U Alum’s Company, Pixar, Honored

November 28, 2017

Pixar Animation Studios, the legendary computer animation house run by University of Utah computer science alumnus Edwin Catmull that has produced such family favorite films as “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “Up,” was honored with the 2018 IEEE Corporate Innovation Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The Emeryville, California, movie studio was honored with the award in November for its “long history of pioneering innovations in computer animation and computer graphics,” according to a recent IEEE statement. The award will be handed out during the organization’s annual summit in May.

IEEE announced the honor the same time the animation company, which also produced such hits as “Cars,” “Inside Out” and “Monsters Inc.,” had the No. 1 box-office-grossing film in North America. It’s newest film, “Coco,” about a boy’s musical journey during Mexico’s holiday Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), earned more than $71 million in the U.S. alone.

In 1986, Catmull, along with Apple icon, Steve Jobs, founded Pixar, creating a studio with one of the best track records of any production house in Hollywood. Pixar first exploded on the Hollywood scene in 1995 with the Academy Award-winning “Toy Story” and has since produced an unprecedented number of box office and critical hits. Pixar’s animated feature films have so far won eight Academy Awards.

In 2006, Pixar merged with Disney, and Catmull remained as president of the company while also becoming president of Disney’s Animation Studios, which created other hit animated films, including “Frozen,” “Tangled,” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” His book, Creativity Inc., gives insight into how Catmull runs his companies and how he best elicits creative thinking from its employees.

Catmull first attended the U in 1963 as a physics student but later took computer science classes as graphics were emerging as a technology. It was during this “Camelot” period in the U’s computer science department that Catmull was paving new ground in computers along with other noted U innovators including Nolan Busnell of Atari, interface designer Alan Kay, and John Warnock, who founded Adobe.

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