Movie Milestones in Computer Generated Imagery Aren’t Just From SciFi Flicks


Whether you go back to the days of The Last Starfighter (1984), the first movie to use CGI to depict the planets, or look at a more recent film like Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2002), which modeled, rendered, and textured its world solely with off-the-shelf software and hardware, the advancement of scifi and CGI have been inseparable. (For a more detailed look at that history, check out today’s post on the Future of Classic blog.) But all advancements beloved by scifi fans didn’t take place in scifi movies. Consider the following four films:

Beauty and the Beast (1991)
This Disney classic (the only full-length animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture) used computers to assist in adding colors and shadows for its 3D-like images and rendered backgrounds. CGI was also used to simulate complex movements (by tweening motion between frames) in the dance sequence in the Beast’s ballroom.

Death Becomes Her (1992)
The award-winning movie features photo-realistic skin (created with the
first human skin CG software). Skin was replicated to link actress
Meryl Streep’s body and head together with a stretched digital neck.

The Mask (1994)
Live-action fused with cartoons on the frame, marking the first
instance of visual effects artists using CGI to turn a live actor (Jim
Carrey) into a photo-realistic cartoon character.

Casper (1995)
This was the first feature film with an all-digital, non-human CG
leading role to take up almost 40 minutes of movie time. The Harvey
Comics character Casper, the Friendly Ghost is the first
computer-generated, fully-synthetic speaking character with a natural
and distinct personality expressing emotion.

To learn more about the history of CGI, check out Tim Dirks’s column on the Future of Classic blog.

To read a more about the history of special effects in general, check out Tim Dirks’s extensive overview on Filmsite.org.

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