Edwin Catmull

Edwin Earl Catmull (born March 31, 1945) is an American computer scientist and former president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.[3][4][5] As a computer scientist, Catmull has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics.[6][7]

Edwin Catmull
VES Awards 89 cropped
Catmull in 2010
Edwin Earl Catmull

March 31, 1945 (age 73)
Alma materUniversity of Utah (Ph.D. Computer Science; B.S. Physics and Computer Science)
Known for
Spouse(s)Susan Anderson Catmull
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
ThesisA Subdivision Algorithm for Computer Display of Curved Surfaces (1974)
Doctoral advisorRobert E. Stephenson[2]

Early life

Edwin Catmull was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia.[8] His family later moved to Utah, where Catmull's father first served as principal of Granite High School, then Taylorsville High School.[9] Raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Catmull was the oldest of five and as a young man served as a missionary to the New York City area in the 1960s.[10] Early in life, Catmull found inspiration in Disney movies such as Peter Pan and Pinocchio and dreamed of becoming a feature film animator. He even made animation using flip-books. However, he assessed his chances realistically and decided that his talents lay elsewhere. Instead of pursuing a career in the movie industry, he used his talent in math and studied physics and computer science at the University of Utah.[2] After graduating, he worked as a computer programmer at The Boeing Company in Seattle for a short period of time and also at the New York Institute of Technology, before returning to Utah to go to graduate school in fall of 1970.

Back at the university, he became one of Ivan Sutherland's students and part of the university's ARPA program,[11] sharing classes with Fred Parke, James H. Clark, John Warnock and Alan Kay. Catmull saw Sutherland's computer drawing program Sketchpad and the new field of computer graphics in general as a major fundament in the future of animation, combining his love for both technology and animation, and decided to be a part of the revolution from the beginning. From that point, his main goal and ambition was to make a computer-animated movie.[12] During his time there, he made two new fundamental computer-graphics discoveries: texture mapping, and bicubic patches; and invented algorithms for spatial anti-aliasing and refining subdivision surfaces. He also independently discovered Z-buffering, even though it had already been described 8 months before by Wolfgang Straßer in his PhD thesis.[13] In 1972, Catmull made his earliest contribution to the film industry: an animated version of his left hand which was eventually picked up by a Hollywood producer and incorporated in the 1976 movie Futureworld, the science-fiction sequel to the film Westworld and the first film to use 3D computer graphics. The sequence, known simply as A Computer Animated Hand,[14] was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in December 2011.[15]


Early career

In 1974, Catmull earned his doctorate in computer science and was hired by a company called Applicon. However, by November the same year he had been contacted by the founder of New York Institute of Technology, Alexander Schure, who offered him the position as the director of the new Computer Graphics Lab at NYIT.

In his new position, Catmull formed a talented research group working with 2D animation, mostly focusing on tools that could assist the animators in their work. Among the inventions was a paint program simply called Paint which could be seen as an early version of Disney's CAPS, the commercial animation program Tween (used in the video called Measure for Measure), inspired by an experimental computer animation system created by Nestor Burtnyk and Marcelli Wein, that automated the process of producing in-between frames, the animation program SoftCel and other software.

Catmull and his team eventually left 2D animation and started to concentrate on 3D computer graphics, moving into the field of motion picture production. By the end of the 1970s, the Computer Graphics Lab was starting to struggle for several reasons and felt there was a lack of actual progress despite the technological development, but their efforts had attracted the attention of George Lucas at Lucasfilm and Francis Ford Coppola, who were big names in Hollywood.


Lucas approached Catmull in 1979 and asked him to head up a group to bring computer graphics, video editing, and digital audio into the entertainment field. Lucas had already made a deal with a computer company called Triple-I, and asked them to create a digital model of an X-wing fighter from Star Wars, which they did. In 1979 Catmull became the Vice President at the seminal Industrial Light & Magic computer graphics division at Lucasfilm.[16] At Lucasfilm, he helped develop digital image compositing technology used to combine multiple images in a convincing way.


In 1986, Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm's digital division and founded Pixar, where Catmull became the Chief Technical Officer. At Pixar, he was a key developer of the RenderMan rendering system used in films such as Toy Story (1995) and Finding Nemo (2003).

