A History of Computer Animation

     Author: Tom Sito

     Publisher: The MIT Press
     Published: April 2012

     ISBN-10: 0-262-01909-4
     ISBN-13: 978-0-262-01909-5

     The MIT Press

Computer graphics (or CG) has changed the way we experience the art of moving images. Computer graphics is the difference between Steamboat Willie and Buzz Lightyear, between ping pong and PONG. It began in 1963 when an MIT graduate student named Ivan Sutherland created the first true computer animation program. Instead of presenting a series of numbers, Sutherland's Sketchpad program drew lines that created recognizable images. Sutherland noted: "Since motion can be put into Sketchpad drawings, it might be exciting to try making cartoons." This book, the first full-length history of CG, shows us how Sutherland's seemingly offhand idea grew into a multibillion dollar industry.

In Moving Innovation, Tom Sito—himself an animator and industry insider for more than thirty years—describes the evolution of CG. The history of traditional cinema technology is a fairly straight path from Lumière to MGM. Writing the history of CG, Sito maps simultaneous accomplishments in multiple locales—academia, the military-industrial complex, movie special effects, video games, experimental film, corporate research, and commercial animation. His story features a memorable cast of characters—math nerds, avant-garde artists, cold warriors, hippies, video game enthusiasts, and studio executives: disparate types united by a common vision. Computer animation did not begin just with Pixar; Sito shows us how fifty years of work by this motley crew made movies like Toy Story and Avatar possible.


"I can't think of a better guide to the vast history of computer animation than Tom Sito. He witnessed much of this story first-hand, then set about researching the rest with clear-eyed interest and unbridled curiosity. He has done a great service for anyone interested in this still-evolving medium—and for posterity."
     -- Leonard Maltin, film historian, author of Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons

"Moving Innovation is the most complete, organized, and readable account of the formation of the CG industry I have seen. As an educator, I can easily see this text assigned as required reading for animation and film students. Tom Sito’s writing is very conversational and straightforward, and this book will be of great interest to anyone in or studying the field of CG."
     -- Peter Weishar, Dean of Entertainment Arts, Savannah College of Art and Design

"Moving Innovation helps us to discover the history of computer animation, from pioneers of experimental animation to inventors, artists, animators, engineers, and technicians who revolutionized the cinema. With his passion, enthusiasm, and encyclopedic knowledge, Tom Sito makes this exciting journey essential to our understanding of this technical and artistic revolution."
     -- Pierre Lambert, historian of animation