Blue Sky Studios
HOW A SMALL BAND OF ANIMATION INNOVATORS BROUGHT MOVIE MAGIC TO MILLIONS (WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL FILM STUDIOS)
To begin the story of Blue Sky – before the lonely bunnies, hungry squirrels, and quirky robots, we have to go back to a time when the idea of a feature film made only with computers wasn’t even an idea.
The year was 1982 and intent on making use of rising computer technology, Disney hired a small computer animation company based in Elmsford, NY named MAGI to create the majority of the CGI animation for the groundbreaking film Tron. MAGI is credited with some of the most memorable sequences in the film, including the classic light cycle sequence. It is here that a few employees met and went on to form the diverse and incredibly gifted group that would found Blue Sky Studios.
In February 1986, six of these innovators sat together in a cramped apartment and fueled only by their determined enthusiasm, decided to pool what little money they had to start their own computer animation company. These pioneers were Alison Brown, David Brown, Michael Ferraro, Carl Ludwig, Dr. Eugene Troubetzkoy and Chris Wedge.
Each member brought his or her own unique set of skills to the table. Dr. Eugene Troubetzkoy had a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Columbia and worked as a nuclear physicist to create computer simulations of nuclear particle behavior. He is credited with helping develop the amazing technique for capturing 3D scenes with remarkable realism called Raytrace rendering.
One of the most important early test renders of Carl and Eugene’s code. The colors and light captured in the reflections on the surface below the objects show how accurate the light simulation really is.
Carl Ludwig was an electrical engineer who worked for NASA on the tracking systems of the Apollo mission’s lunar module. Alison Brown came from a marketing and special effects background. David Brown (no relation) who would become Blue Sky’s first President and CEO had been a marketing executive with CBS/Fox Video. Michael Ferraro was an accomplished programmer with a Masters degree in Fine Arts who worked for the US Navy on early virtual reality simulations. Chris Wedge was a classically trained animator with extensive experience in stop-motion puppet animation as well as a Masters degree in computer graphics from Ohio State University.
With the overwhelming success of Ice Age, Blue Sky suddenly found itself a frontrunner in what has blossomed into a powerful, billion dollar marketplace. Together, Fox and Blue Sky Studios have broken records, growing their diversely talented staff and crew, developing their breakthrough renderer CG Studio, and producing hit after hit: Robots (2005), Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (2008), the wildly successful Ice Age sequels: Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009), Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), and the vibrant musical comedy, Rio (2011).
We’ve come a long way from the humble beginnings of a one room office with three computers, but the compulsion to tell thrilling stories and delight people is exactly the same. Actually, that one room office is pretty nearby, like maybe a 9 minute drive. Or was. I think it’s residential now. Either way, the best chapters of our story are yet to come and we can’t wait to animate them.