Ever wonder how 3D animation rose to it’s current level of popularity? Continue reading for a deep dive into the history of 3D animation!


the history of 3D animation

By: Sophia Lin

Though 3D animation seems like a modern concept, the history of 3D animation is long and rich. Technology has allowed the genre to rise in popularity as it can be adapted for families and mature audiences. As popularity continues to rise for 3D animation, so does the need for new animators and studios. There is no greater time to be an animator in this ever-growing industry than right now!


In this blog post we’ll discuss the history of 3D animation and how the animation industry changed in just a couple of decades. We’ll tell you about the surprising involvement of the aerospace company Boeing in the beginnings of animation. Additionally, we’ll go through how Star Wars had a major hand in kicking off the feasibility of 3D animation in Hollywood. But before we get into the history of 3D animation, let’s go back to basics – what exactly is 3D animation?


Learn more about InFocus Film School's 3D Animation and Visual Effects Program

Click here to learn more about InFocus Film School’s 3D Animation and Visual Effects Program


Defining 3D Animation

As an art form, animation is the rapid displaying of still images in sequence. Each image differs slightly from the one before, and when they appear quickly in succession, it creates movement. This movement often goes by at a rate of 24 frames per second, closely mirroring the speed of movement that we perceive in real life. By doing so, the viewer experiences a realistic scene despite the characters being animations. 


In 3D animation, specifically, characters and environments are three-dimensional. Animators use pixels and work to give objects weight and timing. And sometimes, animators scan real-world physical objects to create blueprints. In this case, instead of looking flat, 3D animation gives off the feel of realism, using the same level of depth and detail our eyes see on a daily basis.


The Birth of 3D Animation

Lets start at the beginning of the history of 3D animation. During the early 1900s, a unique and never-before-seen style of animation came into being called claymation. This style of animation consisted of the modelling of clay into objects and characters resembling that of real life. Often, people would segment the clay so that not only could characters move, but so could their limbs, heads, and torsos.


history of 3D animation


These characters inspired the method of stop-motion filmmaking. Early animations would take a photo, move one piece of a clay creation, take a photo, and repeat. One of the well-known Claymation films of the time was called The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream, a trick film created by Edison Manufacturing in 1908. However, despite its creativity, Claymation didn’t really take off. The growth of claymation was halted by the challenges of clay sculpting and the time-consuming nature of stop motion. For now, the future of 3D animation stayed largely unknown.


The 70s Boom

It was many years before animation returned to the entertainment scene after claymation came to a close. The re-emergence of 3D animation as a popular tool all started with the “Boeing Man” or “Boeman” in the early 1960s. It was the creation of William Fetter, an employee at Boeing. His job there was to create 3D models, using computers to animate and design these models for the company. This figure was meant to simulate how a human would sit and move in the cockpit of an airplane. Fetter would go on to create short videos of these rigged pilots, using them to understand ideal methods of cockpit design. With his work known as the first form of 3D moving images, Fetter became credited as the father of computer-generated 3D animation.


Frederic Parke, a computer graphics academic, created the first 3D model of a human face. As a computer scientist at the University of Utah, he produced a short film entitled Face & Body Parts in 1974. This short film showed computer-generated expressions such as happiness and shock, and the movements from one expression to the next. This would go on to pave the way for the complex facial animations we see in film and TV today!


On the heels of Parke’s work came several other milestones. The first 3D computer-generated hand was created by Edwin Catmull was the first of many landmarks in the history of 3D animation. Catmull and Parke later came together to work on Futureworld, a major motion picture released in 1976. This set a precedent, as the first film to ever incorporate 3D computer-generated animations. 3D animation technology finally reached audiences for the very first time, marking a pivotal turning point in the history of 3D animation industry.


 Entry into Hollywood

By the 1980s, 3D animation was finally gaining momentum and finding its way into the film industry. The release of Futureworld certainly played a major part, but it was George Lucas’ Star Wars films that gave 3D animation the final push it needed to cement itself in Hollywood.


history of 3D animation


In 1977, the release of Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope changed the game. Lucas, along with the newly formed visual effects company Industrial Light and Magic, used 3D animation mostly in the realm of creating enhanced visuals for models, puppets, and sets. What Star Wars started was continued by Tron, a landmark film for 3D animation. Released in 1982, it featured computer-generated animation. This was the first time animation was at the forefront of a film, instead of incorporating bits and pieces of animation here and there.


