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


Film Year Notes
Vertigo 1958 To create the spirals seen in the opening credit sequence of his film, Alfred Hitchcock hired John Whitney, who used a WWII anti-aircraft targeting computer called "The M5 gun director" mounted on a rotating platform with a pendulum hanging above it that it tracked. Its scope was filmed to create the various spiral elements used in the opening sequence. The raw footage was curated with aid from graphic designer Saul Bass, and the final near two minute long sequence became the first computer animation in a feature film.[1][2]


Film Year Notes
Rendering of a planned highway 1961 In 1961, a 49-second vector animation of a car traveling up a planned highway at 110 km/h (70 mph) was created at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology on the BESK computer. The short animation was broadcast on November 9, 1961, on national television.[3][4]
Simulation of a Two-Gyro Gravity-Gradient Attitude Control System 1963 Edward E. Zajac, a researcher at Bell Labs, used an IBM computer to create a short showing a communication satellite orbiting Earth.[5]
Boeing Man 1964 William Fetter, a graphic designer working for Boeing, created the first wireframe animation.[6]
Hummingbird 1967 A ten-minute computer-animated film by Charles Csuri and James Shaffer. This was awarded a prize at the 4th annual International Experimental Film Competition in Brussels, Belgium 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.[7][8]
Flexipede The first entertainment cartoon. Made by Tony Pritchett on the Atlas Computer Laboratory near Oxford and first shown publicly at the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition in 1968.
Kitty 1968 A group of Soviet mathematicians and physicists headed by Nikolay Konstantinov created a mathematically computable model of the physics of a moving cat. The algorithms were programmed on the BESM-4 computer. The computer then printed hundreds of frames to be later converted to film.[9][10][11] An accompanying scientific paper describes the foundation of the employed physics simulation techniques that nowadays are commonly applied to animation films and computer games.[12]


Film Year Notes
Metadata 1971 This is an experimental 2-D animated short drawn on a data tablet by Peter Foldes, who used the world's first key-frame animation software, invented by Nestor Burtnyk and Marceli Wein.[13][14][15][16]
The Andromeda Strain First use of digital rendering within a feature film. A diagram of the underground laboratory was created using 2-D planes and a complex wireframe cylindrical core.[17]
Out of the Unknown Produced by Charles McGhie, some early computer-generated imagery techniques were combined with stop-motion and real-time visual effects to create the opening title sequence for the show's fourth and final series.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory First use of Scanimate in a feature film. The analog computer animation system was used to create sing-along segments for the Oompa Loompa song after Augustus Gloop and Veruca Salt get their comeuppance for their respective vices.[18]
A Computer Animated Hand 1972 Produced by Ed Catmull, the short demonstrates a computer-animated hand, as well as human faces. Added to the United States National Film Registry in 2011.
Westworld 1973 First use of digital 2-D computer animation in a significant entertainment feature film. The point of view of Yul Brynner's gunslinger was achieved with raster graphics.[19][17]
Faces (Faces & Body Parts) 1974 Fred Parke's thesis film on facial modeling at the University of Utah.[20]
UFO: Target Earth 1974 An alien in the movie was created with CGI.[21]
Great 1975 The Academy Award-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 steamship SS Great Eastern.
Logan's Run 1976 Used Scanimate to create the forcefield in the Carousel sequence.
Futureworld First use of digital 3-D computer graphics for animated hand and face. Used 2-D digital compositing to materialize characters over a background.[17]
Hobart Street Scene First use of a 3-D hidden-line removal movie depicting an architectural street scene.[22][23] It shows the planned Crown Courts in Hobart in 1976 and was used for planning approval. The buildings exist today.
Demon Seed 1977 Used raster wire-frame model rendering for the Proteus IV's monitors.
Star Wars Used an animated 3-D wire-frame graphic for the trench run briefing sequence on Yavin 4. Added to the United States National Film Registry in 1989.
Alien 1979 Used raster wire-frame model rendering for navigation monitors in the landing sequence.[17] Added to the United States National Film Registry in 2002.
The Black Hole Used raster wire-frame model rendering for the opening credits depicting a 3-D wire-frame of a black hole.[24]


