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Old Pixar Footage Discovered: First Appearance of 3D Computer Animation

Newly found lost Pixar footage shows the origins of the computer animation studio. The discovered footage doesn’t feature any cute robots or toy cowboys. Instead it shows some of the first film experiments in 3D computer-based animation – experiments that would help launch the the world’s foremost computer animation studio, Pixar.

The seeds of computer 3D animation. The footage was incorporated into the 1976 film Futureworld, which was the first movie to use 3D computer animation.

The experimental archival footage dates back nearly 40 years ago to 1972, when Univ. of Utah grad student Ed Catmull (who now oversees Pixar’s and Walt Disney’s Animation Studios) and a partner filmed a few basic examples of 3D computer animation. The clips show a 3D hand, face and working heart, all mapped with polygons.

Pixar Presents
Pixar has dominated the box office during the last two decades. A quick list of Pixar’s successes includes modern classics such as the entire Toy Story trilogy (1995, 1999, 2010), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008) and Up (2009). Pixar’s films have earned more than $6.3 billion worldwide, and the studio’s average feature makes $602 million. Toy Story 3, on the other hand, is now considered the highest-grossing animated film of all time, grossing more than $1 billion.

Pixar’s films have received critical acclaim as well. The studio has won 26 Oscars, including six Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature. Two of its animated features (Toy Story 3 and Up) were considered so good that they even transcended the Animation category and were nominated for Best Picture.

Up won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and was even nominated for Best Picture.

Before those masterworks started appearing on the animation landscape, Pixar was first represented by three short computer-animated films that were produced in the early 1990s. Back then, the closest thing to a “star” that Pixar had was Luxo, an animated desk lamp that showed more personality than many animated creatures of the day, despite Luxo’s lack of facial features.

These early “shorts” were a revelation to animation fans of the day, and pointed the way to today’s 3D animation. The look of the animation was perfectly clean, the backgrounds were richly detailed, and by then, Pixar had mastered its system of interpolation, so character motion was energetic but smoothly rendered.

3D Animation Origins
The newly posted video predates Luxo by a good two decades, and looks as primitive as Walt Disney’s early animation experiments. Shot in a grainy black and white, the video shows several examples of polygon-based 3D animation, each containing a few movements and motions to give a hint of what could be achieved.

The first clip shows a plaster hand which has been mapped with polygons. Then we see the hand rotate. Other clips show 3D faces, as well as the simulated workings of a heart valve. The clip contains no narrative audio—just a jazzy rendition of the classic song “Stardust,” and the video image (which started out on primitive 8mm film) shows it age and the original medium. Nonetheless, this brief film is a historic document that capably predicted the coming tidal wave of 3D computer animation.

Pixar’s first starring “character” was Luxo. The lamp is incorporated into Pixar’s logo.

Pixar has been turning out blockbusters for years, but how do they do it? How do they manage to make every film a hit? When the people of Pixar sit down to plan their next film, it’s an incredibly creative process that involves numerous steps. Pixar’s process includes brainstorming, developing a script and then actually shooting the action. If you’re interested in making the next Toy Story, start learning 3D animation skills now…because the future is computer-animated.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Art & Animation,News Blog and have No Comments

Comic Developments: DC Destroys Universe, Goes Digital; Marvel’s Thor Hammers Box Office

These days there are plenty of people who can tell you with certainty when the world will end. DC Comics is going one better: It’s telling residents of the comics world who ask the question, “When will the DC Universe end?” exactly when to expect it – Wednesday, August 31st. Not only that, but DC has also revealed that the DC Universe will effectively re-set all its comic lines and begin anew the very next day – Thursday, September 1st.

There will be Justice for all…of the DC Universe, when the upcoming historic relaunch of its entire catalog takes place. Marvel? Been there. Done that.

DC Destroys Universe, Restarts Universe
When that happens, DC’s entire line of 52 superhero-themed comic books will all start over. Comic book characters like Superman and Batman will suddenly find themselves in new first issues, after more than seven decades of appearing in sequentially numbered issues. Each title will begin again from Issue #1 forward. All of your DC favorites will remain in place (no layoffs are expected at this time), although its been rumored the superheroes will be outfitted in different costumes and gear. Fans are lukewarm about the announcement. Marvel Comics did the same thing a few years back and then went back to pick up where they left off. Will DC’s decision to reboot the franchises pay off? The jury’s still out.

Another huge new DC development involves the way the comic books are distributed. Coinciding with the August/September reboot, DC’s entire comic book line will be available digitally on the day of each issue’s retail launch. In other DC-related news, filming is moving forward on the next installment of director Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” series, “The Dark Knight Rises,” with Christian Bale again reprising his role as the caped crusader.

Meanwhile, “Thor” puts the hammer down…at the box office.

Box Office God of Thunder
Superheroes are presently ruling pop culture. Hot off the success of “Iron Man 2,” over at Marvel Comics, movies are also the order of the day. “Thor,” directed by versatile actor/director, Kenneth Branagh, brought down the hammer on the box office, earning an estimated $163 million domestically (and a whopping $254 million internationally) – in just 26 days of release. Next up, Marvel Studios “X-Men: First Class.” Expectations are already running high for “First Class.” Many who have attended advance screenings have called it the best film in the entire X-Men series.

Fans are extremely excited about this next X-Men film, calling it a return to classic comic book storytelling. But by doing a prequel story, it also helps to refresh characters that have been overexposed. The new take on X-Men is a surprisingly successful movie sequel formula and one that will be repeated when Sony reboots the Spider-Man franchise next year.

The Muppet Mutants. Fan art like this has helped propel “X-Men: First Class” to the head of the class.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” will follow “X-Men: First Class” and introduce the leader of “The Avengers,” a Marvel Studios film releasing in 2012 starring “Thor’”s Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man), Samuel Jackson (as Nick Fury) and Mark Ruffalo (as Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk).

Comic books have been intersecting with pop culture for years, more recently dominating TV, music, and specifically, movies. Today’s most cutting-edge blockbuster films and TV shows (“The Green Lantern,” “Smallville,” “The Walking Dead”) had their start in comic books, or graphic novels. Even video games are often based on comic book characters and their exploits.

Creating Your Own Comics
Today comics earn real respect and are a thriving part of the world of visual arts. If you want to work in the exciting world of comics, why not spend a week this summer and learn how to make comic books? Summer camps like Digital Media Academy offer an interactive summer camp experience for creative 6 to 12-year-old youngsters who love comic books and cartoons.

Adventures in Comic Creation is one of Digital Media Academy’s most popular programs. The week-long camp lets students create the comic book of their dreams, and the companion course, Adventures in Cartoon Creation lets students create their own drawings and then bring them to life as animated cartoons on the computer. Both programs foster creativity and can lead students on a path of discovery that ends in a career in the digital arts industry. Let your imagination run wild this summer at DMA.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Comic and Cartoon Creation,News Blog and have No Comments