Greatest Visual and
Special Effects (F/X) -
Milestones in Film


Film Milestones in Visual and Special Effects
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Description of Visual-Special Effects

An American Werewolf in London (1981, US/UK)

This classic horror film contained a visceral transformation scene (that won an Academy Award for Best Makeup for Rick Baker), the first to win in the newly-established Oscar category.

It told how backpacking American college student/tourist in the Yorkshires David Kessler (David Naughton) turned into a werewolf/lycanthrope - his body, face, and limbs crunched and his skin bubbled as it grew hair and his body stretched out and was elongated.

Hand Elongation and Stretching

The transformation scenes were created entirely through a combination of prosthetics and robotics.

  • the hair growth scene - a fake patch of skin with hair was constructed, and hairs were drawn into it (then reversed)
  • the full body elongation shots - only the actor's head was real (his body was hidden under the floor), and the rest of the visible torso was a dummy
  • the facial stretching scene (side view) - two robotic skulls were used to simulate the transformation

[Note: Some of the same special effects techniques were also used in Joe Dante's horror/comedy The Howling (1981) which featured stunning metamorphosis sequences of man-into-wolf (see below).]

Dragonslayer (1981)

Director/co-writer Matthew Robbins' adventure/sword-n-sorcery film was a co-production of Walt Disney and Paramount. Reportedly, 25% of the film's budget (of $18 million) was for special effects to animate the dragon (Vermithrax).

The live-action fantasy film set in a fictional medieval kingdom introduced the innovative technique of Go-Motion, a process created by Industrial Light & Magic (and Lucas animator Phil Tippett) for a segment of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (e.g., the Imperial AT-AT walkers at the Battle of Hoth). The use of Go-Motion brought this film an Academy Award nomination for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, which it lost to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

It was a variation on the earlier technique of "stop-motion" animation (popularized by Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen), by having the animated model (the Dragon known as a Vermithrax) make several computer-controlled moves within each frame, thereby giving it a more fluid, blurry, and natural movement. In the film, the dragon was portrayed as 40 feet long with an armored hide, and bat-like wings creating a wingspan of 90 feet. An hydraulic forty-foot model was created for the film, as well as 16 dragon puppets for the role of Vermithrax. Each was capable of flying, crawling, and breathing fire (with the use of flamethrowers).

By contrast, the traditional stop-motion technique was more jerky, static and wooden in appearance, as in Harryhausen's Clash of the Titans (1981) released in the same year.

In the film's climactic battle (after an eclipse of the sun) between young apprentice Galen (Peter MacNicol), Valerian (Caitlin Clarke), and aged sorcerer Ulrich (Ralph Richardson), the flying dragon circled and then flew directly at Ulrich (whose arms were outspread) standing on a mountaintop, and seized him in its massive claws. Galen realized it was the appropriate time to smash the magical amulet with a huge rock.

Ulrich's body detonated in a massive explosion that also destroyed Vermithrax in mid-air. Galen and Valerian watched as the dragon's body plunged from the sky and sank into a deep, fiery great lake.

The Monstrous Fire-Breathing Dragon (Vermithrax)

Sorcerer Ulrich in Claw of Dragon

Galen Smashing Amulet

The Destruction of the Dragon

The Howling (1981)

Joe Dante's horror/comedy The Howling (1981) featured stunning metamorphosis, shape-shifting sequences of man-into-wolf (one was juxtaposed with a TV scene of the Big Bad Wolf in The Three Little Pigs (1933)).

The special groundbreaking makeup effects were originally to be produced by makeup wizard Rick Baker, but director Landis took him away to work on An American Werewolf in London (1981) (see above), so Baker's assistant Rob Bottin filled in - this was before the days of CGI.

During the memorable werewolf transformation scene with incredible special effects, the pneumatic transformations - without CGI effects - changed in real-time, accompanied by crackling noises:

  • the snout and jaw structures elongated and grew
  • cheeks, forehead and neck undulated and bubbled (air bladders under facial latex skin)
  • talon-like nails/claws extended from fingers
  • teeth grew into feral fangs
  • and hairy fur and pointy devilish ears grew out

[Note: The third werewolf film of the same year was Wolfen (1981).]