The History of 3D Animation Technology

But what exactly allowed for this explosion of 3D animation in the 80s? The answer, simply, is that technology finally was able to catch up. From the first time 3D animation had come onto the scene until now, nearly 80 years had gone by, allowing for the rudimentary principles of animation to be refined again and again. Now, inventions in 3D animations were permitted greater complexity. For instance, recursive ray tracing, a rendering technique, was introduced by J. Turner Whitted. With this tool, animated work began to move closer and closer to realism.


Around the same time, in 1982, Autodesk released its computer-aided design software called AutoCAD. This not only widened the possibilities of software-supported 3D animation but increased the accessibility of the medium — and thereby, its popularity.


As the 80s wrapped up, 3D animation had become something Hollywood could not ignore. Its commercial success was undeniable, as was its growing viability for use in a wide range of settings and genres.


Mainstream Development

With the software and technology growing in advancements, the 1990s were a sweet spot for 3D animation. Studios, filmmakers, and animators were all ready to take a risk on this new medium — and so they did. The decade was kicked off with James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which, though it was live action, contained stunning visual effects completely foreign to audiences. Jurassic Park then took this one step further with more than realistic and larger-than-life dinosaurs.


Unsurprisingly, the realm of entirely animated works expanded too. Veggie Tales, out in 1993, marked the first fully 3D animated series. Not long ago, the iconic Toy Story came along, as the first fully 3D, computer-animated feature-length film. The success of the innovative Toy Story, both critically and commercially, placed it firmly into the limelight. Its box office gross of $363 million made it clear that 3D animation was here to stay, and so was Pixar. At the time, the company was in its early years, co-founded by the same Edwin Catmull who introduced the first 3D animated hand.


Turn of the Century

The 90s were quickly coming to an end. But, the turn of the century brought more good news and development for the 3D animation industry. For one, George Lucas was beginning to reap the rewards of his continued belief in animation. In The Phantom Menace and The Attack of the Clones, almost all the added effects used the technology of 3D animation. 


history of 3D animation


2009 saw Avatar break records for its use of 3D animation at the highest level yet.  3D animation allows us to create realistic human-like creatures, extensive world-building, and manufactured sets, making it an option that was not only preferable, but the highly-coveted ideal. By now it was clear that technology was flourishing, computers were widespread, and 3D animation was well on its way to its current-day multi-million status.


3D Animation Today

When you think of current 3D animation, images of Frozen, Zootopia, or Sing may come to mind. People often see kids’ movies as the face of animation nowadays. But, in truth, 3D animation as an art form has never been more viable or versatile. Though it may not be what first comes to mind, animation is used in media far and wide. In fact, it’ll be hard to name a recent film that doesn’t use 3D animation technology in any way, shape, or form. Even films like Tenet, Dune, and all Marvel movies utilize 3D animation technology. In these films, the seamless combination of live-action and 3D animation is apparent; another great innovation to come out of the 21st century.


With 3D animation technology frequently blurring what is animated vs. what is real, there is a distinct emphasis on realism. And more often than not, animated objects stand in for real ones without us ever noticing! Films are just the beginning. You can find 3D animation in television, but also in video games, virtual reality, advertising, and education. The presence of 3D animation is strong, and even still on the rise.


The Future of Animation

3D animation is bound to see enhancements in terms of capability and complexity because of how much technology supports it. AI and machine learning has the potential to speed up the animating workflow. This would perhaps open up the field up to a greater range of possible animation styles.


Likewise, phenomena like photorealism and 4D animation are just now taking off — and also involve 3D animation. Some of the more current trends, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, will also continue to evolve. In fact, these are two disciplines which have already proven to be promising applications of 3D animation. The mainstream quality of 3D animation will likely be amplified further. Prepare to see uses of 3D animation in business, everyday communication, and marketing. Even now, the 2D industry utilizes 3D animation software in many of their productions!


history of 3d animation


Without a doubt, aspiring 3D animations have grown exponentially since the early 21st century. Many want to get in on this fast-growing industry, and contribute to an art form that is, all things considered, still quite young. And as we move towards the future, creating high-quality 3D animation work will only get easier and easier.


