Ed Catmull

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If there’s any outfit that celebrates the team sport aspect of filmmaking, it’s Pixar. What began as the Graphics Group at LucasFilm has evolved into its own behemoth of wonder and magic. Not just pioneers of technology, they’ve sought to invent in order to put stories out into the world – using computer animation for the ancient purpose of spinning tales and crafting characters. Led by Ed Catmull, the production house (which was bought by Disney in 2006) boasts luminaries like John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich and many more. There newest film, Brave, is in theaters this week, so here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from RenderMan and company.

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What is Movie News After Dark? For tonight, it’s simply a movie news column working on a very, very slow news day. So it has opted for fun instead of informative. It’s betting you won’t mind. We begin tonight with the thought of big, badass robots killing the whole of humanity in Robopocalypse, a film that director Steven Spielberg will now direct for July 3, 2013. Fox and Dreamworks were announced as the studios putting up the money today, which means that Daniel H. Wilson’s excellent book will finally get some big screen love. If done right, it could be massive.

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In 1985, the Graphics Group in LucasFilm‘s Computer Division was on the chopping block. As Robert Sutton relates, George Lucas wasn’t confident that computer animated films had much of a future, and as a result, department heads Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith (two pioneers of extreme importance) were being pressured to fire some of their workers. Instead, they offered up their own names to be culled, which saved the entire division. At least for that moment. It’s unclear what fate might have fallen on the Graphics Group had the Computer Division not been purchased in 1986 by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs for a tidy $5m. Of course, we know this department by another name: Pixar. Jobs put his money down on a company he believed in, and the result stands currently as 26 Academy Awards, an absurd amount of box office money, a legion of fans worldwide and nearly complete animation dominance in the movie world. In 2006, Disney bought Pixar at an evaluated worth of $7.4b, making Jobs the largest Disney shareholder. He is stepping down as Apple’s CEO today, and even though it’s hard to say what kind of effect that might have on the film world, Jobs’s legacy already extends far beyond Pixar and beyond The Mouse.

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A few years ago, Disney announced that it would no longer be doing 2D animation. We’re lucky they changed their minds.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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