Werewolf Transformation Sequence

Looker (1981)

Co-writer/director Michael Crichton's dramatic, high-tech science-fiction thriller, with the tagline: "IF LOOKS COULD KILL...", was way-ahead-of-its-time about plastic surgery, surgically-perfect models, and the replacement of models with CGI simulations. It was really a mediocre film with very impressive visual effects.

It told about the murder of models, clients of Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney), who were then replaced with virtual-reality imitations. It also included a political subplot regarding hypnotic suggestion to control TV viewers.

It opened with a strikingly-beautiful perfume commercial TV model named Lisa Convey (Terri Welles - Playboy Magazine's 1981 Playmate of the Year, in her feature film debut). She was complaining to Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts that she had physical defects and imperfections that needed plastic surgery in order to make her more beautiful and perfect.

"I have lots of defects to fix. I have a list right here. My nose is 0.2 millimeters too narrow. And my cheekbones are 0.4 millimeters too high. And my chin has a little 0.1 bump here. And my areolar distance is five millimeters. And I have a mole here on my ribs. So I need plastic surgery."

After photos and X-rays were taken of her, surgery was scheduled and performed, as the opening title credits played. Soon after, she ended up suicidally-dead under mysterious circumstances.

She became the latest of three similar models operated upon by Dr. Roberts that also died, including Susan Wilson (Jeana Tomasina Keough), and Tina Cassidy (Kathryn Witt). Both of the previous models were also linked to the advertising firm that produced Ravish perfume - Digital Matrix, Inc. (DMI), headed by Jennifer Long (Leigh Taylor-Young), and owned by John Reston (James Coburn). There were suspicious clues (a pen and small brown jacket button) that led Lieutenant Masters (Dorian Harewood) to speculate that Dr. Roberts was possibly involved in their deaths.

In the story, a fourth model named Cindy (Susan Dey of The Partridge Family fame), one of DMI's models, became frustrated by constant reshoots and complaints that her body didn't perform perfectly in motion, according to computer readouts: (Cindy: "I'm sick and tired of this computer. Why can't we just do the scene?...It didn't used to be like this - the computer telling us what to do").

DMI Commercial Model Cindy (Susan Dey) - The Use of Computer Mapping to Measure the 'Perfection' of Models During Action Shoots

According to DMI's Jennifer, the research firm felt that its models (who had received surgery) were perfect in every way until they started to move during the commercial shoots, thus lowering their 'perfect body' scores. (Jennifer: "The girls couldn't maintain their scores. They looked perfect, but they weren't really perfect"). Therefore, the company decided it must digitally-scan the bodies of the models, to create a 3D computer-generated model of each one.

After being scanned, the female model wouldn't have to appear in person for commercial filming: ("Once the model is made. The computer does everything") - the digital scan or model could be used instead. Each model was offered a contract (for $200,000) to have her body digitally-scanned to create a 3D computer generated model that could then be animated. Cindy allowed herself to be stripped naked in order to have her body and its measurements digitally scanned by the Digital Matrix research firm, to create a detailed 3D mapping or model of her entire figure. Her voice was also synthesized.

As Cindy disrobed and she stood naked, she mumbled to herself: "I hope you're satisfied, perverts!" She kneeled as the round platform on which she was standing sunk into the floor, then stood up and asked: "Now what?" She was slowly rotated as topographic scanners mapped out her body. She joked during the mapping: "I hope you're satisfied. Perverts....Help. Rape" - and the computer reprimanded her: "Please do not move your lower jaw...Failure to comply wastes valuable computer time."

The visual effects in the speculative film featured the first CGI human character, digitized and visualized by a computer-generated simulation of her body being topographically scanned - notably the first use of shaded 3D CGI in a feature film. Polygonal models obtained by digitizing a human body were used to render the effects.

There were various implications about the ways in which advertising companies were manipulating viewers: with unreal, computer-generated digital actors, a LOOKER electronic blue light gun to put victims into a hypnotic trance, and digital pupilary eye scans to maximize the impact of ads on viewers.

Looker Model Lisa Convey's (Terri Welles) Plastic Surgery

The Scanning Process - To Create the First CGI Human Character

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

This film won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, mostly due to its awesome climax with amazing visual effects, revealing the power of the Ark of the Covenant as it was opened by the face-melting Nazis. Its major competition for the Oscar award came from Dragonslayer (1981), a medieval fantasy adventure film (see above).