After Disney acquired Pixar in January 2006, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger put Catmull and John Lasseter in charge of reinvigorating the Disney animation studios. According to a Los Angeles Times article,[17] part of this effort was to allow directors more creative control as collaborators on their projects and to give them the creative freedom to use traditional animation techniques—a reversal of former CEO Michael Eisner's decision that Disney would do only digital animation, which Catmull thought was the wrong idea of how Pixar's films did well.

In June 2007, Catmull and Lasseter were given control of Disneytoon Studios, a division of Disney Animation housed in a separate facility in Glendale. As president and chief creative officer, respectively, they have supervised three separate studios for Disney, each with its own production pipeline: Pixar, Disney Animation, and Disneytoon. While Disney Animation and Disneytoon are located in the Los Angeles area, Pixar is located over 350 miles (563 kilometers) northwest in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Catmull and Lasseter both live. Accordingly, they appointed a general manager for each studio to handle day-to-day affairs on their behalf, then began regularly commuting each week to both Pixar and Disney Animation and spending at least two days per week (usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays) at Disney Animation.[18] In November 2014, the general managers of Disney Animation and Pixar were both promoted to president, but both continued to report to Catmull, who retained the title of president of Walt Disney and Pixar.[19] On Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018, Catmull announced his plans to retire from Pixar and Disney Animation, staying on as an adviser through July 2019.[20]

Awards and honors

In 1993, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Catmull with his first Academy Scientific and Technical Award "for the development of PhotoRealistic RenderMan software which produces images used in motion pictures from 3D computer descriptions of shape and appearance". He shared this award with Tom Porter. In 1995, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. Again in 1996, he received an Academy Scientific and Technical Award "for pioneering inventions in Digital Image Compositing".[21] In 2001, he received an Oscar "for significant advancements to the field of motion picture rendering as exemplified in Pixar's RenderMan". In 2006, he was awarded with the IEEE John von Neumann Medal for pioneering contributions to the field of computer graphics in modeling, animation and rendering. At the 81st Academy Awards (2008, presented in February 2009), Catmull was awarded with the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, which honors "an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry".

In 2013, the Computer History Museum named him a Museum Fellow "for his pioneering work in computer graphics, animation and filmmaking".[22]

His book Creativity, Inc. was shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award (2014),[23] and was a selection for Mark Zuckerberg book club in March 2015.[24]


  • Catmull, Ed; Amy Wallace (2014). Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780812993011. OCLC 851419994.


  1. ^ Catmull, E.; Clark, J. (1978). "Recursively generated B-spline surfaces on arbitrary topological meshes" (PDF). Computer-Aided Design. 10 (6): 350. doi:10.1016/0010-4485(78)90110-0.
  2. ^ a b Catmull, Edwin Earl (1974). A subdivision algorithm for computer display of curved surfaces (PhD thesis). University of Utah.
  3. ^ Cook, R. L.; Carpenter, L.; Catmull, E. (1987). "The Reyes image rendering architecture" (PDF). ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics. 21 (4): 95. doi:10.1145/37402.37414. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  4. ^ Price, David P. T. (2009). The Pixar Touch (Vintage). London: Vintage. ISBN 0-307-27829-8.
  5. ^ Michael Rubin, "Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution" (2005), ISBN 0-937404-67-5
  6. ^ Edwin E. Catmull at DBLP Bibliography Server Edit this at Wikidata
  7. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic
  8. ^ "Parkersburg, West Virginia". City-Data.com. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  9. ^ Katie, Harmer (June 20, 2013). "Pixar ties to Utah run deep". Deseret News. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  10. ^ David A. Price (2008). The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 12–13, 21. ISBN 0307269507. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  11. ^ "A conversation with Ed Catmull - ACM Queue". acm.org.
  12. ^ Innerview - Edwin Catmull Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Straßer, Wolfgang. Schnelle Kurven- und Flächendarstellung auf graphischen Sichtgeräten, Dissertation, TU Berlin, submitted 26.4.1974
  14. ^ "2011 National Film Registry More Than a Box of Chocolates". Library of Congress. December 28, 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  15. ^ "'Silence of the Lambs', 'Bambi' and 'Forrest Gump' added to National Film Registry". New York Times: Artsbeat. 2011-12-27. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  16. ^ "The Pixar Story: Dick Shoup, Alex Schure, George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Disney".
  17. ^ Eller, Claudia (2006-06-12). "Ed Catmull: Pixar 's Superhero, Shakes Up Disney (offline)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2006-06-13.
  18. ^ Lev-Ram, Michal (31 December 2014). "A candid conversation with Pixar's philosopher-king, Ed Catmull". Fortune. Time Inc. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  19. ^ Graser, Marc (18 November 2014). "Walt Disney Animation, Pixar Promote Andrew Millstein, Jim Morris to President". Variety. Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  20. ^ "Pixar Co-Founder Ed Catmull to Retire". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  21. ^ "Three Pixar execs get special Oscars". San Francisco Chronicle. February 1, 1996. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  22. ^ "Edwin Catmull—CHM Fellow Award Winner". Computerhistory.org. 30 March 2015. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  23. ^ Andrew Hill (24 September 2014). "Shortlist unveiled for FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year". Financial Times. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  24. ^ Richard Feloni (March 3, 2015). "Why Mark Zuckerberg thinks everyone can learn something from Pixar". Business Insider. Retrieved April 19, 2015.