Film Year Notes
Looker 1981 First computer-generated model of a whole human body. Also, first use of 3-D shaded CGI.[24][25]
The Works 1982 The New York Institute of Technology Computer Graphics Lab debuted 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", the first use of a fractal-generated landscape in a film.[26] Bill Reeves leads the Genesis Effect programming team, and creates a new graphics technique called "Particle Systems".
Tron First extensive use of CGI including the Light Cycle sequence.[27] Also includes very early facial animation (for the Master Control Program). A sequence of 15 minutes of the film was fully computer-generated.
Return of the Jedi 1983 First Star Wars film to use shaded CGI. Translucent shaded models were used for the holographic diagram of the second Death Star orbiting Endor during the Rebel briefing sequence. Added to the United States National Film Registry in 2021.
Rock & Rule First animated film to use computer graphics.[28]
Golgo 13 First Japanese animated film to incorporate CGI sequences.[29] Entirely digital models of revolvers, skeletons, helicopters, and skyscrapers (created by Toyo Links Corporation and Osaka University's CG division) are used in the film's title sequence and part of the climax; the remainder of the film is traditionally animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha.
Dream Flight First 3-D generated film telling a story, shown in Electronic Theater in SIGGRAPH '83.
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.[28]
Lensman: Secret of The Lens Uses CGI for spaceships and other scenes.
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.[30]
The Jetsons & Yogi's Treasure Hunt The first animated series to use digital ink and paint.
Young Sherlock Holmes Lucasfilm creates the first photorealistic CGI character, "stained glass knight" with 10 seconds of screentime.[31][32]
"Money for Nothing" The first computer-generated music video.[32] The animators would go on to found Mainframe Entertainment.
Labyrinth 1986 First realistic CGI animal.[32]
The Great Mouse Detective The first Disney film to extensively use computer animation --notably for the two-minute clock tower sequence.
Flight of the Navigator The first use of reflection mapping in a feature film, used for the flying alien spacecraft.[32]
Howard the Duck First digital wire removal in a feature film.[32]
Luxo Jr. First use of shadows in CGI, made with the specially developed software Photorealistic Renderman. First Pixar film, and first CGI film to be nominated for an Academy Award. Added to the United States National Film Registry in 2014.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home First use of the Cyberware 3-D scanner, first 3-D morphing.[32]
The Golden Child First use of primitive photorealistic morphing.[33]
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.
Rendez-vous in Montreal First 3-D generated film involving virtual actors Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart
Willow 1988 First extensive photorealistic use of CGI morphing effect in a feature film.[34]
Akira CGI is used to animate the pattern indicator, and to plot the paths of falling objects, model parallax effects on backgrounds, and tweak lighting and lens flares.[29]
Tin Toy First computer-animated short film to win an Academy Award. Added to the United States National Film Registry in 2003.
The Abyss 1989 First digital CGI water visual effect.[35]
The Jim Henson Hour TV series with real-time and rendered CGI featuring digitally puppeteered CGI character "Waldo."
Les Fables géométriques First broadcast series of animated CGI shorts.