Both films used a new and revolutionary stop-motion animation technique known as Go-motion, developed by a team of innovators at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Go-motion was a process that involved a computer-programmed model that was slightly moved during each frame's exposure, causing a more realistic, blurred movement effect.

In this Steven Spielberg-directed adventure film, the main segment utilizing Go-Motion was the film's climax - the opening of the Ark of the Covenant. As the sealed Ark was opened, whitish ghostly spirits arose. (The Ark's spirits, composited into the live footage, were actually small clothed puppets in a clouded water tank filmed in front of a blue screen.)

The Ark's Spirits Created by Go-Motion Animation

A few more of the film's most remarkable special effects shots included:

  • the giant boulder rolling after Indy Jones (Harrison Ford) in the gripping opening
  • the amazing final image (a very slow reveal) of the government warehouse where the Ark was stored -- a lengthy matte shot, and a tribute to a similar final scene in Citizen Kane (1941)
The Final Sequence

The Boulder

The Ark of the Covenant Sequence

Blade Runner (1982)

This classic, noirish science-fiction film was nominated for Best Achievement in Visual Effects (as was the ghost-story Poltergeist (1982)), but both lost to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).

One of the most awe-inspiring visuals in film history, paying homage to Lang's Metropolis (1927), was the powerful vision of the Los Angeles cityscape at night, circa 2019, with giant, fire-belching towers, floating advertisements, giant television screens, and police "spinners" (flying cars). It was as if Los Angeles' sprawl was one giant oil refinery. The dark, futuristic vision of LA was accomplished using model shots and painted backgrounds.

All images were based on the art design of legendary artist Syd Mead, who would collaborate with Jean 'Moebius' Giraud on TRON (1982) (see below).

Views of the Los Angeles Cityscape in 2019

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Dark Crystal was Jim Henson's darkest, most foreboding film, and the first film to completely use realistic puppets without a single real human or animal character.

The film was composed entirely of puppets, matte paintings, and some miniature sets. The character and world designs were made by famed fantasy artist Brian Froud.

Examples of Matte Paintings and Other Special Effects

Puppet Characters

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

This Steven Spielberg film was an Oscar winner for Best Visual Effects (defeating Poltergeist (1982) and Blade Runner (1982)). About $1.5 million of its $10 million budget was set aside for the creation of the E.T. alien, and another $1 million for other special effects shots.

It was famous for the flying bicycle scene in which the kids escaped into the air on their bicycles, and later the scene of the alien and Eliott illuminated in silhouette (using miniatures) against a giant-size full moon. A variation of go-motion partially animated the children on their bicycles.

Also, visual effects were employed for E.T.'s spaceship, and the believable alien itself (and its glowing red heart), although altered or digitally-enhanced in the 2002 remake for the 20th anniversary edition. (See below)

Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

In Godfrey Reggio's non-narrated, feature-length, expressionistic and subjective experimental documentary film Koyaanisqatsi (meaning "life out of balance"), all set to Philip Glass' mesmerizing, pulsating, hypnotic, and minimalist electronic score - it was an art-house film that showcased innovative uses of time-lapse, slow-motion (and hyper-speed), and double-exposed (and super-imposed) photography - all part of a trilogy of Qatsi films that also included Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002), to show the immense difference between two worlds (the natural and the urban or man-made):

  • the opening dissolve into the iconography of Hopi cave art (a painting or pictograph in Horseshoe Canyon (in Canyonlands Park in SE Utah) of life-sized figures, known as "The Great Gallery")
  • the close-up and slow-motion image of the launch of a Saturn V rocket, the launch vehicle of the Apollo 11 program in the late 1960s to early 1970s - this image was bookended in the film's finale
  • the aerial photography of landscapes, including Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and more, showing the immense forces and results of erosion over many centuries
  • the visually-striking images and shots of naturalistic environments with time-lapse photography, including shadows of clouds rolling over landscapes (in SW USA parks); also blowing sand dunes shaped by the wind, and mystical patterns of smoke, actual changing cloud formations, powerful waves of water plummeting over a falls, or banks of low fog flowing over a valley

