Toying with Stereo
October 1, 2009

Toying with Stereo

In 1995, Pixar Animation Studios releasedToy Story, the first feature film created with 3D computer graphics.That movie proved to be groundbreaking in so many ways, setting a newcourse for animated films. In 1999, the studio repeated its previoussuccess with Toy Story 2, as the innovative filmmakers expanded thetechnical innovations from its previous films and created the mostcomplex computer-generated film at the time.
Take a nostalgic look back in time at how Pixar created the original Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

Now, the original Toy Story and its sequel, Toy Story 2, have become Disney/Pixar’s second and third features to receive the full 3D treatment--stereo 3D. Up was the first. Bob Whitehill, lead stereographer, supervised the stereo work for all three.

Indeed, while the original films were created with 3D software, they were rendered and projected for viewing on a flat screen. Simply, the imagery no longer had dimension or depth. For the stereo versions, Whitehill and his crew were tasked with adding that depth.

“Creatively, we needed to find a template for how to use 3D in the studio, the range we wanted to use. I call it the three Cs: comfortable, consistent with what the original film had in mind, and captivating. We want it to be immersive, to draw you into the story. At no time is our goal to make 3D a reason to bring people into the theater,” Whitehill says.

However, the task went far beyond re-rendering the frames for both the right and left eyes to produce the stereo effect. In a nutshell, because the original movie was intended for flat screens, the artists incorporated typical cheats, such as background paintings, that would not work in stereo.

In the end, it added up to a tremendous amount of work. But for those who got their first taste of CGI at theaters in 1999, the effort resulted in a blast from the past, albeit one that is super-fueled by, once again, the latest CG technology.

In the October issue of CGW, Barbara Robertson details this creative achievement once again. In 1999, she explained how Pixar took viewers to infinity and beyond, chronicling the techniques and technologies that made Toy Story possible. A few years later, she repeated that journey by taking us behind the scenes on Toy Story 2. Now, she does so again.