Chapter 14: CG in the Movies
As the image making capabilities advanced during the move from the lab to full scale production in the 1970s, Hollywood took notice. There were several movies that included one or more special effects scenes that were CGI.
For example, John Whitney Jr. produced some graphics effects for Michael Crichton’s Westworld in 1973 – in particular, the “robot view” of the main character was the first example of digital image processing used in films;
Information International Inc (III) produced a 3D representation of Peter Fonda’s head for the movie Futureworld in 1976;
Susan Dey was digitized by III for several scenes in Michael Crichton’s 1981 film Looker;
Larry Cuba produced a scene for Star Wars using Tom DeFanti’s software at the EVL at University of Illinois in Chicago, and another scene was done with SCANIMATE;
John Whitney, Sr., R/Greenberg and others produced graphics for titles, including the famous Superman titles; Disney’s The Black Hole used a 3D effect for the opening and for some trailers;
the “Genesis Effect” was produced by Lucasfilm for Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan in 1982.
But it was the 1982 sci-fi movie TRON that pushed the issue, using four major production companies to produce over 20 minutes of full 3D graphics. Whereas the movie was not a box-office success, it did prove that this new medium had tremendous potential for the industry. Read more details about this movie and the effects production In Section 3.
The cost of TRON, coupled with its poor performance at the box office, caused Hollywood to take a step back from CG film production. They became excited once more when Digital Productions produced the tremendous imagery for the movie The Last Starfighter.
Read more about the production of TRON and The Last Starfighter in the article Science and the Silver Screen from the Time-Life series Understanding Computers: Computer Images (1986).
The CGSociety and 3D World presented a rundown of the Top 100 3D Movies as selected by the CG community in 1998.
Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) – Milestones in Film
from THE GREATEST FILMS – The “Greatest” and the “Best” in Cinematic History website
Movie 14.1 Animated Characters in the Movies