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


This page is a chance for authoritative sources to correct some facts in the text of Moving Innovation. While some are simple errors in the text, others provide some discussion on the interpretation of past events. The opinions are exclusively those of the writers and can be compared against the text as it now stands. There will be frequent updates and contributors are encouraged to send their suggestions to me at As I mentioned in my introduction, such discussion is what makes history the living art that it is.

Last submission Dec 27, 2013.


Chapter 1. Film and Television at the Dawn of the Digital Revolution

Page 5
Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thallberg, Adolphe Zukor, Carl Laemmele, Harry Cohn, Darryl Zanuck, Sam Goldwyn, Charles Fox, and Jack, Abe, and Harry Warner. They fled the festering tenements of eastern U.S. cities to move west …etc.
From Prof Mark Mayerson (Sheridan College): The founder of the Fox Film Corporation was William, not Charles, Fox.
Author's Note: Whoops! Mixed him up with Charles Fox, the English Whig Parliamentarian of the XVIII Century. My bad.
Mayerson: No ‘e’ at the end of Adolph Zukor’s first name. The four Warner Brothers were Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack. No Abe.

Page 7
Felix the Cat, who first appeared in a short in 1919, was the first animation character that did not originate in a printed comic strip.
From Prof Mark Mayerson:Felix the Cat was not the first original cartoon character. Bray’s Col. Heeza Liar never appeared in print before becoming an animated character in 1913.

Author's Note: Okay, I'll change it to first animated star, since Col Heeza Liar was never as popular as Felix.

Chapter 2. Analog Dreams: Bohemians, Beatniks, and the Whitneys

Page 12
…He (Goebbels) closed the Bauhaus, took over the Babelsburg film studio UFA, and caused many cinema celebrities, like Fritz Lang, Marlene Dietrich, and Max Reinhardt, to flee into exile…
From Mark Mayerson: Marlene Dietrich did not flee the Nazis. She came to the U.S. in 1930 to work for Paramount, before the Nazis took power. In this way, she was more like Ernst Lubitsch and F.W. Murnau who came from Germany in the 1920s for the opportunity to work in Hollywood than she was like Fritz Lang, who was fleeing. If you change Dietrich to Billy Wilder, the sentence works.

Author's Note: The Nazis did ask Marlene Dietrich to return to Germany and make films for the Reich, but she refused.

Page 15
…There were other European immigrants who worked out fine at the Walt Disney Studios: Swiss visual development artist Gustav Tennegren, Hungarian art director Jules Engel, and Italian background stylist Bianca Marjolie.
From Mark Mayerson: Gustav Tennegren was Swedish, not Swiss. Albert Hurter was the Swiss artist who worked for Disney. There is no ‘r’ in Bianca Majolie’s last name./indent]

Page 32
…basically a CADCAM (computer-assisted design camera)…
[indent]From Jim Blinn: The acronym CAD/CAM (usually written with the slash in the middle) stands for “Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing”

Chapter 3. Spook Work: The Government and the Military

Page 47
Former Caltech student Vibeke Sorensen
From Vibeke Sorensen: Just a little clarification about my time at Caltech. I wasn't formally a student but as a Visiting Associate in Computer Science for almost 10 years I could take classes. So in that sense, I was indeed a student.

Page 48
In 1982…great leap forward
From Jim Blinn: If this refers to the voyager flyby movies, the first one was produced in late 1978 and released to the public in early 1979.

Page 48
doing graduate work and UU under Ivan Sutherland
Jim Blinn: Ivan had left Utah just before I got there. I worked under Martin Newell.

Page 48
In 1980, at UU, he expanded…bump mapping
Jim Blinn: This was in 1977/78 and published in the Siggraph 78 conference. In 1980 I was at JPL.