External links

A Computer Animated Hand

A Computer Animated Hand is a 1972 American computer-animated film produced by Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke. Produced during Catmull's tenure at the University of Utah, the short was created for a graduate course project. After creating a model of Catmull's left hand, 350 triangles and polygons were drawn in ink on the model. The model was digitized and laboriously animated in a three-dimensional animation program that Catmull wrote.

The film consists of three sequences: the data output of the hand without lines, a halftone sequence that lacks smooth shading, and finally, the completed animation. The film depicts the hand swiveling, opening and closing, pointing at the viewer, and lastly, zooms to the inside of the hand. The clip also features animation of an artificial heart valve and human faces. Snippets of the film were used in the 1976 film Futureworld.

As one of the earliest examples of computer animation, the film has been hailed as groundbreaking and revolutionary. Catmull went on to become a co-founder of Pixar and President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. In 2011, the film was inducted in the National Film Registry, labeled "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Library of Congress scholars wrote: "In creating the film, Catmull worked out concepts that would become the foundation for computer graphics that followed."

Alexander Schure

Alexander Schure (August 3, 1920 - October 29, 2009) was an American academic and entrepreneur. Schure founded the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in 1955. He also served as the Chancellor of Nova Southeastern University (NSU) from 1970 until 1985.Schure is credited with saving Nova University, which was in deep financial trouble, after he became the school's chancellor in 1970. The university is now called Nova Southeastern University, and is now the largest private university in Florida, with more than 28,000 students as of 2009.Schure and then-Nova University President Abraham Fischler, Ed.D., formed a federation between Nova and the New York Institute of Technology. The partnership between the two institutions brought money and new programs to Nova University. The money from NYIT allowed Nova University to remain open during its financial difficulties. The alliance between NYIT and Nova University ended in 1985.In November 1974 Schure hired recent University of Utah doctoral graduate Edwin Catmull to direct NYIT's fledgling computer graphics lab, and ensured that the lab received special funding for more than 5 years. Schure was an early champion of computer animation; in 1979 Catmull left to form a computer-graphics group with Lucasfilm and the core technical team- including computer animation pioneers Alvy Ray Smith, David DiFrancesco, Ralph Guggenheim, Jim Blinn, and Jim Clark- came from the NYIT lab. (In 1986, that computer-graphics group would be funded by recently fired Steve Jobs as the independent company Pixar which manufactured and sold image-processing computers using the concepts first developed at NYIT, and also produced projects using them.)

Although Clark would move on to found Silicon Graphics and Netscape, the rest of the NYIT team continued to play key roles as Pixar's animation developed from its first short films in the mid-1980s onward. It can be said that Dr. Schure's vision and support from 1975 to 1980, and the low-pressure academic research lab environment at NYIT, was an essential contributor to the development of many of the technical innovations needed to produce realistic computer generated films. He funded the computers and frame buffers used in the making of the unfinished computer-generated film "The Works (film)". It was also during this time that Schure directed the animated movie Tubby the Tuba (1975 film).

Alexander Schure died from complications of Alzheimer's Disease on Long Island on October 29, 2009, at the age of 89. He was survived by his second wife, Gail; and four children - Dr. Barbara Schure Weinschel, Dr. Matthew Schure, Dr. Jonathan Schure, and Mr. Louis Schure. Following his death, former NSU president Fischler said Schure "was a brilliant individual with a very creative mind. He was an excellent friend to me and the university. There would be no NSU without him."He received doctoral degrees in engineering and education from New York University.

