Can it really be only 15 years since Pixar first introduced us to Woody and Buzz Lightyear and the world of computer animation? The 1995 release of Toy Story didn’t seem revolutionary at the time. But its impact on not just animation but the movie industry as a whole continues to resonate. Pixar was a start-up and some people thought it was more of a stunt than a studio. But it became the most successful movie studio in history, with the average international gross over half a million dollars and 24 Oscars.
Pixar ultimately merged with Disney and now the Pixar folks are in charge of the premier animation facility. This week, they return to the characters that got them started with a third chapter, this time in 3D. One thing I’ll be watching for is the difference in what has become possible in computer animation. The reason the first movie was about toys was that they were simple, shiny, and plastic, without much movement. Since then, Pixar has developed an astonishingly vivid technology for presenting some of the biggest challenges for computer graphics like water, fur, and facial expressions. They now have 229 different facial movements they can tinker with to create what must be seen as animated performances. But they never lose sight of what matters most — the story and the characters. Wired has a great story this month about how “Toy Story 3” came together.
The other movie opening up this week is a fantasy western, Jonah Hex, starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox, based on the graphic novel.