Film Year Notes
Total Recall 1990 Use of motion-capture for CGI characters.
Die Hard 2 First digitally-manipulated matte painting.[35]
RoboCop 2 An early use of real-time computer graphics or "digital puppetry" to create a character in a motion picture.[36]
The Rescuers Down Under First 2-D animated film to be produced with solely digital ink and paint (CAPS). First fully digital feature film.
Backdraft 1991 First use of photorealistic CGI fire in a motion picture.[36]
Terminator 2: Judgment Day First realistic human movements on a CGI character.[35] The first partially computer-generated main character and the first blockbuster movie to feature multiple morphing effects.[36] First use of a personal computer to create major movie 3-D effects. Inducted to the National Film Registry in 2023.
Pentagon First use of photorealistic CGI architectural fly-through. First use of human movement on a CGI character[36]
Quarxs One of the earliest computer-animated series.
The Lawnmower Man 1992 First feature film to use computer animation to explore the subject of virtual reality. First virtual reality sex scene.[37]
The Babe First computer-generated crowds.
Death Becomes Her First human skin CGI software.[35]
The Muppet Christmas Carol First use of a green screen for digital chroma key compositing in a feature film.
Babylon 5 1993 First television series to use CGI as the primary method for its visual effects. First TV use of virtual sets.
The Incredible Crash Dummies First fully CGI-animated TV special.
Jurassic Park First photorealistic CGI creatures.[35] Added to the United States National Film Registry in 2018.
Live & Kicking First TV program to feature a live computer-generated character as part of its cast.
VeggieTales First completely computer-animated direct-to-video release.
Insektors[38] First fully computer-animated TV series. First use of character animation in a computer-animated television series.
The Crow 1994 First deceased actor (Brandon Lee) to be re-created through CGI.
The Flintstones First CGI-rendered fur.[35]
The Mask First use of CGI to transform a live actor into a photorealistic cartoon character.
ReBoot First half-hour computer-animated TV series.[39]
Radioland Murders First use of virtual CGI sets with live actors.[40]
Casper 1995 First CGI lead character in a feature-length live-action film, and first CGI characters to interact realistically with live-actors.
Batman Forever First CGI stunt doubles, created through motion capture.
Waterworld First realistic CGI water.[35]
Casino First use of digital compositing to create a period-appropriate setting, and first use of radiosity lighting in a feature film.
Toy Story First CGI feature-length animation. Added to the United States National Film Registry in 2005.
Cassiopeia 1996 Second feature-length CGI animation and first CGI feature film not to use scanned models for heads. First Brazilian CGI feature animation. Produced and released by NDR Filmes.
The Island of Dr. Moreau First film to use motion-capture CGI to portray a character.
Donkey Kong Country First half-hour computer-animated TV series to use motion-capture for their characters.
DragonHeart First 2-D all-CGI backgrounds with live-actors. First film to use ILM's Caricature software (created during the film's production).
Beast Wars: Transformers First CGI Transformers animated series produced by Mainframe Entertainment. Sequel to the original Transformers.
Star Wars (Episodes IV, V and VI Special Editions) 1997 First re-release of a film to incorporate CGI characters and elements.
Marvin the Martian in 3D First CGI film created for viewing with 3-D glasses.
Spawn First extensive use of CGI fire in a feature film beyond sweetening. First film to integrate a CGI fabric onto a character's costume.[41]
Titanic First wide-release feature film with CGI elements rendered under the open-source Linux operating system.[42] Also included a number of advances, specifically in the rendering of flowing water.
A Bug's Life 1998 First CGI anamorphic widescreen film. First all-digital transfer to DVD. First film to be reframed for home video releases.
Invasion: Earth First major use of digital effects in a British TV series.
What Dreams May Come First use of CGI in combination with 3-D location scanning (Lidar) and motion-analysis based 3-D camera tracking in a feature film.
Fight Club 1999 First photogrammetry based virtual cinematography scenes, including the first bullet time sex scene with fully naked body renderings of body doubles for Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt; renderings of different settings with both extreme close-ups and wide shots; and the first very photorealistic close-up rendering of a human face - which also belongs to a famous actor in a leading role (Edward Norton) - with detailed facial deformation and extreme close-ups (starting at the cell-level of the brain, flying through the different layers of tissues, a follicle and the skin with sweat droplets).
The Matrix First use of CGI interpolation with bullet time effects. Added to the National Film Registry in 2012.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace First film to have a fully CGI-rendered supporting character using performance footage captured on-set, pioneering this commonly used technique. Extensive use of CGI for thousands of shots, including backgrounds, visual effects, vehicles, and crowds.


Film Year Notes
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within 2001 First CGI feature-length digital film to be made based on photorealism and live-action principles. The first theatrically released feature film to utilize motion-capture for all of its characters actions.[43]
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius First CGI feature-length movie made using off-the-shelf hardware and software.
Shrek First CGI-animated movie to win an Academy Award for the Best Animated Feature Film.
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 virtual actor to win an award (Critics' Choice Movie Awards by Andy Serkis playing Gollum), in the newly created category Best Digital Acting Performance
Spider-Man First digitally rendered photorealistic costume.
Ice Age First CGI full-length feature animated film exclusively rendered with a ray tracer (CGI Studio).[44]
The Matrix Reloaded 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
Able Edwards 2004 First movie shot completely on a green screen using digitally scanned images as backgrounds.
Olocoons First CGI-animated series to use Cel-shaded designs and backgrounds mixed with 2-D elements.
Shrek 2 First feature film to use global illumination.[45]
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow First movie with all-CGI backgrounds and live-actors.[46]
The Polar Express First computer-animated film to be created with motion capture.
Chicken Little 2005 First feature-length computer-animated film released in 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.[47] 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.[48]
Plumíferos 2009 First CGI feature-length movie made using Open Source/Free Software for all 3-D models, animation, lighting and render process, under Linux operating system.
Avatar First full-length movie made using motion-capture to create photorealistic 3-D characters and to feature a fully CG 3-D photorealistic world. The first virtual art department and complete virtual production pipeline was developed by director James Cameron and team to create the film in real-time.
Up First computer-animated feature to be nominated for Academy Award for Best Picture.


