the first-ever piece of character-based three-dimensional computer animation. (Walt Disney Studios, 2015)
  • Money for Nothing

    Money for Nothing
    Dire Straits “Money for Nothing” - The innovative video was one of the first to feature computer generated animation, which was done using an early program called Paintbox. The characters were supposed to have more detail, like buttons on their shirts, but they used up the budget and had to leave it as is. It won Best Video at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. (AXIOMUSIC, 2015)
  • The Case of the Computer Generated Stained Glass Knight

    The Case of the Computer Generated Stained Glass Knight
    Lucasfilm's CG division created the Stained Glass Knight who comes to life in the 1985 movie Young Sherlock Holmes. this is one of the first computer-generated characters to ever appear on screen.
  • James Cameron wins Academy Award for Visual Effects.

    James Cameron wins Academy Award for Visual Effects.
    The first of many Academy Awards for Visual Effects was awarded to James Cameron, recognized for his innovations in computer animation and visual effects over the past 30 years, for his groundbreaking work on the movie Aliens. The technology and expertise utilized to bring to life the vivid creatures and surreal environment was hailed as a milestone and fantastic achievement in computer animation and effects. This movie has inspired many 3D computer animators working today. (Cameron, 2015)
  • Pixar is created.

    Pixar is created.
    Steve Jobs purchases the Computer Graphics Division of Lucasfilm Ltd. and names it Pixar. John Lasseter wrote, directed and animated Pixar's first short films, including Luxo Jr., Red's Dream, Tin Toy and Knick Knack. Pixar has gone on to create some of the worlds most beloved, cherished, and admired computer animated movies over the past 30 years.
  • Captain Power hits the small screen!

    Captain Power hits the small screen!
    Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future is the first TV show to feature computer-animated effects throughout the episodes. Almost all of the villians are computer animated.
  • The real world meets the world of cartoons.

    The real world meets the world of cartoons.
    Who Framed Roger is the first movie to successfully and convincingly merge the hyper, frenetic world of cartoons with live actors and the physical world we inhabit by utilizing the newest, most advanced computer animation the world has seen. (Anderson, 2013)
  • Dinosaurs invade!

    Dinosaurs invade!
    Jurassic Park was a landmark work in CGI. Complete 3D models were created for each dinosaur, resulting in the first realistic digitally created computer animation animals ever seen in film. (Gaycken, 2012)
  • Two words.....Toy Story

    Two words.....Toy Story
    "Toy Story" is the first full-length computer-animated movie created. It is beloved and hailed as one of the first widely viewed examples of popular computer animation and all the possibilities of what it can bring to movies. (Pixar, 2015).
  • IMOCAP and the Dead Man's Chest

    IMOCAP and the Dead Man's Chest
    IMOCAP is a revolutionary motion capture system from ILM. Imocap measures the actors and their movements, sending the data to computers that will create "skeletal motion" of the subject in the computer. Special sensor-studded suits are worn by the actors so everything they do gets captured and then worked over to create incredibly imaginative characters. (Desowitz, 2006)
  • A young girl, the Iraninan Revolution and Computer Animation

    A young girl, the Iraninan Revolution and Computer Animation
    Persepolis is an incredibly poignant computer animated French-Iranian-American documentary that tells the story of a young woman named Marjane Satrapi. After spending years in Austria and France, Satrapi created a graphic novel of her journey between Iran and Europe. Persepolis shows Satrapi's personal experiences as she grows into a woman in Iran and Europe and we get to see her political struggles as she seeks to understand her own identity within her home country and abroad.
    (Bradshaw, 2008)
  • The "Politics" of Computer Animation

    The "Politics" of Computer Animation
    Computer animation is being used to rock the "VOTE!!!" This " a new title from the innovative designers that makes use of their powerful game and graphics engine, but with a cheeky, comedic twist. Players...will easily adapt to the similar swipe and slash control scheme, but instead of valiant fighters dueling with monsters, players choose from either presidential candidate and duke it out with microphones, rubber chickens, witty quotes, and ridiculous outfits." (Games for Change, 2012)