Meet the Little-Known Genius Who Helped Make Pixar Possible

Great piece by famed writer Stevy Levy on Alvy Ray Smith, one of the co-founders of Pixar.

He left the company just as it began making actual films, but every frame of those films owes something to Smith. He helped unleash the breakthroughs that allowed for movies to be generated entirely by code and algorithms. And in his work before and after Pixar, he made immense contributions to the first digital paint software, coding up features that transformed our ability to manipulate images.

There's even a good screaming match with Steve Jobs nugget!

At first Jobs tolerated Smith’s aggressions. Eventually, though, he began to lose patience. And then came the whiteboard incident. At a Pixar board meeting in 1990, Jobs was complaining that Pixar was behind on a project. Smith said that NeXT was behind on its products. As Smith recalls it, Jobs began mocking Smith’s Southwestern accent. “I had never been treated that way. I just went crazy,” Smith says. “I was screaming into his face, and he’s screaming back at me. And right in the middle of that crazy, absolutely insane moment, I knew what to do. I brushed past him and wrote on the whiteboard.”

Give it a read if you're a Pixar or technology fan.


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