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Brought to Life: A Look at Pixar (Part 1)

Can you believe that Pixar Animation Studio has been around for over 30 years? Crazy, isn’t it? Yes, it’s been that long! So, I’d like to take a look at how the studio became what it is today, in three parts – its origins, its development from its beginnings, and finally Pixar’s first full-length feature film, Toy Story, which was also the first full-length computer animated movie.

Pixar’s origins go back to the 1970s, in which a man named Alexander Schure, who founded the New York Institute of Technology, believed in the idea that people could use computers to make movies. Keep in mind that computers were still pretty primitive and looked like this in the 70s:

The Apple II Series Computer, 1977 – Source: Wikipedia (

Floppies were still a thing (I wonder if kids today even know about floppy disks?).

Regardless, Schure was sure (pun unintended) that computers could do it. He made a group dedicated specifically to creating such a thing, called the Computer Graphics Lab (CGL), which included future founder of Pixar and president Edwin Catmull, a man who would pioneer many computer graphics techniques, such as texture mapping, which is what applies textures to models in computer graphics. Alvy Ray Smith, who was also a part of this group and also founded Pixar, said that Schure thought that he could and would be next Walt Disney. Schure provided all the funds and equipment the CGL needed to keep working on computer animation.

The problem was, however, that Schure didn’t have the skill to work in animation, according to Alvy Ray Smith. He directed a movie called Tubby the Tuba (1977), which you can watch here:


Smith called it a movie that was good animation-wise, but horrible in the other departments – story, sound, voice acting, etc. The people at the CGL grew to understand that, despite what Alexander Schure was giving them, he could not truly give them the future of computer animation.

And so, they met George Lucas, who offered to let them work under his company under the Computer Division, and it is there that Pixar’s foundation was established.

See you later for Part 2 and 3!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


The Story Behind Pixar – with Alvy Ray Smith



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