Book Review: Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation
Moving Innovation has its sections of dry facts, but Sito peppers the text with as many human-interest stories as possible. “Even the opening titles for A Computer Animated Hand  were groundbreaking. The original titlecard was hand-written, but shortly after, Robert Ingebretsen designed titles of the names of Ed Catmull and Fred Parke. They appear as 3D block letters and then rotate 180 degrees to read ‘University of Utah.’ This may be the first ever example of ‘flying logos,’ the animating technique that would become the bill-paying trick of CG studios for the next twenty years.” (p. 64) “[Robert] Taylor had convinced Xerox that instead of being near the company headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, the new lab should be located out west in Palo Alto, California. […] What this also did was give the lab independence from the stuffy office environment of older corporate America. In that time, at IBM you would be reprimanded for wearing anything other than a pressed white shirt and dark tie. The dresscode at [Xerox] PARC was long hair, tie-dye tank tops, love beads, torn jeans, and sandals.” (p. 82) “While all this [computer effects in production of 2001: A Space Odyssey] was going on, Arthur C. Clarke stood watching. After the script is done, screenwriters have little to do on a movie set other than wait for rewrites. To pass the time, Clarke made small talk with the craft-service boy. Clarke told him that someday all the power of this sophisticated computer technology he saw would fit onto a tiny chip the size of a fingernail. The boy couldn’t fathom what Clarke was talking about. 2001: A Space Odyssey went on to become one of the most iconic films in history and inspired a generation of science fiction writers and filmmakers.” (p. 148) “Digital cinema projection spread around the country, and at old Hollywood film vaults like CFI and Technicolor, alleyway trash dumpsters bulged with unwanted 35 mm and 16 mm film cans, fulfilling Francis Ford Coppola’s prediction. Studios announced a phasing out of all 35mm celluloid by the end of 2013. By 2010 an Oxberry downshooter animation camera stand, which used to retail for $40,000-80,000, could be yours for nothing if you came with a truck that could haul it away.” (p. 266)
The book is current to Disney’s Paperman in 2012. For the academically inclined, there is an 11-page Dramatis Personae of the important names in computer graphics history, a 3-page Glossary of CG technical terminology, a separate 4-page list of CG acronyms and abbreviations, 28 pages of Notes, an 8-page Bibliography, and an Index. Moving Innovation is the book for anyone who wants to know where Computer Graphics came from, and how they shot to ascendancy in the animation industry.
Fred Patten has been a fan of animation since the first theatrical rerelease of Pinocchio (1945). He co-founded the first American fan club for Japanese anime in 1977, and was awarded the Comic-Con International's Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to American fandom. He began writing about anime for Animation World Magazine since its #5, August 1996. A major stroke in 2005 sidelined him for several years, but now he is back. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.