Twenty three years ago, fledgling studio Pixar took a giant leap for animation by creating some tiny baby steps.
Now the top name in cutting edge animation, Pixar wasn't always so prominent and beloved. The studio was originally George Lucas' in-house special effects group, went independent and focused on hardware sales, and then, following their purchase by a certain Steve Jobs, finally began fully concentrating on bringing computer animation to life, determined to change the way the art is created and viewed.
The studio released its first independent short film in 1986, "Luxo Jr.," which followed the Lucasfilm-era release of "Andre and Wally B.," on which John Lasseter, the legendary Pixar animator/director/producer, made his CGI debut. "Luxo Jr." earned the studio an unexpected Academy Award nomination for Best Short Film, heralding, quietly, the coming animation revolution.
Then came "Red's Dream," the story of a lonely unicycle, in 1987. Following that was "Tin Toy," a truly groundbreaking short that, for the first time, animated bendable human arms and knees in 3D CGI. It tells the story of a loyal toy willing to sacrifice itself for a child, and getting jealous when it seems to have been replaced.
Hmm, sound like another, longer film Pixar produced at some point?
For its innovation and beauty, the film took home the Oscar for Best Animated Short, beginning an epic run that, thus far, has netted the studio 26 Oscar wins. During a week in which Pixar releases their 12th full length feature in "Cars 2," and teases their next, the female hero-driven "Brave," it's worthwhile to take a look back at those early films which began the new chapter in animation. They are, of course, much rougher in style, but the innovation is obvious.