Shadowy Cloud Patterns (Grand Canyon) - Time Lapse

Blanket of Billowing Clouds
  • a low-flying view of rippling water, and long rows of blooming flowers
  • the rock formations drowned within Lake Powell (Arizona), a man-made, artificial reservoir of water
  • the intersection of civilization with nature, such as a large mining truck engulfed by black smoke, and massive power lines and towers erected in desolate environments stretching for miles, and an aerial view of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in Page, AZ [Note: The plant was finally shut down in 2019, and its three smokestacks were demolished in 2020.] Also, views of the Glen Canyon Dam (also near Page, AZ) to control the Colorado River and cause the formation of Lake Powell

Navajo Generating Station in Page, AZ
Massive Power Lines
  • views of oil drilling and a vast array of oil storage tanks
  • atomic bomb detonations and tests in the desert - beautiful but deadly
  • the sight of SCE's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, a nuclear-powered power plant, near San Clemente, CA on the West Coast, with sunbathers nearby [Note: It was shut down in 2013.]
  • the beautiful sight of moving clouds reflected on the glass exterior of a city skyscraper
  • the shimmering image (seen through ripples of hot air) of a gigantic United Airlines 747 jetliner taxiing on a runway
  • aerial views of multiple lanes of freeway traffic on elevated highways, lanes and lanes of cars, and the colorful pattern of a massive parking lot with rows of vehicles
  • views of multiple rows of Soviet military tanks assembled along a beachhead as far as the eye could see, and a USAF jet preparing for take-off, also other aircraft (a camouflaged plane over the desert), the flight and launch of various rockets (from different angles), and a view of an H-bomb; also an aircraft carrier with a view of its wide deck marked with E=mc2, the sight of explosions after the dropping of bombs
The NYC Cityscape, and Massive Canyons Created by Skyscrapers
  • the NYC cityscape, with shadows of clouds moving across the faces of buildings, and the gigantic canyons or walls of concrete deep inside city streets, followed by the crumbling and abandoned remains of dilapidated slum tenements (with garbage, litter) in disrepair - failed social projects, with views of deserted streets, buildings, playgrounds, etc.; aerial photography of the unsuccessful Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis, MO in the 1950s, with 11-story high-rises that soon went into urban decay, evidenced by empty buildings and broken windows [Note: the high-density buildings were detonated in the mid-1970s, seen in footage.]
  • amazing time-lapse photography of crowds of people standing in line at horse-betting windows, and hundreds of people in slow-motion on city sidewalks

Crowds Waiting in Line

People in Slow-Motion on City Sidewalks
  • various tableaux of individuals standing next to examples of technology (a pilot in front of a jet turbine, waitresses in front of gambling casino neon signs)
  • time-lapse night-time views of skyscrapers with hundreds of windows - blinking on and off; also the the sped-up head-lights and tail-lights of cars on a highway making the roads appear like blood-filled arteries
  • the view of a massive rising moon disappearing behind a building, and then the sun rising over the city, as people rushed to get to work
  • the views of people scrambling through train stations, riders going down and up on various escalators, entering glass doors or cycling through revolving doors, the creation of American iconic foods like Oscar Meyer hot dogs or Twinkies, or Pop-Tarts or packaged meat (seen in food packaging machinery), the assembly of televisions and cars manufactured on an assembly line; robotic mail sorting machines, the sped-up stitching of blue-jeans on a sewing machine by a worker in the fashion district, or the tedious day of a computer punch-card data operator; even in an arcade at times of play (video games or PacMan), or bowling, or watching movies, or shopping, or pausing to eat, the pace was fast and furious; it was a frantic and feverish collection of images, conveying the feeling of exhaustion and hustle-bustle
The Frantic Pace of Everyday Life: Work and Play
  • at the end of a frantic day at work, the process of returning home was reversed - massive crowds of people in the subways, on the highways, in cars, etc.; it was no better at crowded beaches for 'fun' in the sun on days off
  • the message of the film: people were continually being bombarded by sensations, sights, and sounds at a nerve-shattering and mind-destroying pace, with no time to slow-down, reflect, contemplate, or experience peace; there was a rapid compilation of channel-surfed TV commercials and programs - including news programs, sales spokesmen, ads for headache pills, etc.
  • there was a segment of views of ordinary people walking on the street - who happened to notice that they were being filmed candidly
  • everything in the film built to an amazing sped-up and frenzied crescendo of movement, sound, images and light; the further the camera moved away from the activity 'on the ground' - with aerial pictures (and satellite photography of metropolitan areas from God's view), the pace slowed; pictures of the insides of a computer (with microchips and other component parts) were compared to the satellite imagery