Page 49
These were the probes that …quadrupled our knowledge
Jim Blinn: Minor point, but I would estimate that the Voyagers WAY more than quadrupled our knowledge

Page 49
especially if the spacecraft’s onboard cameras failed
Jim Blinn: I really didn’t think of the computer animations as a substitute for the real images

Page 49
beard that he let grow down to his belt
Jim Blinn: Wow, it was never anywhere near that long. Actually quite short (see photo on page 154 of the book, taken about that time).
Author's Note: Any student reading this who needs a cool idea for a research paper……

Page 49
reminded one more of Ted Kaczynski than Robert Oppenheimer
Jim Blinn: Now there’s a disturbing comparison.

Page 49
NASA was so impressed with the film that they quickly ordered a larger, more complete film in full color
Jim Blinn: The original Voyager 1 film was already complete and in color; no modifications were required. Now that they saw the value of it, they wanted one for Voyager 2 etc.

Page 49
then up through the vertical axis ring of Neptune
Jim Blinn: Uranus is the planet with the vertical ring
Author's Note: D’oh!

Page 49
From Alvy Ray Smith: Jim Blinn did not call in his friends, Alvy Ray Smith and David DiFrancesco. We [Alvy and David] found our way to Jim on our own, and were welcomed by him. Although it’s true that we “were cooling their [our] heels awaiting roles at George Lucas’s,” it was with Lucasfilm in general, not ILM in particular (of which we were never part).
Author’s Note: The Lucasfilm Graphics Group of which they were part of was not considered to be officially part of ILM, although they collaborated frequently

Page 50
images took weeks to return to earth
Jim Blinn: The voyager images took about 90 minutes to return to earth from Jupiter. They were shown live to the news media on monitors at JPL. Some image processing and analysis might have taken weeks.

Page 50
Smith’s handling of the camera
Jim Blinn: Alvy was not involved in the Voyager movies. (The camera position was actually determined by the flight path of the spacecraft. The aiming of the viewpoint was chosen by Charlie Kohlhase based on his knowledge of what was interesting to look at during the mission.) The quote from me was in reference to Alvy’s later Genesis sequence. I‘m not sure what I might have meant by “he got it [the camera] thinking like the satellite itself”

Alvy Ray Smith: I did not work on the Voyager flyby movies with Jim Blinn. The motions of the camera were all Jim’s design. The freedom of cameras to fly around unconstrained in 3-space was an old idea by this time in computer graphics.

Page 51
Lee was working with the NAS and…KCET
Jim Blinn: I don’t think NAS was involved, but I might be wrong.

Page 51
to bring Sagan’s bestselling book Cosmos…to television
Jim Blinn: The TV program was the original. The book came out after the programs were finished, documenting it.

Page 51
The ancient library was built and turned around by Blinn and his team
Jim Blinn: I was not involved in this scene at all. I believe it was a miniature filmed with a snorkel camera and Sagan was green-screened onto it; no computer graphics (as we think of it) at all. It was actually beyond the capabilities of computer graphics at the time.

Page 51
JPL tried to ease the burden…freelancing to …Calico
Jim Blinn: The various special effects were divided up between various special effects houses early on in the production. All the effects delegated to JPL were completed successfully, plus one (DNA replication) added on at the end of production. Several other effects contracted to other houses encountered some troubles but they had been given the contract from the start, not brought in later to relieve the JPL crew. There was one scene showing how constellations evolved over time that we at JPL were given and performed successfully; it was actually pretty simple. I don’t know anything about Calico and the last few sentences of page 51.

Page 52
Alvy Ray Smith: Smith and DiFranceso did not return to ILM. The plan was to put Ed into place there first then he would beckon us to Lucasfilm after he was in place. That’s what happened. In other words, we had never been at Lucasfilm (not ILM, of which we were not part) and therefore could not return to it. ( The author was using the term ILM to signify all of Lucasfilm holdings and subsidiaries in respect to film production. If that was incorrect, it was my error of understanding.)

Page 52
When his coworkers Smith and DiFrancesco got their summons to return to ILM,
Jim Blinn: Alvy and David came to JPL directly from NYIT so they didn’t really “return” to ILM (or actually LucasFilm) . They went there next after JPL.