It’s clear that 3D animation has come far from its humble roots. Now, the industry looks set to move in a range of exciting new directions. The history of 3D animation has made a unique and long-lasting mark on the world as we know it. There is no doubt that this industry will continue to grow and surprise us. 

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    Have you ever wanted to know what it takes to create your own romantic comedy? In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the best romantic comedies of the past 10 years and how they utilize different elements of filmmaking.


    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    What makes a great romantic comedy? Is it the script, the acting, the directing or the chemistry between the lead actors? In our opinion, it’s all of those things and more! While most audiences remain captivated by the developing love story on-screen, we can sometimes forget about all of the elements that shape the film. These include things like clever screenwriting and production design. In this blog post, we’ll look at 10 great romantic comedies from the past decade and how they utilize different aspects of filmmaking. These are movies that new filmmakers should watch to get a better understanding of the beloved genre.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”

    1. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

    This Oscar-winning film shows us the importance of understanding the emotional complexity of your characters and knowing how to convey those emotions through dialogue and action. Both characters of Pat and Tiffany are broken people who have experienced significant difficulties in their lives. As they come together to find love and happiness, they are also forced to confront their own personal struggles. This tough emotional journey allows the viewers to connect with the characters on a deeper level. With this in mind, Silver Linings Playbook makes an excellent film for storytellers looking to create rich characters with complex emotions.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”

    2. La La Land (2016)

    This memorable film is a tribute to the art of filmmaking and to the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood. For starters, La La Land features some truly stunning cinematography. The film is shot in beautiful, vibrant colors that capture the magic and romance of Los Angeles. This creates a visually stunning backdrop for the film’s main characters, Mia and Sebastian. In particular, the cinematography draws on many classic techniques from classic musicals and old-school Hollywood films. For example, there are many wide shots with sweeping camera movements that give a sense of grandiosity. An example of this can be found in scenes like Sebastian’s jazz club performance. These shots help to create an immersive experience, making viewers feel like they are right there alongside Mia and Sebastian in their romantic adventures!



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Constance Wu and Henry Golding in “Crazy Rich Asians”

    3. Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

    It is crucial to understand the role that production design plays in shaping the look and feel of a movie. In Crazy Rich Asians, production designers had to create a world that accurately reflected the extravagant lifestyle of its characters. In addition, they also had to set the stage for a romantic story about cultural barriers and financial inequality. Production designers on this film used a number of different techniques to achieve this goal. For example, they worked closely with costume designers to create outfits that would reflect the wealth, style and cultural background of each character. They also consulted with set designers to create lavish spaces that portrayed both the beauty and high society in Singapore.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Nick Robinson, Alexandra Shipp and Katherine Langford in “Love, Simon”

    4. Love, Simon (2018) 

    Through its compelling characters and thought-provoking themes, Love, Simon pushes beyond convention and tells a story that reflects the diversity of the human experience. The film encourages aspiring filmmakers to embrace complexity in their storytelling while seeking to connect with a wide range of audiences. An example of how Love, Simon ignores conventions is the character of Simon himself! Simon’s character breaks stereotypes about what it means to be gay. He is not flamboyant or overly sexualized, and his struggles with coming out are portrayed in a nuanced way that avoids oversimplifying his experience. By challenging these conventions, the film Love, Simon inspires young creators to explore new perspectives and tell more diverse stories.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon in “The Big Sick”

    5. The Big Sick (2018)

    The award-winning screenplay for The Big Sick received praise for its honest exploration of modern relationships and cross-cultural dynamics. The screenplay was written by husband and wife duo Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, which helped to elevate the overall chemistry and authenticity of the film’s main characters. The script tackles issues like family expectations, cultural clashes, and illness with a nuanced understanding that resonated with all audiences. The Big Sick went on to become a critical and commercial success, cementing the script as one of the most accomplished in recent memory. Through this tale of love, loss and perseverance, the screenplay shines a light on universal themes of family, identity, and connection.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in “Warm Bodies”

    6. Warm Bodies

    In this film we see a romantic comedy blended with a zombie flick. This unique blend of very different genres allowed the filmmakers to play with elements and events such as gory zombie transformations and romantic encounters.