Computer Insides
  • the film basically concluded with images of various individuals from all walks of life in the city - bystanders, elderly, a sight-seeing tour operator, firemen, a beggar, an ice cream store customer and clerks, stock exchange workers, etc.
  • in the finale, a Saturn V2 rocket was launched, and then it exploded in mid-air, sending back flaming parts to Earth
  • the film's conclusion returned to a view of the primitive rock art in the cave, then presented a translation of the chanted Hopi prophecies and the definition of the film's title: ("1. crazy life, 2. life in turmoil, 3. life out of balance, 4. life disintegrating, 5. a state of life that calls for another way of living") - it was the only English narrative of the entire film
  • then, the three Hopi prophecies sung in the film were translated:
    - "If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster."
    - "Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky."
    - "A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans."

Hopi Cave Art

Landscapes (Monument Valley)

Rock Formations (Lake Powell)

Atomic Bomb Tests in Desert

Clouds Reflected on the Side of a Skyscraper

Massive 747 Jetliner Taxiing on Runway

Lanes of Freeway Traffic

Colorful Parked Vehicles in Lot

Ugly, Dilapidated, Abandoned Slum Tenements and Social Projects

The Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis, MO

People and Technology

Highway Arteries into the City

Massive Rising Moon

The End of a Frantic Day at Work

Escaping to Fun in the Sun - Crowded Beaches

The High-Speed Frantic Pace of Life

Candid Views of People on the Street Being Filmed

Rocket Launch

Rocket Explosion

Translation of the Title: Koyaanisqatsi

Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)

The animation of political cartoonist Gerard Scarfe was created for both Pink Floyd's multimedia concert and for the 95 minute Alan Parker film. It was a musical "free form video" masterpiece - a remarkable descent into madness and insanity through a series of rambling music video segments by burned-out and depressed rock singer Pink (Bob Geldorf) in a Los Angeles hotel room, mostly mindlessly watching TV - he constructed a physical and metaphorical protective wall around himself after the death of his father as he experienced flashbacks of his life and attempted to tear down his wall.

There were 15 minutes of memorable, adult-themed animation that appeared periodically during the film by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe (including symbolic, sexually-explicit, botanical Freudian animation). It was one of the first truly adult animated work in terms of maturity - sexually and politically. One segment presented a misogynistic woman-as-destroyer/devourer motif. In the passionate "flowers" scene before the rock song "Empty Spaces," two flowers, one shaped like a male organ and the other like a female organ -- morphed into a couple having intercourse and then engaged in a bloody fight when the female flower revealed sharp teeth and devoured the male.

Two of the most indelible animated images were of a dove that imploded and morphed into a dark monstrous bird of prey -- a fighter plane bomber over London, and as Pink envisioned himself as an eyebrowless, racist, fascist Hitler-like leader of a Nuremberg-like rally in "In the Flesh," marching hammers goose-stepped across ruins.

"Goodbye Blue Sky"

"In the Flesh"
Crossed Marching Hammers
in "Waiting For the Worms"

[Note: The film also featured one of the earliest commercial uses of time-lapse photography. In "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," there was disturbing imagery of schoolchildren in an authoritarian oppressive school turning into conforming, faceless zombies on an assembly line and stepping off into a meat-grinder.]

Adult-Themed Animations

"Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2"

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

This sequel Star Trek release barely beat TRON (1982) to take the unofficial honor of being the first film to use computer-generated images (CGI) to any large extent, in its "Genesis Effect" sequence.

[Note: This scene would be re-used for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).]

The so-called "Genesis Effect" - a one-minute animated sequence, was cinema's first entirely (or all digital) computer-generated (CG) sequence of images.