Page 52
Blinn continued to … write books for JPL
Jim Blinn: I didn’t write any books, just some Siggraph papers and films

Chapter 4. Academia

Page 63
Once together, Evans & Sutherland drew to the University of Utah the best faculty appropriate to the study….of CG. People like Tom Stockholm, Hank Christiansen…
From Hank Christiansen: I graduated from Utah State University with a BS in Mathematics in 1957, and graduated from Stanford University with an MS in Engineering Mechanics (a division of Mechanical Engineering) in 1958. In 1962, I received a PhD from Stanford University, also in Engineering Mechanics. After six months as a 2nd Lt in the US Army, and a total of five years working in Aerospace, I accepted a position as an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brigham Young University in January 1965. I am now in my forty-ninth year of teaching at BYU.

When Dave Evans became Dept. Chair of Computer Science at the University of Utah and generated a large contract with ARPA, he funded several projects. One of those was with the School of Architecture. They needed someone to advise them on how to include structural analysis and design into their plans. So, I was recommended based upon my experience in developing structural analysis programs for NASA. Thus, Dave hired me in 1968 as a consultant. The Architectural School was in the "I wish we could . . ." phase (actually they never got out of that phase) and it was way to early for my input. So, Dave told me to get acquainted with the projects underway. I could see from the early pictures, that continuous tone shaded pictures using computer graphics was the answer to how to display finite element data and I began to work in that area.

One thing led to another and I began to get my own contracts (initially I was funded under the ARPA contract). Since I did not have a faculty position at the University of Utah, Dave always volunteered to be the responsible professor and I was hired as a consultant. This worked out extremely well as Dave never charged any of my contracts and consultants did not generate overhead charges. Anyway, I had a series of contracts sponsored by the Army, Navy, NASA and others which continued until 1978, when I stopped generating contracts at the University of Utah and concentrated on the development and distribution of MOVIE.BYU (which evolved from my computer programs at the University of Utah and distribution of the software had started in 1976) at Brigham Young University. I always thought the title "Consultant" was a bit much for my role at the University of Utah (when they were clearly the worlds best in computer graphics), so when pressed, I have used the term "Research Associate".

Page 63
in a lot behind the Merrill-Lynch building
Jim Blinn: It was the Merrill Engineering Building. I don’t think the investment company had anything to do with it.

Page 66
Ed Catmull…head of Walt Disney Studios
Jim Blinn: Ed is the head of Walt Disney Animation Studios, not the larger organization Walt Disney Studios

Page 66
Blinn, Gouraud and Phong seized on the idea of demonstrating their own ideas using the teapot
Jim Blinn: Gouraud and Phong were long gone from Utah before the teapot was digitized.

Page 67
Caltech…among their graduates…Vibeke Sorensen
Vibeke Sorensen: I had a position as Visiting Associate in Computer Science for 9 years. While there, I was allowed to take classes ("sit in"), do the homework, and get feedback from the professors. That is why I said I took (Richard) Feynman's last class, which I did. But I never graduated Caltech, because I was never enrolled formally as a matriculated student.

I was a student in Feynmann's class in terms of attending, doing the homework, and getting a response. I was allowed to attend the class. The Visiting Associate title is what in other places might be called an "artist in residence". It was difficult to figure out a title because I was doing a lot of things artists typically didn't do, like learn how to design and build circuits. I built the Three Ring Circuit for the Feynmann class. Today you have artists working with Arduino and doing physical computing, but back then it didn't exist and I wanted to do that. So in my position I was able to go to the class and meet with people to learn how to do it as part of my position as Visiting Associate. I had the title for almost 10 years, an office at Caltech, and was a member of the Caltech Computer Graphics Group, attended talks, worked collaboratively with people there, etc.