Catmull–Clark subdivision surface

The Catmull–Clark algorithm is a technique used in computer graphics to create smooth surfaces by subdivision surface modeling. It was devised by Edwin Catmull and Jim Clark in 1978 as a generalization of bi-cubic uniform B-spline surfaces to arbitrary topology. In 2005, Edwin Catmull received an Academy Award for Technical Achievement together with

Tony DeRose and Jos Stam for their invention and application of subdivision surfaces.

Centripetal Catmull–Rom spline

In computer graphics, centripetal Catmull–Rom spline is a variant form of Catmull-Rom spline formulated by Edwin Catmull and Raphael Rom according to the work of Barry and Goldman. It is a type of interpolating spline (a curve that goes through its control points) defined by four control points , with the curve drawn only from to .

Circle 7 Animation

Circle 7 Animation (or Disney Circle 7 Animation) was a short lived division of Walt Disney Feature Animation specializing in computer generated imagery (CGI) animation and was originally intended to create sequels to the Disney owned Pixar properties, leading rivals and animators to derisively nickname the division "Pixaren't". The studio did not release any films during its existence, and none of its scripts were used by Pixar.The division was named after the street where its studio was located. Circle Seven Drive in Glendale, California is also home to KABC-TV.

Clyde Geronimi

Clito Enrico "Clyde" Geronimi (June 12, 1901 – April 24, 1989), known as Gerry, was an Italian American animation director. He is best known for his work at Walt Disney Productions.

Computer graphics

Computer graphics are pictures and films created using computers. Usually, the term refers to computer-generated image data created with the help of specialized graphical hardware and software. It is a vast and recently developed area of computer science. The phrase was coined in 1960, by computer graphics researchers Verne Hudson and William Fetter of Boeing. It is often abbreviated as CG, though sometimes erroneously referred to as computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Some topics in computer graphics include user interface design, sprite graphics, vector graphics, 3D modeling, shaders, GPU design, implicit surface visualization with ray tracing, and computer vision, among others. The overall methodology depends heavily on the underlying sciences of geometry, optics, and physics.

Computer graphics is responsible for displaying art and image data effectively and meaningfully to the consumer. It is also used for processing image data received from the physical world. Computer graphics development has had a significant impact on many types of media and has revolutionized animation, movies, advertising, video games, and graphic design in general.

Creativity, Inc.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is a 2014 book, written by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull, about managing creativity.

David DiFrancesco

David DiFrancesco, (born Nutley, New Jersey, 1949), is a photoscientist, inventor, cinematographer, and photographer. He is a founding member of three organizations which pioneered computer graphics for digital special effects and film with Edwin Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, including; New York Institute of Technology Computer Graphics Lab, Lucasfilm Computer Division, and Pixar, financed by Steve Jobs.

David Stainton

David Stainton is an American film and television executive. He is most noted for his tenure as president of Walt Disney Feature Animation from 2003 to 2006, a period during which the studio converted from a traditional animation studio to a computer animation production company. The films Chicken Little (2005) and Meet the Robinsons (2007) were produced during Stainton's tenure at the studio.

Frank and Ollie

Frank and Ollie is a 1995 documentary film about the life and careers of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two chief animators who had worked at Walt Disney Animation Studios from its early years until their retirement in the late 1970s.

It was directed, produced and written by Theodore Thomas, Frank Thomas' son. A number of other important figures in the animation business are also interviewed about Frank and Ollie's influence of modern animation, and about their personal friendship.

Gordon E. Sawyer Award

The Gordon E. Sawyer Award is an Honorary Award given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to "an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry." The award is named in honour of Gordon E. Sawyer, the former Sound Director at Samuel Goldwyn Studio and three-time Academy Award winner who claimed that a listing of past Academy Awards, arranged both chronologically and by category, represents a history of the development of motion pictures. It was first presented at the 54th Academy Awards, in April 1982. The Gordon E. Sawyer Award is voted upon and given by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee of the Academy.

IEEE John von Neumann Medal

The IEEE John von Neumann Medal was established by the IEEE Board of Directors in 1990 and may be presented annually "for outstanding achievements in computer-related science and technology." The achievements may be theoretical, technological, or entrepreneurial, and need not have been made immediately prior to the date of the award.

The medal is named after John von Neumann.

List of New York Institute of Technology faculty

The following is a list of some notable current and former faculty of New York Institute of Technology.

