Timeline of cgi in movies

See also: History of computer animation

This is a chronological list of films and television programs that have been recognised as being pioneering in their use of computer animation.


Film Year Notes
Hummingbird 1967 A ten minute computer animated film by Charles Csuri and James Shaffer. Awarded a prize at the 4th International Experimental Film Competition, Brussels, Belgium, 1967 and in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York City. The subject was a line drawing of a hummingbird for which a sequence of movements appropriate to the bird were programmed. Over 30,000 images comprising some 25 motion sequences were generated by the computer.[1][2]
Kitty 1968 A group of Russian mathematicians and physicists headed by N. Konstantinov created a mathematical model of a moving cat. A program was made for the computer BESM-4. The computer then printed hundreds of frames to be later converted to film.[3][4][5]
Metadata 1971 An experimental 2D animated short by Peter Foldes drawn on a data tablet, who used the world's first key frame animation software, invented by Nestor Burtnyk and Marceli Wein.[6][7][8][9]
A Computer Animated Hand 1972 Produced by Ed Catmull, the short demonstrates a computer animated hand, as well as human faces. The film was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2011.
Westworld 1973 First use of 2D computer animation in a significant entertainment feature film. The point of view of Yul Brynner's gunslinger was achieved with raster graphics.[10][11]
Great 1975 The Oscar-winning 1975 short animated film about the life of the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel contains a brief sequence of a rotating wire-frame model of Brunel's final project, the iron steam ship SS Great Eastern.
Futureworld 1976 First use of 3D computer graphics for animated hand and face. Used 2D digital compositing to materialize characters over a background.[11]
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 1977 Used an animated 3D wire-frame graphic for the trench run briefing sequence.[dead link][12]
Superman 1978 First film with a computer-generated title sequence.[13]
The Black Hole 1979 Used raster wire-frame model rendering for the open credits depicting a 3D wireframe of a black hole.[14]
Alien Used raster wire-frame model rendering for navigation monitors in the landing sequence.[11]


Film Year Notes
Looker 1981 First CGI human character, Cindy. Also, first use of 3D shaded CGI.[14][15]
The Works 1982 The New York Institute of Technology Computer Graphics Lab premiered a trailer at SIGGRAPH for their CGI project. This would have been the first feature-length CGI film, but it was never completed.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ILM computer graphics division develops "Genesis Effect", first use of fractal-generated landscape in a film.[16] Bill Reeves leads the Genesis Effect programming team, and creates a new graphics technique called Particle Systems.
Tron First extensive use (15 min. fully computer generated) of 3D CGI including the famous Light Cycle sequence.[17] Also includes very early facial animation (for the Master Control Program).
Rock & Rule 1983 First animated film to use computer graphics.[18]
The Last Starfighter 1984 Uses CGI for all spaceship shots, replacing traditional models. First use of 'integrated CGI' where the effects are supposed to represent real world objects.[18]
The Adventures of André and Wally B. Lucasfilm's computer animation division creates an all-CGI-animated short. The first CGI animation with motion blur effects and squash and stretch motion.
2010: The Year We Make Contact Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere is CGI-rendered, mostly during the black spot shots.
Tony de Peltrie 1985 First CGI-animated human character to express emotion through his face and body language.[19]
The Black Cauldron First animated movie with CGI-effects.[20]
Young Sherlock Holmes Lucasfilm creates the first photorealistic CGI character, 'stained glass knight' with 10 seconds of screentime.[21][22]
Dire Straits - Money for Nothing The first computer-generated music video.[22] The animators would go on to found Mainframe Entertainment.
Flight of the Navigator 1986 The first use of reflection mapping in a feature film, used for the flying alien spacecraft.[22]
Labyrinth First realistic CGI animal.[22]
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home First use of the Cyberware (company) 3D scanner, first 3D morphing.[22]
Luxo Jr. First use of shadows in CGI, made with special developed software Renderman. First Pixar film, and CGI film to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future 1987 First TV series to include characters modeled entirely with computers.
Knightmare First game show with interaction between humans and computer-generated surroundings.
Willow 1988 First photorealistic use of morphing effect in a feature film.[23]
Tin Toy First computer-animated short film to win an Oscar.
The Abyss 1989 First digital 3D water effect.[24]
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade First all-digital composite.[24]


