Posted in Animated Movies

Brought to Life: A Look at Pixar (Part 2)

George Lucas had his own vision for how computer animation would affect the industry, and he had already started applying it to his movies. According to Alvy Ray Smith, George Lucas had already had one black-and-white computer animated sequence in a scene in the original Star Wars (1977). Not only that, but as a director and filmmaker, he had a more acute understanding than that of Alexander Schure (who would, unfortunately, not benefit from the creation of Pixar and instead would cause NYIT to be in financial trouble, yet he should always be credited for being one of the forerunners of computer animation). Lucas knew what it would require for computer animated films to become a reality.

The Computer Division would get to work on some movies such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, or Young Sherlock Holmes, which featured a very advanced scene such as this:

The Computer Division had some problems with image computing during the 80s, which they would solve themselves by creating hardware they called the Pixar Image Computer – with “Pixar” eventually being the name of the company. Disney would actually use the Image Computers for their movies, something which also strengthened their already-established relationship (the employees of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm would continually go to Disney to convince them to use their computer hardware several times over the course of many years, which helped Disney get familiar with the company that would be Pixar).

It was around this time that the people at the Computer Division met a young man named John Lasseter, a very talented animator at Disney who came from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) who had been making waves as an amazing student. Alvy Ray Smith said that Lasseter was “the missing ingredient” and that he had “the same kind of talent that great actors have”. Lasseter actually wanted to use computer graphics in movies as well, and had tried to apply computer animation at Disney without his bosses’ approval and been fired for it. This would, however, be the perfect chance for those at the Computer Division to pick Lasseter up quite quickly.

Unfortunately, George Lucas himself would suffer from financial troubles after the release of Episode VI of Star Wars, with some box office flops such as Harold the Duck and a divorce that Lucas would have with his wife, both of which caused him to lose money. He would not be able to afford the Computer Division of Lucasfilm any longer.

Yet, the Computer Division team knew they were on to something. If they split up, they could lose the chance to make history. They became Pixar, which was sold from Lucas to a man named Steve Jobs, who had at the time, after some in-company disputes, left Apple.

This would give Pixar a new lease on life. They got to work on shorts such as Luxo, Jr (1986), where the lamp from Pixar’s logo comes from, and Tin Toy (1988), which would be the predecessor to the very first full-length animated movie…

See you for part 3!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


The Pixar Story: Dick Shoup, Alex Schure, George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Disney

Pixar: Two Early Works

The Story Behind Pixar – with Alvy Ray Smith


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