Let’s not spoil the surprise just yet, but see if you can guess who the most underrated man in Hollywood is before the reveal.
This person’s list of achievements is long over the course of his career. He has received numerous Academy Awards and has risen to a prominent place within a large animation studio.
He has been instrumental in the development of technology that has played such a significant role in the history of animation that without it, things would be quite, nay, substantially different than what we know it as today.
In addition to these achievements, he is also known as a man with a clear vision of the future. He was quite literally decades ahead of his time and his vision for animated entertainment was proven exactly as he envisioned. Naturally, he was astute enough to place himself in roles that would serve this purpose and his arrival at certain companies at particular times was quite fortuitous for both parties.
Today, his technological achievements continue to find widespread use throughout the world, and the films that he helped create rank among the highest grossing animated films of all time.
Although well known within the animation community and afforded some recognition outside of it, this relatively quiet intellectual does not enjoy the same celebrity status that some of his contemporaries do. As such, while his achievements, creations and the films that they have enabled have become synonymous among the public with quality entertainment, this man remains somewhat of a mystery to many of ordinary folks who enjoy his films.
Can you guess who it is?
Yes, it is of course, Ed Catmull.
You probably know who he is, and you definitely know the studio he helped found (Pixar), but his 34 credits on IMDB enormously belie his contributions to contemporary animated films and even to the wider movie industry itself.
Why He Deserves the Title
His Influence is Felt Everywhere
As one of many people behind Pixar, Catmull could be construed as being one of the backroom boys, but this is far from the case. While John Lasseter and others were forging ahead on the creative side, Catmull was heading up the technical side that was making the films possible.
That alone would make him noteworthy if it were not for the fact that he was instrumental in seeing how the technology he was developing could be applied to entertainment. That action puts him right up alongside Walt Disney in his forward thinking. Heck, he was mulling CG animated films in the 1970s, but had to wait until technology advanced enough to make it economical and until he found someone willing to give him the resources necessary to experiment. That person was George Lucas, who was apparently (thankfully) blind to the fact that a rogue computer animator was running around at Industrial Light and Magic.
Although initially Catmull’s software was only suitable for purely animated films, it has since found its way into special FX and today, CG FX often form so much of a film’s on-screen visuals, that they are considered fully animated.
Today, CGI animated films are prevalent. They dominate the American box office and have proliferated into TV shows too. At one point, they were considered to be the sole future for animation with result being that Disney shut down the traditional animation department that made them famous.
His Foresight Rivals His Patience
Although Catmull knew where CG technology would eventually go and what it could potentially achieve, he showed enormous patience as he wound his way through various universities and ILM before Pixar was spun off in 1985. Even then, his goals were not within arms reach. It took a few more years before Tin Toy debuted and showed that computers could make high quality animation.
Catmull’s goal ramained a few years away though. Finally, Toy Story was put into production and became the world’s first entirely CGI-animated film. This was Catmull’s ultimate goal and he only had to wait, what, nearly 20 years for it to reach fruition? That’s a heck of a lot of patience that most people in entertainment could stand to learn from.
His Passion For The Animated Technique, Not Just the Technology
It may be surprising to learn that Ed Catmull has a passion for all animation, not just the CGI stuff he helped develop, but also the traditional stuff too. In fact, when installed as the president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, in conjunction with John Lasseter, he was instrumental in getting traditional features going again at a time when many thought the technique was a dead as silent films.
Why He’s Underrated
As mentioned way up at the top, Catmull resides much more out of the limelight compared to his more publicity-friendly compadres like John Lasseter, Pete Doctor, Andrew Stanton, etc. Many people acknowledge his contribution to what Pixar became, but few seem to acknowledge the wider contributions to animated films and animation in general. Yes, he was not alone in this work, but he is the single link between otherwise disparate people and studios.
Ed Catmull’s grand contribution to modern film should not be overlooked, and that’s why he’s the most underrated man in Hollywood.