CGI Brief History

Industry History 1960

Lots of the first computer graphics were stylised images. The reason for this was that it concealed lack of resolution and detail. They were created upon lines and simple strong images. Lots of the first computer games made used vector images, one of the first games was asteriods.  


Charles Csuri was a pioneer in this era. He experimented with computer graphics technology in 1964 and in 1965 he created some of the first computer animated films. Another wel known figure in the 60’s was John Whitney SR. He first got noticed for his work at the International Experimental Film Competition in Belgium 1949. He studied sound sine waves and music with graphics. 


Hand and Face animation improvements… Gerry Anderson played a big roll in the first animations with puppets. He worked with these for years, an example is Captian Scarlet. In 2005 a CGI version of catpain scarlet debuted and Anderson worked on the animation and CGI effects with the team. This was a totally different approach of animation compared to his earlier work and was a big improvement.


The first use of 3D CGI in movies was in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. This was the start of something new that continous to improve today. They used 2D digital compositing to materialize characters over a background.



CGI was now being used with shading. It was created by III (Information International Inc). A film that featured this was ‘Looker’.

In 1982 ‘Tron’ was the longest film to feature CGI most of the way through it. As well as III, Magi Synthavison, Digital Effects of New York and Robert Abel were involved in its creation, but John Whitney Junior had left III by this time.


After this the next big hit for CGI effects was Star Trek II Wrath of Khan. ILM computer graphics division develops ‘Genesis effect’



Robert Abel created the first Computer Generated advert called ‘Brilliance’ but also known as ‘Sexy Robot’.



This is when 3D studio max was made… This allowed users to generate 3D characters and use various textures on them. ‘Terminator 2 Judgement Day’ (1991) used this on Arnolds face and with the liquid character. 


Another big CGI hit was ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993). They used CGI to create scenes with the dinsors flying round and the T-rex causing destruction. 



DreamWorks SKG was founded, they started to hit screens with titles like ‘Toy Story’ and also made 3d games like Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario 64’.


In 1998 ‘Maya’ was created, then in 99 ‘Toy Story 2’ was released. 

Disney and Pixar now joined forces. In 1970 disney created Disney Visual Effects lab, in 1990 they changed it to Buena Vista Visual Effects and then changed it again in 1996 to Buena Vista Imaging. Once disney and pixar joined they could start to create long feature films like ‘A Bug’s Life’ and ‘Monsters Inc’. Pixar was once part of Lucas Arts which was the group that was involved in the first effects in ‘Star Wars A New Hope’. Other feature length films that disney and pixar teamed up to make were ‘Finding Nemo’ 2003, ‘The Incredibles’ (2004), ‘Cars’ (2006) and ‘Ratatouille’ (2007).


Another major player in the animation scene is Dreamworks. They Formed Dreamwroks SKG in 1997 but before them there was a group called Pacific Data Images and they were responsible for the CGI in Terminator 2. In 1998 they worked together to create their first feature film ‘Antz’. In 2000 PDI and Dreamworks joined to make Dreamworks Animatoin and then started to make feature length films like ‘Shrek’ in 2001. In 2004 they started Dreamworks Animation SKG and started to make films like Shrek 2 (2004), Shark Tale (2004), Madagascar (2005), Over the Hedge (2006), Shrek the Third (2007) and Bee Movie (2007). Just like disney distribute pixar’s films, paramount distribute dreamworks films.



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