The story of the birth of Pixar told by one of the founders


Alvy Ray Smith, co-founder of Pixar, he posted on IEEE Spectrum an article that tells “the real story” of how the famous animation studio was born, today a key element of Disney’s product portfolio, which has just released its new feature film, Luca, a few weeks ago. It is a fascinating story because it is little told in the vein of the computer pioneers – or rather, everyone knows about the part involving the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple; but Pixar’s adventure started more or less a dozen before Jobs’s arrival, in the mid-1970s, when some university researchers began to understand the potential of computer graphics and theorize the production of a fully computer-based feature film.

Pixar took its first steps thinking about software: at the time the power of computers was nowhere near enough to make an animated film, but Moore’s Law it was already well known and known in the environment; in short, it was only a matter of time. In the meantime, it was worth getting to work on the programs that this power could then exploit. By 1979, the group had managed to put together the short film known as Sunstone. It lasted 22 minutes and included many hand-drawn parts, but is considered an absolute milestone for computer graphics. Lucasfilm also liked it, so much so that the four key characters in the production, including Smith himself, were hired the following year to create the famous Computer Division.

In the years to come, Lucasfilm produced two particularly important computer graphics sequences, in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (1 minute) and in Star Wars Ep. VI: Return of the Jedi (the hologram of the Death Star). Despite this, due to George Lucas’ personal affairs (a divorce that practically halved his fortune) the Computer Division group was forced to go out on their own and look for financiers and a sustainable business model. Here, in fact, Steve Jobs and his famous intuition in understanding the potential of a technology come into play.

Alvy Ray Smith did not last long with Jobs, known for his surly and often inappropriate ways, around. He left in 1991 when production began on the first fully animated 3D film, Toy Story, which debuted in 1995 and was hugely successful. Smith founded Altamira Software, a software house that produced the Altamira Composer image composition and processing program. Altamira was acquired by Microsoft in 1994, and Smith retired in 1999, five years later. He recently published the essay A Biography of the Pixel, which tells the story of the genesis of the fundamental computer element of computer graphics.

The full and complete article can be freely consulted by following the SOURCE link below.


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