Wednesday, September 9, 2015

History of Pixar

Pixar Studio, originally a step child of Geourge Lucas has been popping up in conversations around me recently, so I decided I might look into the history of the creation of this animation studio.
Lucas Arts, an American film and television production company, was focused on innovative special effects since it was founded in 1971. Working on major motion pictures like Labyrinth (1986), Indiana Jones(1981), and the Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983) Lucas film had a reputation as one of the most advanced special effects houses in all of Hollywood.

Lucas saw special effects as something to paint your films with. The technologies we had were the colors, and the effects were only the parts that added flourish to the story lines. Lucas had found himself always looking for ways to make his effects better, and cheaper.

Although Lucas was never "interested in computers" his company was one of the first to try using this new color in filmmaking.

At the time, in order to do any kind of digital image processing, you needed to find a way to get your image into the computer. Lucas was trying to solve the issue: "How do you get in and out of the Computer." digital Image processing was the promised land for filmmakers because not only would film scanned-in and manipulated in the computer be free from any generational loss (Negative Quality) but mistakes in the original photography (such as lighting on a blue-screen element that was inconsistent with its background plate) could be corrected without the costs and time delays of reshooting.

Lucas approached Ed Catmull in 1979 and asked him to head up a group to bring computer graphics, video editing, and digital audio into the entertainment field. With funds dwindling from Dick Shoup, a millionaire in New York (The majority of his money from starting the New York Institute of Technology) Catmull was looking for a way to incorporate, and continue research in 3D modeling. Remember at the time 3D was very basic, and thinks like texture mapping, lighting, and polygon manipulation were almost nonexistent. In 1979 Catmull became the Vice President at the seminal Industrial Light & Magic computer graphics division at Lucasfilm.

A few years later (1984) John Lasseter, also joined the Pixar team at LucasFilms after working on Tron (1982). 3D is a very expensive animation style, and at the time George Lucas was in the process of splitting funds with he recently divorced wife, so he was forced to cut funding to the Pixar group.

As Lucas's assets were being disseminated, Steve Jobs stepped in. Jobs had already turned down a position with the pixar team in 1984, and seized this opportunity to acquire the division instead. With new funding, Pixar found itself back on it's feet and became it's own company.

For more information, and a more in-depth timeline see: The Pixar Story

1 comment :

  1. A really great book to read about Pixar, but also about creativity in general, is Ed Catmull's book, "Creativity, Inc."