John Lasseter: Pixar creative, computer animation pioneer, Mac user

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
By OP Editor

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The following 2 pages are a summary of portions of the excellent book: The Second Coming of Steve Jobs [amazon]

On Pixar + Short Films

Original Pixar consists of group of technology nomads. They were computer graphics visionaries, many had been working together since the 1970s, one of them was Ed Catmull. Due to lack of commercial success, the group bounced from multi-millionaire to multi-millionaire, including six years of ownership under George Lucas Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic.

But the perfect storm happened under ownership of Steve Jobs and creative direction of John Lasseter.

The group that became pixar has a long history. The computer graphics visionaries had been working on their technology for close to 25 years, as part of New York Institute of Technology, part of Lucas film. They were almost bought by Ross Perot. The group was purchased in 1986 by Steve Jobs, shortly after he was ousted from Apple Computer.

John Lasseter originally worked for Disney, but was disenchanted by the decline of animation at Disney. Animators were still drawing characters frame by frame by hand even in the 1980s. So John Lasseter joined what is now known as Pixar in 1985.

John began to make short animated films to show the group’s capabilities and proved to be a master at telling stories.

Adventures of Wally and Andre B

While it was still part of Lucas film, Lasseter produced Adventures of Wally and Andre B. In the film, they made complex mathematical equalizations that randomized individual leaves in a tree in a forest, so the details look realistic and beautiful. That kind of detail was impossible for a human hand to draw.

Luxo Jr.

The next film by John Lasseter, first short animated film as Pixar, is the famous Luxo Jr. with Luxo lamps as characters.

To make the film in time for Siggraph, the annual convention of the industry, John Lasseter slept under his desk at night. John even designed the Pixar logo, Pixar booth, and promotional T-shirts.

Luxo Jr. was a hit. John’s characters had personality, and his film had a story! It is art, with emotional impact.

Everyone else at Siggraph were showing demo tapes of special effects and their “technical breakthroughs.” John’s film impressed both computer scientists and the film industry.

However, at that time, goal of Pixar was selling computers, not making movies. But they weren’t selling that many computers. The company was a technical and artistic triumph, but it was a financial disaster.

Tin Toy

Steve Jobs almost shut down John Lasseter’s group in 1988, but John convinced Steve to keep the animation group with the short film Tin Toy:

Tin Toy won an Oscar for best animated short film of 1988. Realistic human 3d models are very difficult to make. At the time this is a huge break through.

John Lasseter made many more Pixar short films, but the above three shows how advanced the technology was at Pixar.

Continues on next page…

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Tags: Apple, Art, Industry Pioneer, Inspiration, Mac, Movie, Pixar, Video

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