Film Year Notes
Die Hard 2 1990 First digitally-manipulated matte painting.[24]
RoboCop 2 An early use of real-time computer graphics or "digital puppetry" to create a character in a motion picture.[25]
Backdraft 1991 First use of photorealistic CGI fire in a motion picture.[25]
Terminator 2: Judgment Day First realistic human movements on a CGI character.[24] The first partially computer-generated main character and the first blockbuster movie to feature multiple morphing effects.[26] First use of a personal computer to create major movie 3D effects.
Death Becomes Her 1992 First human skin CGI software.[24]
Quarxs 1993 First broadcast series of animated CGI shorts.
Jurassic Park First photorealistic CG creatures.[24]
VeggieTales First completely computer animated direct-to-video release.
Babylon 5 First television series to use CGI as the primary method for its visual effects. First TV use of virtual sets.
Insektors[27] First fully computer animated TV series. First use of character animation in a computer animated television series.
Radioland Murders 1994 First use of virtual CGI sets with live actors.[28]
ReBoot First half-hour computer animated TV series.[29]
The Flintstones First CGI-rendered fur.[24]
Waterworld 1995 First realistic CG water.[24]
Casper First CGI lead character in feature-length film (preceded Toy Story by six months). First CGI characters to interact realistically with live actors.
Toy Story First CGI feature-length animation.
Dragonheart 1996 First 2D all-CGI backgrounds with live actors.
Marvin the Martian in 3D 1997 First computer animated movie viewed with 3D glasses.
Titanic First wide-release feature film with major elements rendered under the open-source Linux operating system.[30] Also included a number of advances, specifically in the rendering of flowing water.
A Bug's Life 1998 First ever computer animated widescreen film.
Invasion: Earth First major use of digital effects in a British TV series (BBC/Sci-Fi Channel co-production)
A Little Curious (Bubble Love) 1999 First use of a CGI character on live action video.
Fight Club First realistic close-up of detailed facial deformation on a synthetic human.
The Matrix First use of CG interpolation in Bullet Time effects.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace First film to use CG extensively for thousands of shots, including backgrounds, environmental effects, vehicles, and crowds. Several CG characters stood alongside real actors in dozens of shots, making them the first CG "supporting" cast members.


Film Year Notes
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within 2001 First feature-length digital film to be made based on photorealism and live action principles. The first theatrically released feature film to utilize performance capture (motion capture) for all of its characters actions.[31]
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius First CGI feature length movie made using off-the-shelf hardware and software.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring First use of AI for digital actors (using the Massive software developed by Weta Digital).
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002 First photorealistic motion captured character for a film[dubious ]. First virtual actor to win an award (Critics' Choice Movie Awards by Andy Serkis playing Gollum), in the newly created category Best Digital Acting Performance
The Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions 2003 The Burly Brawl - the first use of "Universal Capture", the combination of dense (rather than point-based) motion capture, per-frame texture capture and optical flow of pixels over the data from 7 camera setup bought into a shared UV space by projection onto a neutral expression geometry leading to the introduction of realistic digital look-alikes, last missing piece into puzzle to make fully virtual cinematography possible.
Able Edwards 2004 First movie shot completely on a green screen using digitally scanned images as backgrounds.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow First movie with all-CGI backgrounds and live actors.[32]
The Polar Express First motion capture, computer-animated film in 3D.
Chicken Little 2005 First fully computer animated film in 3D formats, Disney Digital 3D and RealD 3D.
Elephants Dream 2006 First CGI short movie released as completely open source. Made with Open Source software, theatrical and DVD release under Creative Commons License.[33] Unique that all 3D models, animatics and software are included on the DVD free for any use.
Flatland 2007 First CGI feature film to be animated by one person. Made with Lightwave 3D and Adobe After Effects.[34]
Beowulf Entirely made in CGI, features motion capture for all actors and has realism as its foremost goal. The largest team ever assembled for an Imageworks-produced movie (as of 2007) generated new animation tools for facial, body, and cloth design especially for the movie, and elements of keyframe animation were incorporated into the movie to capture the facial expressions of the actors and actresses.
Plumíferos 2009 First CGI feature length movie made using Open Source/Free Software for all 3D models, animation, lighting and render process, under GNU/Linux operating system.
Avatar First full length movie made using performance-capture to create photo-realistic 3D characters and to feature a fully CG 3D photo-realistic world. The first Virtual Art Department (VAD) and complete Virtual Production pipeline was developed by director James Cameron and team to create the film in real-time.


Film Year Notes
Toy Story 3 2010 First CGI feature-length movie to gross more than $1,000,000,000
Coronation Street Live (2010) First use of CGI in a live broadcoast
TRON: Legacy First feature-length film to use computer graphics to create photo-realistic[dubious ] human characters.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012 First use of CGI in a full length movie filmed at High Frame Rate.

See also


  • Netzley, Patricia D. Encyclopedia of Movie Special Effects. Checkmark Books, 2001.

External links

  • CG101: A Computer Graphics Industry Reference ISBN# 073570046X Unique and personal histories of early computer graphics production, plus a comprehensive foundation of the industry for all reading levels.
  • CGI in the movies - detailed historical information
  • Milestones in Film History: Greatest Visual and Special Effects
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.