Meet the little-known geniuses who helped Pixar make it possible


The few feet near the whiteboard allowed Smith to cross the path of no return. No one writes on the sacred whiteboard of Steve Jobs. When Smith picked up the marker and scribbled—he didn’t even remember what he wrote—he was killing Steve. “I want to leave there,” he said. “I don’t want to let that person’s poison appear in my life anymore.”

For the next year, Smith kept hiding in the office. He realized that users of personal computers could benefit from his graphics advancement, so he started writing an application that featured what he called “floating images”, which allowed users to easily move objects. “You can’t believe what you saw,” said Eric Lyons, an Autodesk executive who had seen the early demo. “This was not something Photoshop could do at the time.”

At the same time, good news came from Disney. During the meeting with the Disney Animation Czar, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jobs, Smith, Catmore and Lasseter reached a partnership. Toy Story Received a temporary green light. Once Smith was sure that the movie would be made, he left Pixar. (Years later, Lasseter resigned from the company due to allegations of sexual harassment.)

Like Moses of computer graphics, Smith helped Pixar provide the promised land. But he never entered.Movie after movie-from Bug Agents arrive Ratatouille arrive soul——The studio broke through the boundaries of technology and art, realizing the vision that Smith cultivated in the backstage of full-body actors, acid travel, Long Island mansion and Lucasfilm. His former colleagues at Pixar unanimously recognized his contribution. But after he left, Smith’s name was deleted from the website, which he felt was a bit betrayal. Catmull said he doesn’t consider the website to be a historical document.

Smith did not escape cleanly. Together with Lyons and the third co-founder, he founded a company to sell his new image editing software. They named the Altamira Company after the cave paintings in Spain that are about 20,000 years old. But there is an obstacle. “Alvy did not state in writing that he can take his code with him”-Catmull said, code written when he was a Pixar employee. Jobs asked Altamira to pay him huge royalties for every book he sold, scaring away potential investors. After a long period of negotiations, Jobs agreed in exchange for shares in Smith’s company.

One day, when Smith was at home with his wife and two sons, he felt “violent screaming pain” in his chest. A group of bacteria invaded one of his lungs, forming an outer skin that must be peeled off surgically. A month later, on the ferry to Vancouver, he felt pain again. The same thing happened in his second lung. To this day, his lung capacity is only one-third of that of a normal person. “I asked, why did I get it?” he said. “My answer is pure pressure.” Catmull agreed: “Basically, this is a life-threatening experience, and it stems from the pressure of Steve’s delay.”

Facts have proved that the lost months have had a serious impact on startups. At that time, Photoshop introduced a competitive feature called “Layer”. Altamira’s sales are low, and the company needs a lifeline. Smith was introduced to Nathan Myhrvold, the head of Microsoft Research. “I just want to get marketing help from Microsoft,” Smith said. Instead, Myhrvold bought the company, even though he wanted Smith more than his products. Smith stayed there for four years and retired in 1999. “Along the way, I decided that they didn’t really care about my thoughts,” he said.

Smith’s next move confused his friends: he became a genealogist. He began to explore his heritage methodically, and was elected to the American Society of Genealogists in 2010. The honor is limited to 50 people alive and requires an absolute majority of votes.


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