IMPACT: "The question is not how CGI has impacted animation, but how it has impacted entertainment," says Fred Raimondi, visual effects supervisor at Venice-based effects studio Digital Domain, of the advent of computer-generated imagery, the digitally based 3D graphics application that simulates everything from swishing party dresses to roaring factory fires to the Creation. In 1995, the first completely computer-generated feature film, Pixar’s Toy Story, was a box-office smash. Since then, a steady-stream of studio-produced CGI blockbusters has rewritten the rules of movie, TV and videogame animation, and transformed storytelling in live action as well. Analysts estimate that the average visual-effects budget for a feature film has rocketed from $5 million in 2000 to more than $40 million today.
Though it had been used as early as the early ’80s—notably, in Lucasfilm’s The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Paramount’s Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)—neither filmmakers nor audiences were smitten with CGI until witnessing ILM’s photorealistic effects in the 1989 feature, The Abyss (20th Century Fox).