Chapter 5. Xerox PARC and Corporate Culture

Page 80
Alvy Ray Smith: I learned about Marvin Minsky while still at New Mexico State University. I was never a tenured professor at New York University, but an assistant, then associate professor. I wrote my Ph.D. thesis on cellular automata theory and self-reproducing machines at Stanford. At NYU I taught standard computer science courses. I did co-teach a seminar on cellular automata one term at UC Berkeley.

Page 87
Alvy Ray Smith: At Xerox PARC I alone created a piece called Vidbits, not Supervisions. It was accomplished on Dick Shoup’s SuperPaint system. I did not make the piece for a Los Angeles PBS program. Larry Elkind was at PARC, not in Connecticut. I developed BigPaint at NYIT alone.

This work [BigPaint] later evolved into the Pixar Image Computer, the RenderMan system, and Disney’s CAPS system, earning Smith an Oscar.
Alvy Ray Smith: The story is much more complex and involves many other people. I received two technical Academy Awards, but no Oscar, and neither for items in the list. Marc Levoy’s paint program at Cornell was definitely influenced by mine at NYIT, but Marc did his alone, in Don Greenberg’s laboratory at Cornell.

Chapter 6. Hackers

Page 97
"It wasn’t until 1989 that you could actually sell things there,"
Mark Mayerson: I think that might be wrong about not being able to sell things at Siggraph until 1989. I was there in 1984 and ’85 and there was a trade show where I saw technology like plotters for sale.

Page 98
Alvy Ray Smith: I appear on this page, just as the index indicates, but the index reference to “hackers” doesn’t make sense, as none are mentioned. Loren sent his resume (pictures only!) to me at JPL but wouldn’t talk to me until the Siggraph showing of his Vol Libre.
Authors Note: In the index the term hackers was meant to refer to the subject of the chapter heading, but I agree it is a weak association.

Chapter 7. Nolan Bushnell and the Games People Play

Page 117
…..truckloads of unwanted videocassettes…
[indent]Larry Loc: Atari buried video game cartridges in the desert not video cassettes

Page 118
Larry Loc: Nintendo not Sega was the forerunner of Playsation. Nintendo switched to a cartridge at the last minute leaving Sony hanging for the second time with a collaboration on a disk system. So that is why they came out with the Playstation. Sega Dreamcast was the forerunner of X-Box because Sega used Microsoft Active-X software.

Chapter 8. To Dream the Impossible Dream: The New York Institute of Technology, 1974–1986

Page 127
Mark Mayerson: Gerry Chiniquy’s first name is spelled with a ‘G’ not a ‘J.’

Page 128
Alvy Ray Smith: I jokingly called my Ford Torino “a Turin machine.” “Turino machine” misses the joke, which hinges, for half the joke, on the fact that Torino is English for Turin in Italian.
Authors Note: I heard Turino Machine to better get the pun on Computer Pioneer Alan Turing . My bad.

Page 129
Alvy Ray Smith: I don’t know for a fact that Martin Newell ever described me as a “hippie.” It doesn’t seem in keeping with his English reserve. (Author: anecdote from Ed Catmull). He did, however, pave the way for me to NYIT. Upon returning from his first visit with Ed Catmull there, he called me, per arrangement, and told me that we (David DiFrancesco and I) should get ourselves out there and check it out. The time is a bit compressed in the text as written. David and I went to New Jersey first, where David’s father lived. A blizzard blanketed New York in a foot of snow. We drove David’s father’s car across Manhattan (the next day), buried in snow, to NYIT on Long Island. We visited with Ed Catmull and Malcolm Blanchard who had been there a short while and then were ushered into a limo that took us all to one of Schure’s mansions, for lunch. We called Schure “Uncle Alex” because of the (strange) coincidence that he was an uncle of my housemate in California, no relation to David DiFrancesco.

Alvy Ray Smith: The estate where David Rockefeller’s helicopter landed, and where David and I lived, was not part of the Westbury campus. It was the McGrath estate, not the Wyndam House mansion (which I don’t recognize). The NYIT Computer Graphics Lab was in the former four-car (not six-car) garage of Gerry (not Kerry) House mansion, including the chauffeur’s quarters above it.
Authors note: Several sources incorrectly or not spell it as Kerry House.