It marked the first cinematic use of a fractal-generated landscape, particle effects (a particle-rendering system was used to achieve the fiery effect), and 32-bit RGBA paint software created by Lucasfilm's Pixar group division at ILM (Industrial Light & Magic)

The computerized simulation was first seen in a video proposal or demonstration presented by Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), in which the once-dead planet was struck by a Genesis 'torpedo' and reborn or revived, as the camera raced quickly across the reddish and then greening surface of the barren planet, before becoming a reborn globe.

Dr. Marcus headed up Project Genesis, a computer-simulated endeavor that sought to transform or re-animate uninhabitable worlds into lush paradises ("life from lifelessness"). She narrated the video and animation, in person and in voice-over:

"It is a process whereby molecular structure is reorganized at the subatomic level into life-generating matter of equal mass...It is our intention to introduce the Genesis Device into a preselected area of a lifeless space body - a moon or other dead form. The device is delivered, instantaneously causing what we call the Genesis effect. Matter is reorganized with life-generating results. Instead of a dead moon, a living breathing planet capable of sustaining whatever life-forms we see fit to deposit on it...The reformed moon simulated here represents the merest fraction of the Genesis potential should the Federation wish to fund these experiments to their logical conclusion."

The film also included the scene of Captain Spock's (Leonard Nimoy) self-sacrificial death to save the USS Enterprise from the Genesis Device explosion, with his ejection-burial in space to orbit around the newly-birthed planet caused by the Genesis Effect.

Another special effect was the scene of the brain-munching earwigs, in which vengeful superhuman Khan (Ricardo Montalban) placed a parasitic, insanity-causing Ceti eel into the ears of Officer Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield).

The Genesis Effect

Brain-Munching Earwigs

TRON (1982)

Steven Lisberger's fantasy inside-a-computer-video-game adventure/science-fiction film was one of the first films to be derived from the video-game craze. The greatest testament to this film's unique visual effects, soundtrack, costuming, art direction and set decoration was that none of it has ever been duplicated, and remains unique to this day.

It was refused an Academy Awards nomination because the voters felt the film "cheated" by using computer animation. In reality, the process was an extremely arduous one for animators. Seven years later, James Cameron's The Abyss (1989) won the Best Visual Effects Oscar for the same kind of technology.

TRON was the first live-action film to extensively use 3D, computer-generated imagery (CGI) to any lengthy degree (about 20 minutes) - in this case, it created a full 3-D graphics world, in its most innovative sequence of the famed racing bike or Lightcycle sequence depicting computerized lightcycles in a high-speed race.

The Lightcycle Race

The Lightcycle sequence used the artwork and vision of legendary artists Syd Mead and Jean 'Moebius' Giraud, and visual effects done with a combined effort by Triple I, MAGI/Synthavision, Robert Abel & Associates, and Digital Effects.

Another FX technique used was backlight animation, in which light was shown through a specialized filter through each frame to create extraordinarily vibrant colored light effects, in this case, through the inventive Oscar-nominated costumes worn by the actors.

[Note: Lisberger's animated film Animalympics (1980) had extensively used the effect in semi-preparation for what would become TRON.]

The film also featured a soundtrack by Wendy (nee Walter) Carlos that melded synthesized music with the London Philharmonic's orchestral music.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Where the Wild Things Are (1982-83) - 35mm Test Footage

Maurice Sendak's children's book Where the Wild Things Are was the basis for Disney's experimental 35mm test footage, directed by John Lasseter (the future animator at Pixar).

This pioneering and revolutionary animation (a 35mm test) combined (or digitally composited) both:

  • state-of-the-art, computer-generated 3-D backgrounds
  • traditional, classic hand-drawn animation (digitally inked and painted) for the 2-D characters

A film adaptation (with live-action and animation) of the book, directed by Spike Jonze, was released in late 2009.

The CGI Generated Background

The Hand-Drawn Animation

The Composite

Film Milestones in Visual/Special Effects (F/X)
(chronological order by film title)
Introduction | 1880s-1890s | 1900-1905 | 1906-1920 | 1921-1929 | 1930-1939 | 1940-1949 | 1950-1959
1960-1969 | 1970-1974 | 1975-1979 | 1980-1982 | 1983-1985 | 1986-1988 | 1989-1991 | 1992-1994
1995-1996 | 1997-1998 | 1999-2000 | 2001-2002 | 2003-2005 | 2006-2007 | 2008-2009 | 2010-Present

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