#195) Luxo Jr. (1986)

luxo

#195) Luxo Jr. (1986)

OR “What If Desk Lamps Had Feelings?”

Directed & Written by John Lasseter

Class of 2014

The Plot: Ohhhhh, that’s where the lamp and the ball come from!

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the short “charming” and that Lasseter and animator Bill Reeves “manage to bring to joyous life these two inanimate objects and to infuse them both with personality and charm”.

But Does It Really?: Oh sure. It was revolutionary in its day, and it’s the Pixar logo for crying out loud! It’s cute, it’s short, it’s historically significant, what’s not to like?

Everybody Gets One: Almost every credited member of the film’s crew is either still with Pixar, or at least stuck around for fellow NFR entries “Tin Toy” and “Toy Story”. The one exception is Paul Heckbert, credited here as “Additional Modeler”. He would go on to teach Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University (known for their Robotics department) and was a software consultant at Duke University. Carnegie Mellon lists a lot of his stats in what is possibly the least impressive webpage ever.

Wow, That’s Dated: Early CG, but you knew that one already.

Seriously, Oscars?: A breakthrough among the animation community, “Luxo Jr.” was nominated for Best Animated Short in 1986, the first computer animated short to do so. They lost to some Belgian thing called “A Greek Tragedy”. It’s fine, if you like that 2D junk. Lasseter and Reeves would win the Oscar two years later with “Tin Toy”.

Other notes

  • The whole driving force behind this film was to show that Pixar could stand by itself as a company. Prior to 1986, Pixar was a division of the special effects company Industrial Light and Magic. In February 1986 Steve Jobs (yep, that one) invested $5 million into Pixar becoming its own corporation. George Lucas, still financially strapped from his divorce, took the money and sold off Pixar. Six months and countless man-hours later, “Luxo Jr.” premiered at the SIGGRAPH conference to great acclaim amongst the CG geeks in attendance.
  • Lasseter has said that the hardest aspect to animate was Luxo’s cord. It’s the only part of the film that sticks out; the cord movement looks a little too much like stop-motion.

Legacy

  • “Luxo Jr.” didn’t quite put Pixar on the map, but it got their name out there. It would be another decade of shorts until “Toy Story” made them a force to be reckoned with.
  • In addition to being the logo for Pixar Animation, Luxo Jr. and his famous yellow ball make brief appearances in many a Pixar film.
  • Before Pixar found worldwide success, Luxo made appearances in a handful of shorts featured on “Sesame Street”.
  • Though he never gets the media attention Lasseter does, Bill Reeves is still with Pixar as one of their technical directors.
  • This film is responsible for the strong run of Pixar shorts that precede their features. My favorite continues to be “Geri’s Game”.
  • There was an animatronic Luxo at Disney Studios for a while.
  • The Luxo ASA company seems to be amused by “artistic renditions” of their product, although they did sue Pixar in 2009 when they learned Pixar was planning to sell Luxo Jr. lamps with the Blu-ray release of “Up”. Pixar stepped down.
  • What’s John Lasseter up to these days? Let me just do a search for…oh dear.

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