Page 130
Alvy Ray Smith: I’ve never heard of Clyde in the Cockpit. Catmull and Smith never taught any courses at NYIT. The Computer Graphics Lab was independent of the school at NYIT.

Page 131
Alvy Ray Smith: The scan and paint system at NYIT was created by Garland Stern and was not an outgrowth of Paint and BigPaint. It did incorporate my Tint Fill program however.

Page 131
Alvy Ray Smith: Kerry House should be Gerry House (everywhere). The first 8-bit frame buffer cost $80,000 (1975 dollars) and the next five that Schure surprised us with cost $60,000 each.

Page 132
Alvy Ray Smith: Ed Catmull and I developed the alpha channel together.

Page 132
Alvy Ray Smith: I indeed learned to animate, before I went to Xerox PARC (which was before NYIT), from Preston Blair’s famous thin book, and from a small animation class taught by animator Steve Smith in the San Francisco Bay area.

Page 133
From Alvy Ray Smith: Jamie Davis certainly helped us but he didn’t teach us that inbetweens were nonlinearly placed. Some of the computer guys already understood (see note above). (Author's Note: Ed Catmull's version to me.) Alvy cont.:Jamie’s main contribution to us was not to be frightened of us. He was the first animator who wasn’t afraid we were going to take away his job. Another contribution he tried to make was to introduce Ed and me to his next boss, Ralph Bakshi. But when we showed up from New York in California for the meeting, Bakshi stood us up!

Page 133
(Paul) Xander was a traditional cartoon painter, doing a lot of TV animation, like the Filmation cartoon version of Star Trek. Now he would become one of the first traditional animators to retrain as a digital artist.
Alvy Ray Smith: Paul Xander was a background artist, not an animator.

Author's Note: Here I’m using the generic form of traditional animator for clarity, instead of the specific job classification of background painter.

[indent]Page 137
[indent]Alvy Ray Smith: The paragraph about Lucas and Coppola is mangled. Here’s the correct time sequence: Coppola’s representative called me at NYIT the day before Lucas’s representative called Ralph Guggenheim there. The group went to Lucasfilm, never seriously considering Coppola. Then while at Lucasfilm I attended a weekend retreat at Coppola’s San Francisco mansion. Lucas was not there. Francis Coppola tried to seduce me away from Lucas at this event. Coppola was definitely interested, but it was Lucas with whom we teamed up and remained loyal.

Page 138
Alvy Ray Smith: When Ed Catmull and I wrote the first letter to Lucasfilm, we indeed were afraid to do it on the NYIT computers because of the Jim Clark affair, so we went to an office supply store in Glen Cove and rented one of those old black typewriters with the levers that fly up at each stroke of a key. We composed the letter together off campus, at Ed’s house in Glen Cove, and I typed it since I’m the typist (and had learned on such a beast). So it’s Catmull and Smith’s letter. Ed and I took the first trip to Lucasfilm together. Ed took the second trip there alone. David and I left at the same time as Ed, but laundered ourselves through JPL first, on the way to Lucasfilm, being the arrangement we’d made with Ed. David and I did not help Blinn make the Voyager flyby movies. We worked on the Carl Sagan Cosmos series with Blinn.

Page 142
…the Bray-Hurd animation patents.
[indent]Mayerson: The Bray-Hurd animation patents ran out in the early 1930s. Patents are only good for 17 years. It doesn’t matter that Bray lived past 100, his life span had no effect on how long the patents lasted.

Chapter 9. Motion Picture Visual Effects and Tron

Page 152
They started with a Tectronics 4013 computer
[indent]Jim Blinn: It’s spelled “Tektronix” and it was a display terminal not a computer.

Italian model named Stella Star…
Jim Blinn: Stella Star was the character name, played by actress Caroline Munro. She was British.

