A titan of the animated film universe is stepping down. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and longtime animation innovator, announced his plans to retire and transition to an advisory role with the company that will end in the summer of next year.
According to Variety, Catmull spent four decades pushing computers into animation, leading the computer division for George Lucas’ Lucasfilm back in 1979 and co-founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. He helped the landmark computer-animated feature Toy Story see release and continued to innovate with the most lauded modern American animation studio up through Incredibles 2 this year.
“Never in my wildest imagination could I have conceived of the path or the extraordinary people I have worked with over all of these years – the twists and turns, the ups and downs, along with exhilarating passion, talent, and dedication that have led to something extraordinary, something that has an enduring impact in the world,” Catmull said in a statement.
Some of this impact takes the form of film franchises — Frozen, Toy Story, Finding Nemo — and some the effects and technology that make them possible: texture mapping and an algorithm for spatial anti-aliasing, two terms that fans will recognize from any modern video game. His first feature film project, an animated version of his own hand for the Westworld sequel Futureworld, is in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. He also helped develop the PhotoRealistic RenderMan software that Pixar uses for, well, everything.
His position will be taken over by Pixar president Jim Morris and Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein, who will be directly under Walt Disney Studios President Alan Bergman. Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee, the respective chief creative officers of Pixar and Disney Animation, will stay under Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn.