Pixar Animation Studios

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“I didn’t come all this way just to see you quit,” this quote by the character Doc Hudson from Pixar’s animated movie, Cars, expresses the feeling Pixar based its company upon for the past twenty years. Pixar has grown, and now, families around the world recognize the company’s name. Over the years, Pixar Animation Studios evolved from a small, amateur business into a large, thriving, world-renowned company.

Twenty years ago, George Lucas started a new division under Lucasfilm. The Computer Research and Development Division at Lucasfilm was set up to create new technologies. Digital imaging, electronic editing, and interactivity all required the technologies being created under the new division. Under the leadership of Alvy Ray Smith and Ed Catmull the technologies quickly emerged. This group of talented individuals which also included Ralph Guggenheim developed new technologies in four divisions: computer graphics, digital audio, computer editing, and video games.

As the technologies formed and the division grew, computer graphics captured the attention of others besides George Lucas. Companies such as EDS and General Motors gained interest. Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc., became increasingly interested in the process of the Lucasfilm, Ltd. Computer division. A few signatures and 10 million dollars later Steve Jobs obtained ownership of the computer graphics division at Lucasfilm, Ltd. The division then became an independent company which became known as “Pixar”. (www.Pixar.com, 1986)

After working for Lucas since 1979 at Lucasfilm as vice-president of the division, Ed Catmull became co-founder and chief technical officer of Pixar (www.Pixar.com, 1986). Forty-four other individuals were also employed under the company at the time. The small staff of Pixar worked hard to expand the reaches of the company. Using computer graphics and animation technologies advanced by the staff itself, Pixar premiered an animation short, Luxo Jr., which was created by John Lassater at Siggraph in 1986. Shortly thereafter, Luxo Jr. was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Animated Short Film. The film received the Golden Gate Award: first prize, Computer-Generated Imagery at the San Francisco International Film Festival earning the company its first award (www.pixar.com, 1987).

As Pixar created more and more animated shorts, a new technology emerged to improve the appearance of the films on screen. Pixar obtained a patent for their newest tool to overcome the challenges of rendering 3D animation and visual effects. The team who developed the technology consisted of Ed Catmull, Rob Cook, Thomas Porter, Loren Carpenter, Pan Hanrahan, Tony Apodaca, and Darwym Peachy. Their program became known as RenderMan, and it is able to manage an enormous amount of geometric complexity. The program also provides cutting-edge effects such as motion blur, realistic shading, the appearance of fur and hair, displacements, and many other new effects. With the use of RenderMan, Pixar raised the expectations in animation.

Along with the production of animated shorts, the company produced commercials for many companies. Tropicana earned the honor of having Pixar’s first commercial created for them. Over the next few years, Pixar continued to create commercials for numerous companies. Trident, California Lottery, Volkswagen, Listerine, and Pilsbury were among the first who premiered commercials produced by Pixar. For six years, the company created specially-commissioned commercials and spread their name across the nation and other parts of the world. By 1990, the company expanded from forty-four employees to 100 employees (www.fundinguniverse.com, Pixar Animations Studios company history).

In 1991, Walt Disney Studios and Pixar pair together (www.pixar.com, 1991). The new duo develops, produces, and distributes three feature-length films. Pixar and Disney signed a contract to produce quality...
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