Pixar Co-Founder Ed Catmull to Retire from Walt Disney Company

Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull is retiring. The 73-year old will be retiring from leading both the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios next year. He will continue on in an advisory role through July 2019. Catmull has been an innovator in the animation industry for four decades. He was originally hired by George Lucas in 1979 to lead the computer division at Lucasfilm. In 1986 he co-founded Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter. With the founding of Pixar, Catmull became a part of creating the first ever computer-animated film, Toy Story, in 1995. When Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, Catmull reassured Disney Animation Studios employees that they would not turn it into a Pixar clone and instead build off of its rich legacy. Since then, this has turned out to be true as Walt Disney Animation Studios has seen a string of animation hits.

“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.

“Ed Catmull’s impact on the entertainment industry is immeasurable,” Disney CEO Bob Iger shared in a statement. “A pioneer of the intersection of creativity and technology, Ed expanded the possibilities for storytellers along with the expectations of audiences.”

Catmull will be replaced by Pixar president Jim Morris and Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein. Both will report to Walt Disney Studios president Alan Bergman. Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios will continue to be creatively led by chief creative officers Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee, who will report to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.

Walt Disney Studios Official Bio of Ed Catmull

Dr. Ed Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Previously, Dr. Catmull was vice President of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm Ltd., where he managed development in the areas of computer graphics, video editing, video games and digital audio.

Dr. Catmull has been honored with five Academy Awards, including two Oscars for his work. Dr. Catmull also received the ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award for his lifetime contributions in the computer graphics field, the Progress Medal and the Fuji Gold Medal awards from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, and the animation industry’s Ub Iwerks Award for technical advancements in the art or industry of animation.  Additionally, he was the recipient of the IEEE’s John von Neumann Medal for fundamental contributions to computer graphics and a pioneering use of computer animation in motion pictures.

Dr. Catmull founded three of the leading centers of computer graphics research – including the computer division of Lucasfilm Ltd. and Pixar Animation Studios. These organizations have been home to many of the most academically respected researchers in the field and have produced some of the most fundamental advances in computer graphics, including image compositing, motion blur, subdivision surfaces, cloth simulation and rendering techniques, texture mapping and the z-buffer. Dr. Catmull is one of the architects of the RenderMan rendering software, which has been used in over 90% of Academy Award® winners for Visual Effects over the past 20 years.

In addition to being a member of IEEE’s Computer Society since 1978, Dr. Catmull is active in several professional organizations.  He is a Fellow of the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM), the Computer History Museum, and a dedicated participant in the ACM SIGGRAPH conference for nearly 30 years.  Dr. Catmull also is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Visual Effects Society.  In 2012, Dr. Catmull was inducted as a Visual Effects Society Fellow, in recognition of his pivotal leadership in the art and science of computer graphics and visual effects.

Catmull’s book, the New York Times bestseller, “CREATIVITY, INC.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration,” and which Fast Company described as “what just might be the most thoughtful management book ever,” was published by Random House in 2014.

Dr. Catmull earned B.S. degrees in computer science and physics and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Utah.  In 2005, the University of Utah presented him with an Honorary Doctoral Degree in Engineering, and in 2015 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Johns Hopkins University.




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