Animation Magazine — 1989

Unbeknownst to me until several year later, my dad kept a copy of this in his car to show anyone he ever ran into.

Right after we completed knickknack, Animation Magazine did a story on the animation group at Pixar. We had just won the Oscar for Tin Toy so there was a lot of hype. Alas, we were not nominated. The Academy™ wanted to spread the love around I suppose. We weren’t too hurt — the film got a great reception at SIGGRAPH, there was a lot of very worthy competition that particular year, and I’ve had several people since tell me that it was their favorite of the four ‘early’ shorts (We called the master tape with those on it ‘LRTK‘ – short for “Luxo, Red’s (Dream), Tin (Toy), and knickknack). It really was a fun film. The whole group did everything — story, characters, animation, rendering, catering. That’s why the credits don’t specify any roles.

The image on the cover showed all of the animation group at that time plus a few ‘visitors’ (an intern from UCBerkeley and Tony Apodaca borrowed from the RenderMan group). I can promise you that these were some of the best people on earth to work with. There were 8 of us, including Deidre “the glue lady” — responsible for keeping the other 7 of us from falling apart. I think there are, like, 500-1,000 people that make the films now. Or maybe a million, I can’t remember.

Motley Crëw. I was younger then, and lived by the water.

Beth and I were married during the final rendering push before SIGGRAPH. A telegram requesting that I abstain from too much celebration arrived at the wedding, just in case they needed me to come back. Luckily, no.

Bobby McFerrin did the music. As the credits roll, he sings “blah blah blah blah blah…” That’s because, in the print that he improvised to, there were no credits, just the words “blah blah blah blah blah…”

By the way, if you’ve only ever seen the ‘Disneyfied’ version, than you’ll notice a subtle modeling difference between the swimmer / mermaid in the two versions. Also, every texture except the ‘mom’ skull that I drew is procedurally generated. RenderMan was just being made available for sale and we were showing off some of its features. We also made a stereoscopic version to show at SIGGRAPH that year. The SFMoMA showed Hitchcock’s Rope in 3D for the first time in ages. JL, Craig, and I drove down to watch it and took a lot of mental notes for making the 3D good-but-not-overbearing or gimmicky. 

There we are again. And that creepy frog.

We also rendered all of it on the RenderMan parallel processing cards, designed by Jeff Mock. We had these 16-Transputer Sun boards, ganged together in sets 64 processors. This was, remember, the late 1980’s. Bill Reeves’ partner did her doctoral dissertation on how to optimize the parallelization across all those things.

Finally, the skeleton is an ‘exaggeration’ derived from OSU CGRG’s George, which was created by Don Stredney and Jose Garabis. We used to make fun of the short arms of the CGRG model, so I sort of, well, fixed that.

Animation Magazine v3 n1, 1989