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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Pixar Animation Studios is a computer animation studio, which was founded by George Lucas in 1979 as the Graphics Group (short for The Computer Graphics Group of the Lucasfilm Computer Division as its full, somewhat unwieldy, denomination was), occasionally also referred to as the Computer Graphics Project or Lucasfilm Graphics Group. At the time of its founding it comprised one third of the entire Computer Division of Lucasfilm Ltd. In 1981, the Graphics Group created the "Project Genesis" demonstration sequence, invariably referred to as the "Genesis Demo" by the production staff (American Cinematographer, October 1982, pp. 1038), seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and re-used in the subsequent two Star Trek films. It has the distinction of being the very first fully textured CGI effect featured in the motion picture industry, seen by the general public.

Some of the founding core staff, like Ed Catmull, were handpicked by Lucas himself, and all of them had backgrounds in the computer sciences. Lucas, according to the company's homepage, had set up the organization in order to develop a digital (nonlinear) film editing system, a digital sound editing system, a digital film printer, and further exploration of computer graphics. It was especially the latter aspect that drew in the computer scientists, but as one of the founding staffers, Alvy Ray Smith, discovered, "We thought he had hired us to do computer graphics because that's what we were really good at, but it was actually to build three machines.(...) George didn't know what he had." It wasn't until producer Robert Sallin came inquiring what could be done with a scripted scene, they referred to as the "Genesis Demo", that Smith knew this was the opportunity, he and his team had been waiting for. Sallin, as it turned out, had a far more modest effect in mind, that involved an aquarium with a rock turning into something living. Smith continued, "I said, "You guys know what you can and can't do with computer graphics?" And they said, "No." I said, "Well, I do, so let me go home overnight and think about this, and I'll come back with a proposal for something we can actually execute." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 5, p. 50) What Smith, who had worked for a short spell at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he had worked (with, among others, Rick Sternbach) on the real world Voyager flyby movies for NASA, came up with, together with Loren Carpenter, was the flyby scene. It was was quickly approved, and the team could get started on the sequence that was eventually featured, setting the company on its way to the fame and glory it has since then acquired.

Becoming PixarEdit

The Graphics Group became an independent company in 1986 with its purchase by former Apple Computers executive Steve Jobs. On this occasion the company was restructured and rechristened as "Pixar Animation Studios". After aligning with Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar became a prolific producer of highly successful computer-animated feature films, with such films as the Toy Story series, Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles (featuring music by Michael Giacchino), Ratatouille (also composed by Giacchino), and WALL-E amongst them. During its years working with Disney, Pixar also provided software support for the production of Star Trek: Insurrection. In 2006, Disney acquired full ownership over Pixar, but continues to treat it as a separate company.

The name "Pixar" was derived from the name given to a piece of equipment to speed up computing time, the Graphics Group was developing at the time of The Wrath of Khan. (American Cinematographer, October 1982, p. 1050) The name was a by Smith invented Spanish verb, supposedly meaning, "to make pictures". [1]

Genesis demonstration teamEdit

Part of the Graphics Group Genesis Demo team

Part of the Genesis Demo team; (L-R) Carpenter, Reeves, Catmull, Smith and Cook

The following staffers were responsible for the final visualization of the "Genesis Demo",

Further readingEdit

External links Edit

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