    This blending of genres also offers opportunities for greater creativity on the part of both filmmakers and cinematographers. By juxtaposing the lighthearted tone of a romantic comedy with the gruesome world of zombies, cinematographers can utilize different lighting and camera angles to capture both the beauty and terror of the relationship. Additionally, the slow-moving shots of the characters help to build tension and convey an intimate connection between the zombie hero and his human love interest. These techniques evoke elements of a traditional horror movie as well as a romantic comedy. Ultimately, this allowed the director to create an intriguing blend that is both fun and engaging for audiences to watch.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth in “Isn’t It Romantic”

    Isn’t It Romantic (2019)

    The casting choices in Isn’t It Romantic proved to be critical to the success of the film. When it came to the role of Sasha, the plus-size love interest in the movie, Rebel Wilson’s unique brand of humor and her relatable character was a perfect fit. As a plus-sized actress at the time of production, they were able to create an authentic representation of plus-size women in romantic comedies. Their choice helped to make Isn’t It Romantic one of the first movies to feature a plus-size woman as the lead. This step ultimately helped to pave the way for more inclusive casting decisions in Hollywood.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Terrence Howard, Nia Long and Eddie Cibrian in “The Best Man Holiday”

    8. The Best Man Holiday

    Casting directors need to consider a number of factors when choosing the right cast members for a film. First and foremost, they must take into account the chemistry between the performers, as well as the actors’ individual strengths. Each actor should bring something unique to their role, such as comedic timing or dramatic intensity. The cast of The Best Man Holiday is an incredible mix of actors whose individual strengths lend themselves perfectly to the film. For example, Taye Diggs brings his presence and charismatic charm to his role as Harper. Secondly, Nia Long brings depth and vulnerability to her character that helps to set up one of the film’s most emotional moments. At the same time, Sanaa Lathan shines as the quick-witted and independent Robin, while Terrence Howard adds the perfect amount of intensity.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Noah Centineo and Lana Condor in “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”

    9. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

    The cast of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one of the many reasons why this film has become such a smash hit among viewers. Lana Condor brings a unique, nerdy energy to her role as Lara Jean, and Noah Centineo perfectly captures the cool confidence of high school heartthrob Peter Kavinsky. Together, these two leads create a dynamic on screen that is charming and relatable, making them the perfect couple for audiences to cheer on. With its engaging plot and lovable characters, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has become one of the most beloved films on Netflix, cementing its status as a modern teen rom-com classic.



    best romantic comedies of the past 10 years

    Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in “Trainwreck”

    10. Trainwreck (2015)

    One of the challenges that comes with writing a film like Trainwreck is finding ways to subvert the common tropes of mainstream cinema while staying true to Schumer’s raunchy humor. In this film, the central character pushes against gender stereotypes in a way that is both unexpected and relatable. This combination of unconventional storytelling paired with conventional subject matter is what makes Trainwreck an engaging film for aspiring screenwriters. Learning how to write for a film like Trainwreck can help you craft more eccentric stories and will develop your skills as a screenwriter.


    In order to make a great romantic comedy, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about the love story. It’s also about the different elements of filmmaking that come together to create an enjoyable and memorable experience for viewers. By studying some of the best examples of romantic comedies from recent years, we can see how the genre has changed over time. Aspiring screenwriters can watch these modern rom-coms to learn about what works for the genre and what doesn’t work, helping future filmmakers to create the next generation of beloved rom-coms for audiences to enjoy.



    InFocus Film School Film Program

    Click here to learn more about InFocus Film School’s Film Production Program!

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      Have you been wanting to take action and find a job in the Canadian film industry? Check out these reasons why you should consider going to film school!

      By Brittany McDonald

      When it comes to working in the Canadian film industry, filmmakers will often speak to the value of film school. If you’re looking for a career in film production, then you should consider attending a film program! Film school is a great way to learn about the industry and make connections with aspiring and established filmmakers. In this blog post, we will talk about why attending film school will help you find a job in the Canadian film industry. We will also highlight some of the benefits of film school education and how it can launch your new career!


