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Sun, 08 Dec 2019 13:13 GMT

The Evolution of Disney Pixar Animation

Media & Culture

Sariah Manning

Fri, 28 Jun 2019 16:54 GMT

Disney Pixar. Just the name alone probably brings to mind several great films but did you know it all started with one film back in 1995? “Toy Story” was released in 1995 and since then Pixar has evolved in more ways than one. The biggest change is that the Pixar company was purchased by The Walt Disney Company in 2006.

A new film by ‘Insider.com’ shows how Pixar animation has evolved since “Toy Story 1” in 1995. Back in the 1990s, computer animation looked gloriously terrible. Charming and creepy in turn, the robotic human that contemporary animators could summon up didn’t seem ready for prime time but that didn’t stop studios from going ahead with everything from CGI TV Shows to the full-length Pixar movie, “Toy Story”.

Now on its fourth in the series, almost 25 years since the first film’s release, computer animated films like the latest “Toy Story” are almost unrecognisable next to their more primitive, dead-eyed predecessors. The video from ‘Insider’ shows how we got here, following Pixar’s technological and stylistic evolution over the past 25 years.

The video isn’t centred on “Toy Story” alone. It mentions that Pixar has made 21 feature-length films since 1995 and, through that work, has gained valuable experience in animation techniques alongside the advances in technology that have made its movies’ greater visual fidelity possible.

An opening example mentions how the first “Toy Story” was constrained by factors such as how difficult it was to portray human characters. Just look at the evolution of Andy between Toy Story 1 and 2. Andy and the human characters become a lot smoother between movies. Over time, as Pixar worked on movies like “Monsters Inc.”, “The Incredibles”, “Finding Nemo”, and “Cars”, it figured out how to tackle not only this issue but also increase its understanding of complex animation ranging from making Sully’s fur realistic, managing light movement with Nemo’s underwater scenes and the metal surfaces of a bunch of talking automobiles.

Fast forward to 2016. “Finding Dory”, the long-awaited sequel to “Finding Nemo” is released. The leading character, Hank, the octopus, couldn’t be included in the original because when an octopus moves it flows. The tentacles unfurl rather. It took two years to create the Hank character alone.

In making “Ratatouille” a study of fur and water movement was undertaken to create the rat, Remy, and the Insider video shows how water could be made to move off fur when the rat was walking through rain.

In 2004, Pixar released "The Incredibles", a film about a family of superheroes attempting to hide their powers and live normal human lives. It was Pixar's first film with an all human cast and, as such, represented a whole host of new challenges. Animators had to create realistic looking hair and fabrics that could flow, ripple and even tear. They also had to create larger CGI sets than ever before. In short, the animation advances made in this film were nothing short of incredible.

Computing power increased over this time as well, allowing Pixar to match a greater understanding of how to model clothes, water, lighting, and human anatomy with the technology needed to present their experiments on video within a reasonable time.

By the time “Toy Story 4” came around, Pixar, as the Insider video puts it, starts to look like it’s using a return to the series as an excuse to, “try to do a lot of things the original can’t.” The narrator explains how good both the stuffed and real animals in “Toy Story “look, thanks to everything the studio learned with movies like “Monsters Inc.” and, in another example, how Bo Peep resembles an actual doll after years of mastering lighting surfaces.


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