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Luxo, Jr.
Directed by John Lasseter
Produced by John Lasseter
Bill Reeves
Written by John Lasseter
Music by Chick Corea
Distributed by Pixar Animation Studios
Release date(s) August 17, 1986 (SIGGRAPH)
November 24, 1999 (with Toy Story 2)
Running time 2 min 18 sec
Country USA

Luxo, Jr. is the first film produced in 1986 by Pixar Animation Studios, following its establishment as an independent film studio. It is a computer-animated short film (two and a half minutes, including credits), demonstrating the kind of things the newly-established company was capable of producing.

It is the source of the small hopping desk lamp included in Pixar's corporate logo. In a subsequent re-release after Pixar became popular, a pretext was added to the film reading, "In 1986, Pixar produced its first film. This is why we have a hopping lamp in our logo."[1]

Contents

Plot

The only characters are two Anglepoise desk lamps, one large and one small, inspired by a Luxo brand task-light on John Lasseter's desk (hence the title). Luxo Jr. (small) plays with a small inflated rubber ball, chasing it and trying to balance on it, as Luxo (large) reacts to these antics. The ball eventually deflates due to Luxo Jr. jumping on it; Luxo Jr. is admonished by Luxo, then finds and plays with an even larger ball.[2]

Note

On the technical level, the film demonstrates the use of shadow maps to simulate the shifting light and shadow given by the animated lamps.[3] The lights and the color surfaces of all the objects are calculated, each using a RenderMan surface shader, not surface textures.[3] The articulation of "limbs" is carefully coordinated, and power cords trail believably behind the moving lamps.[3] On the cinematic level, it demonstrates a simple and entertaining story, including effectively expressive individual characters.[4]

Significance

It was Pixar's first animation after Ed Catmull and John Lasseter left ILM's computer division. Lasseter's aim was to finish the short film for SIGGRAPH, an annual computer technology exhibition attended by thousands of industry professionals. Catmull and Lasseter worked around the clock, and Lasseter even took a sleeping bag into work and slept under his desk[5], ready to work early the next morning. The commitment paid off, and against all odds it was finished for SIGGRAPH. Before Luxo Jr. finished playing at SIGGRAPH, the crowd had already risen in applause.[6]

"Luxo Jr. sent shock waves through the entire industry – to all corners of computer and traditional animation. At that time, most traditional artists were afraid of the computer. They did not realize that the computer was merely a different tool in the artist's kit but instead perceived it as a type of automation that might endanger their jobs. Luckily, this attitude changed dramatically in the early '80s with the use of personal computers in the home. The release of our Luxo Jr. ... reinforced this opinion turnaround within the professional community.” –Edwin Catmull, Computer Animation: A Whole New World, 1998.

Luxo Jr. after the short

In 1986, Luxo Jr. received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film. It was the first CGI film nominated for an Academy Award.[1] Spinoffs of the short called "Surprise", "Light & Heavy", "Up and Down", and "Front and Back" have appeared on Sesame Street, which are now available on the Pixar Short Films Collection - Volume 1 though the original narrative track is not included.

Luxo Jr., without the cord, now serves as the mascot for Pixar Animation Studios, appearing in its production logo before and after every feature film. He hops in from the right, stops next to the I in PIXAR, and jumps on it until he has completely squashed it down, as he did to the rubber ball in the short. He then looks around and angles his "head" toward the camera; at this point, all the light typically fades to black except for his head, which goes out with a click after a moment. Occasionally, the head fades in time with the light, but this is exceptional.

Two variations of this sequence were created for the films Cars and WALL-E. For Cars, the message "Celebrating 20 Years" appeared as the background faded out, with Luxo Jr.'s head used as the zero. Pixar was founded in 1986; this film, released in 2006, marked their 20th anniversary. In a teaser trailer for WALL-E, his bulb burns out after he has squashed the I down. WALL-E rolls in from the right, changes the bulb to an energy-efficient fluorescent bulb, and pats Luxo Jr. on the head before going back the way he came. However, he trips over the R in PIXAR as he goes, so he stops and positions his body to take its place, after which Luxo Jr. looks at the camera, WALL-E sometimes peeks out, and the lights go out normally. This is also shown after the end credits of the film.

A new variant of the sequence, optimized for 3-D projection was played with the 3D version of Up. The same animation as the regular logo plays as normal. However, the logo pans to the right from the P in the Pixar letters, therefore Luxo Jr is seen approaching centre when he's first seen.

Other appearances

  • Since the short's release, the Luxo Ball has appeared in almost every Pixar production to date.
  • In To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios, a book of Pixar's history up through January 2007, film critic Leonard Maltin said that he "like[s] the fact that Luxo [Jr.] still has significance to the people at Pixar", and remarked that it was something like Disney's Mickey Mouse.[1]
  • The short was re-issued in 1999 and shown before screenings of Toy Story 2. There is also a scene in Toy Story 2 where the toys frantically flick through TV channels to find a certain commercial. One of the channels is showing Luxo Jr.[1]
  • Luxo Jr. also appears in the Toy Story scene where Woody knocks Buzz out the window, after dropping the 8-Ball behind the desk. However, Luxo Jr. is painted bright red instead of gray for this scene.[1]
  • An audio-animatronic version of Luxo Jr. appears in Pixar Place at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. It comes out of shutters on the side of a building, bouncing out onto a platform. It dances around to different music that plays during the day, and at night it interacts with the lighting in nearby trees.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Lasseter, J. (1987) cited in Mealing, S. (1998). The Art and Science of Computer Animation. Intellect Books. ISBN 978-1871516715.
  3. ^ a b c Foley, J. D., Van Dam, A., Feiner, S. K. & Hughes, J. F. (1995). Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0201848403.
  4. ^ Courrier, K. (2005). Randy Newman's American Dreams: American Dreams. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1550226904.
  5. ^ The Pixar Story (2007) (TV documentary)
  6. ^ Paik, K., Lasseter, J., Iwerks, L., Jobs, S. & Catmull, E. (2007). To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811850124.

External links

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