Luxo Jr - the first short ever released by Pixar, back in 1986 - received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film, becoming the first CGI film nominated for an Academy Award. Here director Kyle Balda, who's worked in animation at Pixar, ILM and Weta, explains just what made it such a success...
"Luxo Jr was something I first saw as part of Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation," explains Balda. "I was 17. It was my introduction to 3D animation and the thing that most made me want to pursue a career in computer animation.
"For me, the essence of character animation is the empathy we inspire in the audience for the characters we create. Luxo Jr does this in spades. Through Lasseter’s performance, viewers come to project the relationship of parent and child onto what would otherwise be two soulless household lamps.
"In spite of having no face to emote with, no arms to gesture with, or even a mouth to speak with, the characters communicate with perfect clarity. We know what they are thinking and feeling with every frame we watch. What’s more, we are moved from curiosity, to sympathy, to celebration, through the trials that little Luxo Jr goes through in his brilliant two-minute odyssey.
"Shaders and lighting software have improved immensely since the film’s creation in 1986. But Luxo Jr shows the art of animation is, and always will be, timeless."
Genius of the lamp
3D World Magazine's Jim Thacker says: “The first short the Pixar team made was good. The second was Luxo Jr. A tale of curiosity, wonder and the parent-child bond, whose only characters are two animated desk lamps, it gained Lasseter the first of four Academy Award nominations. (He would later go on to win twice.)
"While most 3D shorts from the period are little more than historical curiosities, Luxo Jr transcends its technology. Its elegant visual style, strong emotional storyline and beautifully nuanced animation remain the hallmarks of modern Pixar productions. To this day, the company uses the Luxo character as its mascot.”
Jim Thacker is an experienced editor of consumer and specialist magazines. He currently writes freelance for a range of leading technology publications, including 3D World, CG Channel, CGSociety, BBC Focus, .net and Jawbone.tv, and the Metro newspaper.