Who Invented 3D Animation?


There is no one person responsible for the creation of 3-D animation. Instead, it is the result of a culmination of various innovators and technological advancements.

Advent of Computer Art

  • Early computer graphics were clunky and difficult to produce. Users had to create their computer art by inputting complicated mathematical equations and coordinates. Ivan Sutherland's creation of the Sketchpad software in 1961 caused computer graphics to take off. His program allowed users to use a light pen to actually draw images for a computer to replicate. This software became the inspiration for much of the computer graphics software used today.

World Goes Digital

  • When Thomas Knoll created and released Adobe Photoshop in 1988, he meant it to be a simple image editing program. By the early nineties, many magazines, advertising agencies and film studios were using Photoshop and its sister program Illustrator to create their mass market images.

Disney Goes Digital

  • Disney Feature Animation ruled the 2-D animation world since the late 1930s, and was stronger than ever during the eighties. During what was known as the Disney Renaissance, animators searched for new ways to make their movies stand out. They began animating more detailed elements, like the ballroom during the dancing scene in "Beauty and the Beast" and the carpet in "Aladdin," using 2-D computer animation software.

Entire Digital Movies

  • Executives at Disney searched for cost- and time-cutting techniques to turn out more of their highly lucrative films per year. A company known as the Graphics Group introduced a computer system that allowed animators to automate the laborious ink and coloring parts of the process. With the release of "Pocahantas" in 1995, Disney became the first animation studio to use this computer process for an entire film.


  • John Lasseter, an employee at the Graphics Group, created 3-D short animation films to help sell their products. These short films gained so much attention that Disney and the Graphics Group (renamed Pixar) teamed up to release "Toy Story" in 1995. The film was a success and proved to cost less and take less time than producing 2-D animated films. Pixar's subsequent film releases, and those of other animation studios, proved that 3-D would be the future of animation.

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  • Visualization Quest: A History of Computer Animation, Auzenne, 1994
  • Pixar
  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of hobvias sudoneighm
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