Reino Aarnio, architect

Lance Williams, graphics researcher

Bernard Fryshman, physicist

Zeeshan Jawed Shah, filmmaker

Ralph Guggenheim, video graphics designer

Jim Blinn, computer scientist known for his work as a computer graphics expert at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Edwin Catmull, computer scientist and current president of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios

James H. Clark, entrepreneur and computer scientist, founded companies, including Netscape Communications Corporation

Alvy Ray Smith, pioneer in computer graphics

Greg Panos, writer, futurist, educator

Mehrdad Izady, contemporary writer on ethnic and cultural topics, particularly the Greater Middle East, and Kurds

Lynn Rogoff, film and television producer, and stage playwright, theatre director and professor

Ahmed Awad, computer scientist, invented the mouse dynamics biometric, a new technology that identifies a user’s unique way of using a mouse.

Harvey Jerome Brudner, theoretical physicist/engineer

Sheldon D. Fields, scientist

Frank Genese, architect

Ernie Anastos, won 28 Emmy Awards and nominations, and was nominated for the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing

Pat Hanrahan, computer graphics researcher

Rebecca Allen, international artist

Frederic Parke, creator of the first CG physically modeled human face

Carter Burwell, composer of film scores

Barbara, Lady Judge, Chairman Emeritus of the UK Atomic Energy Authority

David DiFrancesco, photoscientist, inventor, cinematographer, and photographer.

Jacques Stroweis, visual effects artist and computer scientist

Andrew Glassner, American expert in computer graphics

Bruce Perens, computer programmer and advocate in the free software movement

Harry Hurwitz, film director, screenwriter, actor and producer

Morrie Yohai, food company executive best known for his creation of Cheez Doodles

Joel B. Snyder, served as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers President

W. Kenneth Riland, osteopathic physician (D.O.) whose patients included 37th President of the United States Richard Nixon and Nelson A. Rockefeller

Manfred Kirchheimer, documentary film maker

Ed Emshwiller, visual artist

William E. Glenn, inventor known for his contributions to imaging technology. He was awarded 136 U.S. patents.

Melda N. Yildiz, two-time Fulbright Scholar.

Tom Duff, computer programmer

Franklin C. Crow, computer scientist

John Lewis, computer scientist

Richard "Buz" Cooper, MD, a hematologist/oncologist who founded University of Pennsylvania's Cancer Center.

List of Pixar films

This is a list of films from Pixar Animation Studios, an American CGI film production company based in Emeryville, California, United States. As of 2018, Pixar Animation Studios has released 20 feature films, which were all released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner. The company produced its first feature-length film, Toy Story, in 1995. Their second production, A Bug's Life, was released in 1998, followed by their first sequel, Toy Story 2, in 1999. Pixar Animation Studios had two releases in a single year twice: Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur in 2015 and Cars 3 and Coco in 2017.

Their upcoming slate of films include Toy Story 4 (2019), Onward (2020), an untitled film set to be released in 2020, another untitled film set to be released in 2021, and two more untitled films set to be released in 2022.

Roy Conli

Roy Conli is an American film producer and voice actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for the 2014 Walt Disney Animation Studios film Big Hero 6 at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015.

Texture mapping

Texture mapping is a method for defining high frequency detail, surface texture, or color information on a computer-generated graphic or 3D model. Its application to 3D graphics was pioneered by Edwin Catmull in 1974.Texture mapping originally referred to a method (now more accurately called diffuse mapping) that simply wrapped and mapped pixels from a texture to a 3D surface. In recent decades the advent of multi-pass rendering and complex mapping such as height mapping, bump mapping, normal mapping, displacement mapping, reflection mapping, specular mapping, mipmaps, occlusion mapping, and many other variations on the technique (controlled by a materials system) have made it possible to simulate near-photorealism in real time by vastly reducing the number of polygons and lighting calculations needed to construct a realistic and functional 3D scene.

The Pixar Story

The Pixar Story, directed by Leslie Iwerks, is a documentary of the history of Pixar Animation Studios. An early version of the film premiered at the Sonoma Film Festival in 2007, and it had a limited theatrical run later that year before it was picked up by the Starz cable network in the United States.

The film was released, outside North America, on DVD in summer 2008 as part of the "Ultimate Pixar Collection", a box set of Pixar films. It was then included as a special feature on the WALL-E special edition DVD and Blu-ray releases, which were launched on November 18, 2008.

The film premiered on BBC in the United Kingdom on August 24.

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