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Pioneering Moments Series: How 3D Modeling Met Disney

Michelle Ross

Great love stories often begin with a meet-cute. Our beloved characters, Disney and 3D Modeling, grew up in different towns, led unconventional adolescences, began dating in the 90s, married in 2006, and had many children since. But, how did this great love story begin? Follow along as we embark on a little creative storytelling in the spirit of Disney magic.

3D Modeling was born in the 60s to the “Father of Computer Graphics,” Ivan Sutherland. 3D Modeling had some awkward first years, but really discovered itself in 1972 when it received its own ‘hands’ with a little help from a friend. Cue Ed Catmull, the future cofounder of Pixar. With Fred Parke, he created the world’s first 3D computer animation: “A Computer Animated Hand.”

George Lucas, who we all know for spawning Star Wars, noticed this bright and vibrant young thing, and took 3D Modeling under his wing. He hired Ed Catmull and said do this for my movies, thanks. Under Catmull’s creative direction, the “Genesis Effect” in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan became the first fully computer-animated sequence in a movie. 

Of course, like any teenager, 3D Modeling wanted to break out onto its own. Cue cool kid John Lasseter who encouraged this rebellious behavior. 3D Modeling proved it could handle independence with its first short film, “The Adventures of André & Wally B.”

George Lucas said okay, okay, be free little one, and 3D Modeling said okay, bye. Fortunately, 3D Modeling and its two best friends, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, made another friend, a very rich friend, Steve Jobs. They called their club Pixar. The club picked up some odd jobs around the neighborhood doing commercials to get their foot in the door.

Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, and John Lasseter. Courtesy of  Business Insider.

One day while out on the job, 3D Modeling was just basking in the sun during a lunch break when it saw Disney walking down the sidewalk. It was love at first sight. However, it was young love. The old folks pinned the young love as innocent, dramatic, and short-lived, so the young lovers set out cautiously to prove them wrong. With Pixar, the couple shook the world by creating the first ever computer animated movie, Toy Story. Several films later, proving their compatibility, Disney proposed to 3D Modeling in 2006 after a wild ride with Cars. It was romantic, but as love experts said, it’s not passion that sustains love, but dedication. 

Since swapping vows, Disney and 3D Modeling created a family of their own, including some pretty precocious VR and AR projects. From Disney Research Studios, check out their AR and VR projects here. Thank you for listening to our romantic, dramatic retelling of 3D Modeling and Disney’s love story. For a more serious history, check out our infographic below.


1) UFO 3D: History of 3D Modeling 

2) Pixar: Our Story

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