Page 157
…GRASS… Just the rendering took a week on the supercomputer at the University.
Jim Blinn: GRASS was a real time system, driving a Vector General display which, as I recall, had 3d hardware transformations. It might have taken a week to set up the scene and film it, but the rendering was not the bottleneck.

Page 157
Lucas created…the Lucas Digital Lab (LDL, also called the Lucasfilm Graphics Group).
Jim Blinn & Alvy Ray Smith: It was called the Computer Division, never Lucas Digital Lab. The Computer Graphics Group was one part of the Computer Division. Ed Catmull was in charge of the whole Computer Division; Alvy Ray Smith was head of the Computer Graphics Group.

Jim Clark was never part of Lucasfilm. He was for a short time a member of the NYIT Computer Graphics Lab, before being fired by Alex Schure.

Page 158
Alvy Ray Smith: The story featuring my comment, “We told them, do you have any idea of what we can do with computer graphics?” is a bit garbled. I said this, not to ILM supervisors, but to the producers of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when they first showed me their idea for the Genesis Demo. When they said, “No,” I went away for a night and designed the Genesis Demo more or less as it appeared in the final film, and something we could actually do at that time. (There is a detailed paper describing the making of the Genesis Demo, written at the time it was made in 1982, on my website:, click on Special Effects for Star Trek II: The Genesis Demo, Instant Evolution with Computer Graphics.)

Page 159
Jim Blinn popped up from JPL to pitch in.
Jim Blinn: I was not involved in the Genesis sequence at all. This is a common misconception that has caused some understandable dismay from some of those who actually did work (really hard) on the sequence.

Page 159
I [Alvy] decided to utilize what I developed working out…on the voyager films
Jim Blinn: Alvy was “inspired by” rather than “worked on” the voyager films

Page 159
Alvy Ray Smith: I did not work on the Voyager flyby movies, but I was inspired by them when I designed the Genesis Demo for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Page 165
From Jerry Rees: Gary Kurtz sent me to meet with Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith and with the head of Magi to pitch my proposal for COPS, (Computer Oriented Production System). Not only years before CAPS, but even before the "Wild Things" test. In fact right after Gary flew me to meet with Phil Mittleman and pitch the system, Phil took it directly into Disney and Lasseter. I still have the letter Kurtz asked me to write to Phil (cc'd to Richard Taylor and Brad Bird) expressing our great disappointment that he had broken confidentiality with a system we were hoping to unveil for the first time on our dream animated feature "The Spirit". So, yes, I was envisioning and heavily pushing next-gen CGI technology behind the scenes with some major players. And it proved to be successful, even if I didn't get credit.

Chapter 10. Bob Abel, Whitney-Demos, and the Eighties: The Wild West of CG

Page 171
Adam Powers screened at SIGGRAPH ’81… Soon came …Cosmos….Voyager fly-by films.
Jim Blinn: The Voyager Jupiter films were released in 1979, Cosmos was shown on PBS in 1980, both before the Adam Powers film.

Page 176
…adapting military flight-simulator hardware from an Evans & Sutherland Picture Sytem II…
Jim Blinn: The PS2 was a general purpose 3D vector display system, used by architects, CAD/CAM, etc. It was not really used in military flight simulators. Incidentally, I gave Abel his first look at a PS2 during a demo I gave him at JPL. He bought his own right afterwards.

Page 182
… two VAX 1180s…
Jim Blinn: The correct model number would be VAX 11/780.

Page 185
From Dan Philips: Only one L in my family name.


They also did all the CG effects in the science fiction TV series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future..
Mark Mayerson:Omnibus did not do Captain Power. The L.A. office of Omnibus did a test to try and land the project, but lost it to a Toronto studio named Arcca. I know this because I quit Omnibus very shortly before the bankruptcy to work at Arcca on Captain Power.

Page 195 top
recalled later, "After the ceremony, and so many great Bob Abel stories, I was inspired to go back to my office and work. Tell me who else’s funeral would make you want to go do that?”
[indent]The unnamed source of the anecdote was Tracy Fullerton, chair of Interactive Studies at USC.

