Ladies screamed and fainted as the train pulled away from the station, drawing closer to the movie screen!

Jun 1st, 2024

Ladies screamed and fainted as the train pulled away from the station, drawing closer to the movie screen!

Other people jumped out of their seats and ran to the back of the darkened room. The film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, premiering in 1896, intended to fascinate people but instead caused fear, terror, and even panic. This didn’t happen just once, but everywhere the film was shown.

Not exactly what the Lumierie Bros, the creators of the film and the creators of the first camera/film projector, had expected. As in the case of many technological breakthroughs, this new invention of film was predicted to damage humanity forever. Psychologists feared that entire populations could be hypnotized. Many clerics were certain that people could be driven into a state of immoral excitement. Some military leaders thought the invention should be put under their control so it could be used on the battlefield to project an enormous army that would make the enemy run away in fear. People at that time were simply not able to recognize the difference between a movie clip and real life. Rather than being fascinated, this new piece of technology was seen as the end of the world.

Of course, after a year, there were no reports of anyone feeling afraid while watching the train clip. In fact, other filmmakers shot new clips of trains coming straight at the viewers, and nobody fainted. Military leaders abandoned the idea of projecting fierce armies. Psychologists tried to hypnotize subjects and failed. And the world didn’t come to an end. In 1991, I was hired at Pixar Animation Studios as one of the first 12 animators to work on the first computer-generated animated movie. At the time, traditional 2-D animators feared this new technology would kill the animation industry, putting an end to their jobs as computers would replace human animators. But that never happened. Instead, computer animation took filmmaking to new heights, quadrupling the number of animated films put out every year and creating thousands of new animation jobs.

This new technology that was once seen as a threat, created 17 amazing animated movies at Pixar that could have never been made without CG animation. Can you imagine hand-animating an entire movie underwater, like Finding Nemo, or each of Sully’s hairs on his body in Monsters Inc.? It simply wouldn’t be possible. CG animation is also used to create specific effects in almost every type of live-action film, from robots in Rogue One to backgrounds in La La Land.

I’m a storyteller, not a scientist. I can’t explain the biggest threats in terms of physics or electrical engineering. But I do know that new technology will always inspire art, and art will always inspire new technology.