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Tin Toy

Tin Toy was the first real CGI film made by what is known today, as Pixar Studios. Made entirely by John Lasseter, chief creation officer at Pixar, this 1988, 20 minute CGI was groundbreaking in its day.

The entire film takes place in one room. It features a tin toy named Tinny, and a baby boy Billy. Both were the first attempts at realistic humanoids.

Timmy starts out in his box, and is delighted that the baby is going to play with him. At least until he watches Billy tear other toys to shreds. Then, he is not so sure, and decides to flee, pursued by the giggling, eager baby.

Tinny flees under the furniture, and, at the back of the settee, is rewarded by a group of other toys, slowly coming out of the shadows; all of whom have fled and hid from Billy. Billy tries to reach Timmy, but cannot, and so starts throwing a temper tantrum, bawling his eyes out.

Timmy sees this, and his expression changes. He takes pity of Billy and slowly heads out to him, to be played with.

Unfortunately, said playing consists of Billy's attempt to destroy Timmy. After hurling him away, he goes over to play with Timmy's cardboard box, completely ignoring him.

Tin Toy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Tin Toy is also significant in other ways. For starters, the detail of characters, lighting, shading, and textures that make it so real, are only just now, barely duplicable in 2007 top-of-the-line home PCs and dynamic social virtual environments. Nineteen years behind the visual treats slow, single frame rendering animated films like Tin Toy, are the dynamic virtual environments. The same fidelity of world that film animation cranks out slowly on massive machines, entering dynamic reality for the mainstream.

Dynamic shadows, playing across everything from Timmy's drumstick against his drum, and the rippling effect of window-frame shadows across Billy's body as he waddles are only just now possible with modern ray-casting hardware, and entered social virtual worlds for the first time in late 2007.

Neither Timmy nor Billy move in particularly realistic ways - fluid motion of organic-like metaballs was not part of the cinematic toolkit back then. Neither is it a part of modern interactive, dynamic VR, in all but the very highest specifications today.

As with the shadows, notice the reflective lighting on Timmy's plastic parts? The technology - ray tracing - is exactly the same as used for the shadows, and also debut social online VR worlds in 2007.

The only thing lacking is the freedom of movement - which is solely an interface issue. Keyboard, mouse, and head tracker are not really enough. It is not an issue with the capabilities of the VR itself.

Footnote. This does not refer to commercial gameworlds, as they do not change layout dynamically in the same way the social spaces do; they use precompiled luminosity maps, and other features a completely real time, dynamically changing world cannot utilise.

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