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Pixar founder's Utah-made 'Hand' added to National Film Registry
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The University of Utah literally has a hand in movie history.

The 1972 experimental film "A Computer Animated Hand" has been added to the National Film Registry. The film, a computer rendering of his left hand, was created by Ed Catmull, then a U. graduate student, who went on to found the Pixar Animation Studios.

Catmull's pioneering film was one of 25 the Library of Congress announced Wednesday as this year's addition to the registry, which aims to preserve films that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.

Other new entries this year include "Forrest Gump," "Bambi," "The Lost Weekend," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Norma Rae," "Stand and Deliver" and Charlie Chaplin's first full-length feature, "The Kid" (1921). The oldest films among the 25 are two silents from 1912: "The Cry of the Children" and "A Cure for Pokeritis."

"A Computer Animated Hand" is a one-minute film, made by Catmull and Fred Parke at the University of Utah, in which Catmull digitized a model of his own left hand. The animation shows this digitized hand flexing, making a fist, and pointing at the viewer.

"In creating the film, Catmull worked out concepts that become the foundation for computer graphics that followed," Library of Congress scholars wrote in a statement.

The film was a landmark, according to Craig Caldwell, USTAR senior research professor in digital media at the U., because "it showed the potential of putting three-dimensional form in the computer." Before Catmull rendered his hand in 3-D, most computer animation centered on two-dimensional images, Caldwell said. The film was also groundbreaking, Caldwell said, because Catmull's hand moved. Before that, "most people were focused on the rendering."

Hollywood noticed Catmull's experiment, and made it the first computer animation to be used in a feature film. It was shown on a TV monitor in the 1976 science-fiction thriller "Futureworld," about a futuristic theme park where androids are programmed to grant every guest's wish.

"Everybody [in Hollywood] sort of took a leap in there, because they could see where this could go," Caldwell said, adding that practically every Hollywood movie made today "has a digital 3-D human form, whether we realize it or not."


See the hand ofEd Catmull

O To view the short pioneering animated video on Vimeo, visit this link. > http://bit.ly/vaOy7s

Movies • Catmull's U. of U. experimental 1972 film pioneered techniques in computer animation.
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