Chapter 11. Motion Capture: The Uncanny Hybrid

Page 201
The most direct ancestor of Motion Capture was the rotoscope technique.
[indent]Larry Loc: Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope in 1916 before they worked for J.R. Bray not 1917.
(Author: He began to develop it in 1915, but the patent reads 1917). And Bray did not let them go, he tried to take Koko in the courts and only ended up with the “Out of the Inkwell” name.
Mayerson: While the Fleischers invented the rotoscope, they did it before they were employed by Bray. See page 170 of the 1982 edition of Donald Crafton’s Before Mickey./indent]

Chapter 12. The Cartoon Animation Industry

Page 221
The producer of the Big World of Little Adam was Fred Ladd, not Fred Patten.

Page 227
…There they attended lectures by Jim Blinn and Charles Csuri.
For several years in the early ‘80’s I taught an introductory computer graphics course at Art Center College of Design with the assistance of Bob Schaff. We gave a special 4 to 6 week concentrated version of this course at ACCD to a group of Disney animators, one of whom was Tina Price. Charles Csuri was not a part of this program (but he might have interacted with the Disney people in some other way that I don’t know about.)

Page 236
…Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension (1996)…was the first 3D stereoscopic short undertaken since Friz Freleng’s Lumberjack Rabbit in 1953.
[indent]Jim Blinn: The Pixar short KnickKnack (1989) was done in stereo 3D.
Author: Okay, so I’ll change it to WB’s first stereoscopic short undertaken…

From Mark Mayerson: Lumber-Jack Rabbit (note spelling) was directed by Chuck Jones.

Chapter 13. Pixar

Page 242
Alvy Ray Smith: The correct title of the short piece is The Adventures of André & Wally B. (with an accent and an ampersand). Wally is a further tribute to My Dinner with Andre, which starred Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn. When John Lasseter added the bee character to the story of the android, then of course it had to be named Wally. (There is a detailed paper describing the making of this film, written at the time it was made in 1984, on my website: click on The Making of André & Wally B.)

Author's Note:Copy Editors seem to have a thing against ampersands.

Page 242
Alvy Ray Smith: The name of the machine we prototyped for Lucasfilm was the Pixar Image Computer, not Pixar Imaging Computer. The input/output to this machine was a laser film scanner and printer built by David DiFrancesco.

Page 242
On the Naming of Pixar
Alvy Ray Smith: I, having grown up in New Mexico surrounded by Spanish and speaking it (poorly), led off the discussion by suggesting that the name of the machine be like “laser,” a noun that looks like a Spanish verb (the Spanish infinitive always ends in –ir, –er, or –ar). David DiFrancesco and I were seriously investigating lasers at the time for Lucasfilm’s digital film printer, so the word was on my mind and I had pointed out this “Spanishness” to David previously. I suggested, to get started, “pixer,” to make pictures, to look like “laser.” This was pronounced Spanish style: pix-EHR. Loren Carpenter pointed out that “radar” had a very high-tech sound to it. I enthusiastically said –ar is also Spanish verb ending, so “pixar” (pix-AHR) works too! That was it. Nothing to do with Latin (which I don’t know) and everything to do with Spanish. Sounding more high tech rather than sounding better. It’s a fake Spanish verb for “to make pictures.” Later when the new startup company was looking for a name and in desperation (no two of us could agree on a name and we had to have one for the paperwork), I suggested we use the machine’s name for the company name. It was accepted unexcitedly!

