Custom 3D Computer Graphics Innovators - A Short History Of Pixar
In just 25 short years, Pixar has gone from a research center only known to people in the custom 3D computer graphics community to a household name that's produced some of the highest grossing box office smashes of all time. This article looks at the history of Pixar and its rise to fame.
The Birth Of Pixar
Pixar started out as Lucasfilm's animation division in 1979. It was called Graphics Group. George Lucas supposedly started this division to handle the custom 3D tasks created by the film "Star Wars." Although not the first film to use custom 3D CG, it was "Star Wars" that first brought it to the public's attention and many films using the technology followed.
During the 1980's, it became known as a pioneering research center in the CG world, but it was unknown outside of this specialized community. It worked on animated sequences of Lucasfilm's feature-lengths and also spent time conducting research and experimentation, the results of which would eventually become the CG we know today.
In 1986, it was bought by Steve Jobs and christened "Pixar." The next year it produced its first animated short, "Red's Dream." Although it looks primitive by today's standards, this short was nominated for an Academy Award, and won other awards in the computer animation world.
The Feature-Length Animated Film That Changed Everything
One film took Pixar from a research center only known in the CG community to a household name. This film was 1995's "Toy Story." "Toy Story" was the first feature-length film created completely with custom 3D computer graphics. It showed the world images that had never been seen before.
"Toy Story" was originally planned as a 30-minute Christmas special for television. Disney, which was licensed to handle Pixar's marketing and distribution, saw the film and realized its potential. Executives at Disney did the math and realize it would be a huge hit. They suggested to Pixar that it produce "Toy Story" as a full length, and they were happy to oblige. Disney was right; it was a box office smash.
Following "Toy Story," Pixar produced 10 more feature-length films completely made with custom 3D computer graphics. They've all been huge hits that are among the highest grossing films in history. "Toy Story 3" is the highest grossing animated feature film of all time. Each of these films was an innovation over the previous one. It's easy to see how Pixar is challenging the boundaries of CG to see what else can be done with the medium.
All of these films were distributed and marketed by Disney. In 2004, following disagreements over the sequel and story rights of "Toy Story 2," Pixar and Disney had a falling out. This led to the 2006 purchase of Pixar by Disney. Part of the deal was that Pixar would be allowed complete creative control over its productions, a rare privilege for people who work with Disney.
2010 saw the opening of a massive Pixar studio on downtown Vancouver. Experimentation and production continues, as Pixar develops new ways to use custom 3D computer graphics to create new visual effects the world has never seen before.
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