      Learn From Industry Leaders

      One of the main reasons why film school will help you find a job in Canada is because you can take advantage of learning from experienced professionals. At film school, you will have the opportunity to learn from the best about different topics of filmmaking. This insider knowledge is invaluable and can help you land your dream job in film production.

      find a job in the Canadian film industry

      Having access to insider knowledge and first-hand experience can provide you with unique insights into the filmmaking process. This will definitely help you in your pursuit of a career in this exciting and dynamic field. Having a solid understanding of the skills that are needed to succeed will give you a significant advantage over other aspiring filmmakers. Furthermore, by building relationships with filmmakers and industry professionals, you will have access to opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.


      Build Your Professional Network

      Another great reason to attend film school is because it gives you the chance to make connections. It is crucial for young filmmakers to align themselves with a mentor who can help to guide you through the more tedious parts of the filmmaker process, like how to source funding. Attending film school also gives students an opportunity to network with Canadian film producers and directors. This can be particularly beneficial when landing your first film job.

      find a job in the Canadian film industry

      After you graduate, you will have a much better chance of landing a job in film than if you had not attended film school. Film schools often have strong relationships with Canadian production companies. As a result, these relationships can give you a real advantage when it comes to finding a job. This network can be extremely helpful as it can give you access to insider information and opportunities.


      Grow Your Skillset

      Film school is a great place to establish a solid foundation in filmmaking before walking onto a professional set. From here you can continue to grow your skills and experience once you begin working on a production. By attending film school, you will develop essential skills that will help you navigate your film production career in Canada. These skills include storyboarding, directing, writing, editing, screenwriting, sound and cinematography. An understanding of all of these aspects of the filmmaking process are essential for any aspiring filmmaker.

      find a job in the Canadian film industry

      Film school will also give you the chance to practice and learn from your mistakes in a safe and supportive environment. Practicing and making mistakes in a school environment also allows you to build a stronger foundation of experience. This is essential once you start working. Having this stronger understanding enables students to think critically about their work. It allows students to communicate effectively with other crew members, and collaborate with fellow filmmakers. In short, learning how to navigate the challenges of film school helps prepare students for the demanding world of filmmaking.


      If you have a passion for film and would love to find a job in the Canadian film industry, then film school might be right for you! It’s a great way to learn about the industry and make important connections, which will be incredibly helpful after graduation. Film school provides you with the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals, make connections and build your skills. So if you want to find a job in the Canadian film industry, consider attending film school to fast-track your way to a successful career!


      InFocus Film School Film Program

      Click here to learn more about InFocus Film School’s Film Production Program!

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        Curious about studying film in Canada? Keep reading for the complete run-down on what you need to know!
        studying film in canada

        So you’re thinking of studying film in Canada as an international student? Canada is home to a billion dollar TV and Film industry, with much of the action happening in Vancouver.

        Whether you’re interested in directing, producing or cinematography, Vancouver is the place to be! Are you thinking about studying film in Canada as an international student? Here is what you need to know to help organize your study plans before the first day of class.



        Because InFocus Film School programs are at least 6 months in length, students require a study permit.  Study Permits are issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

        InFocus is on the Designated Learning Institutions list, which means we are authorized to host international students. You must provide proof of your acceptance from InFocus when you apply for your study permit. You will also need to provide a bank statement or proof of loan. This is to show that you are able to support yourself while you are studying film in Canada.

        If possible, you should apply for a Study Permit as early as possible. It can take several months to process an application, depending on your home country.



        InFocus Film School does not offer post graduate work permit eligible programs. However, students may be eligible for post graduate work permits through a pathway program with a partnering institution. Currently, InFocus offers pathway programs through Capilano University and Yorkville University. With this permit, students can plan ahead to immigrate to Canada as a permanent resident.

        We recommend you do your research at Immigration and Citizenship Canada or speak to a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). InFocus Film School works with a RCIC that can go over your options with you.



        Depending on your country of origin, you also may need a Temporary Resident Visa. You can find out if you need a visa here.

        *This is for informational purposes only. 



        InFocus Film School Film Program

        Click here to learn more about InFocus Film School’s Film Production Program!

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          By submitting this form you are agreeing to be contacted by InFocus Film School. We will never sell or distribute your information, and you may opt-out of receiving emails from us at any time. Read our Privacy Policy here.