Page 245
Alvy Ray Smith: The paragraph about my leaving Pixar is mangled. Here is the timeline. (Steve) Jobs and I had a major argument, where he went into full bully mode and I lost all trust in him. About a year later I had an idea for a startup company to spin out of Pixar, based on some work I’d done there of course. The main goal was to get Jobs out of my life, as I had by then satisfied the major life goal of making the first digital movie. It wasn’t yet accomplished, but was under way with Disney. Ed (Catmull) was finalizing the details, and (John) Lasseter had agreed that he could work with Disney (not a given).
Jobs agreed to my spinout for an agreed upon royalty per each copy of the software product my new company would sell. He tried to convince me to stay at Pixar, however, with Ed’s encouragement, but I didn’t want to stay with Jobs around. Then he tried to renege on the software deal, but Ed held his feet to the fire so that he couldn’t. Ed said to Steve (I paraphrase ), “We know the promise you made to Alvy, so if you break it none of us can ever trust you.” It worked. I financed the spinout company with startup money from Autodesk. When I went for second-round financing, I found I could obtain it only by renegotiating my deal with Jobs (who now owned all of Pixar) to get rid of the royalty deal in exchange for an equity position. After nasty negotiations, Jobs finally agreed, making Pixar (that is, Jobs) 10% owner of my company Altamira. In other words, he financed both my companies! It was during the Altamira refinance that I had the lung operations, so after I had left Pixar.

Page 251
Alvy Ray Smith: It wasn’t just paint systems behind my CAPS proposal to Disney. It was all the animation experience that we had gathered at NYIT and other places. I wrote the proposal, a very long (40-50 pages), dense one, and Ed signed off on it. Frank Wells handed the first Disney check of $1 million for Pixar to me under the Mickey Mouse tapestry at Burbank headquarters. That was the first of many millions the project brought us. Jobs was not involved in the running of Pixar at this time. He was Chairman of the Board. Ed and I ran the company. Lasseter didn’t run it either. He was with the small animation team trying to keep it alive. Pixar was a hardware company mostly during this time. Jobs was running NeXT, also a hardware company, an hour and a half away on the San Francisco peninsula.

Page 252
Steve Jobs Quote in the July 1991 Disney-Pixar deal press release
Alvy Ray Smith: Jobs mis-stated. He didn’t found the company. He financed it as its venture capitalist (see the founding documents on The goal of the company he financed was to make money selling hardware. Of course, there was always the real goal of making the first movie, but he never said that or signed up to it even. The first time that Jobs claimed he was a cofounder was in the red herring (prospectus) for the IPO of the company (for going public) in 1995, nine years after the founding. In the prospectus Jobs also claimed to have been CEO of Pixar since its founding, which was also not true.

Page 260
Jim Blinn & Alvy Ray Smith: Bill Reeves was never at NYIT. He and Tom Duff were fellow students at the University of Toronto, and Tom did come to NYIT, so perhaps that’s the confusion.

Chapter 14. The Conquest of Hollywood

Page 259
Larry Loc: Gertie the Dinosaur was released in 1914, not 1913



Appendix 1. Dramatis Personae

Page 279
Alvy Ray Smith: I did not teach at New Mexico State University. It was my undergraduate school, and I received an honorary doctorate from it. Besides New York University, I taught briefly at the University of California at Berkeley.

Appendix 2. Glossary

Appendix 3. Alphabet Soup: CG Acronyms and Abbreviations


Page 316
note 13 Pixar’s founding members were…
Alvy Ray Smith: There were two cofounders of Pixar, Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, in the sense that we conceived of the company, did the deal, signed all the documents, and hired the 38 other founding employees that we brought with us from Lucasfilm. Tony Apodaca, Tom Duff, Pat Hanrahan, and Darwyn Peachy were not among them. The full and correct list may be found on, which shows a page from the founding documents.



Page 353
Smith, Alvy-Ray
It states that on Page 59 there is a mention of Alvy Ray Smith , which in fact it does not contain.

An Addendum
Jim Blinn: In the field of computer animated human figures, the work of Barry Wessler at Utah (1973) is often overlooked. He did an animation of a full human with lip synch sound and demonstrating various different walk cycles to convey different emotions. The character design was a bit crude, but he did all this back when it was REALLY HARD just to get images on film at all.

Author's Note:If I am fortunate enough to get a second edition, I'd also like to get more in about Richard "Doc" Baily 1953-2006, called "The Jimi Hendrix of CGI".