Film Year Notes
Zafari 2018 First television series produced entirely using a game engine (specifically Unreal Engine 4).
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2018 First feature film to heavily use machine learning on artist-generated original data to aid production.[49]
The Mandalorian 2019 First usage of a 360-degree LED screen to combine virtual sets with live action actors.


Film Year Notes
Avatar: The Way of Water 2022 First use of motion capture in underwater photography.

See also


  1. ^ "Alfred hitchcock's vertigo possibly the first movie to use computer animation". DIYPhotography. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  2. ^ "What Is CGI?". Nashville Film Institute. NFI. 4 October 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  3. ^ Du Rietz, Peter (20 December 2016). "Svensk datorhistoria – 1960-talet" [Swedish computer history - 1960s]. Tekniska museet (in Swedish). Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  4. ^ "Världens äldsta datoranimation?" on YouTube
  5. ^ Early Digital Computer Art at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Incorporated
  6. ^ Boeing Man(1964): the origin of realistic algorithmic human figures
  7. ^ Csuir, Charles. "Hummingbird, 1967". ACM SIGGRAPH. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  8. ^ Charles Csuri, Fragmentation Animations, 1968 - 1970: Hummingbird (1968) on YouTube
  9. ^ "Кошечка" [Kitty]. Mathematical Etudes (in Russian). Mathematical Etudes Foundation. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  10. ^ Quigley, Robert (22 March 2010). ""Kitty": One of the First-Ever Computer Animations". The Mary Sue. The Mary Sue, LLC. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  11. ^ "Kitty. - N.Konstantinov." on YouTube
  12. ^ Konstantinov, N.N.; Minachin, V.V.; Ponomarenko, V.Y. (1974). "Программа, моделирующая механизм и рисующая мультфильм о нем" [The program that simulates the mechanism and draws a cartoon about it]. Проблемы кибернетики (in Russian) (28). Moscow, USSR: Наука: 193–209. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  13. ^ "Metadata - NFB - Film Collection - National Film Board of Canada". Archived from the original on 2009-03-21.
  14. ^ "Home - National Research Council Canada". April 2019.
  15. ^ "National Research Council of Canada". Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
  16. ^ "USA Visit 1971".
  17. ^ a b c d Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1970-1974". Filmsite.
  18. ^ Getting personal with animation instructor Eric Van Hamersveld | Continuing Education | UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies
  19. ^ Bowles, Scott (15 September 2004). "'Sky Captain' takes CGI to limit". USA Today. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  20. ^ Wenz, John (Jun 25, 2015). "These Early Computer Animations Show How Far We've Come". Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  21. ^ Remembering Film Director Alessandro Michael de Gaetano
  22. ^ “Understanding BIM: The Past, Present and Future” Routledge 2020 Ingram Page 260
  23. ^ "The first architectural movie of a real street scene from 1976". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  24. ^ a b Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1975-1979". Filmsite.
  25. ^ Netzley, Patricia D (2001). Encyclopedia of Movie Special Effects. Checkmark Books. p. 49.
  26. ^ Pegoraro, Rob (June 29, 2008). "Incredibles, Inc; The story of how computer programmers transformed the art of movie animation". The Washington Post. p. W8.
  27. ^ "Tron - The 1982 movie". Archived from the original on 2009-05-25. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  28. ^ a b Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1980-1982". Filmsite.
  29. ^ a b Hughes, David (2003). Comic Book Movies. Virgin Books. p. 27. ISBN 0-7535-0767-6.
  30. ^ "Along the Banks of the St. Lawrence".
  31. ^ Netzley, p. 246.
  32. ^ a b c d e f Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1983-1985". Filmsite.
  33. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1986-1988". Filmsite.
  34. ^ Netzley, p. 239.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g Netzley, p. 50.
  36. ^ a b c d Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1989-1991". Filmsite. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  37. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1992-1994". Filmsite.
  38. ^ Created in 1993. 2nd Prize for the category 3D Animation Imagina in 1993 for the episode "Some Flowers for Bakrakra" [1] Archived 2008-08-20 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ Bernstein, Sharon (1994-11-10). "'Reboot' Is First Series to Be Fully Computerized". LA Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  40. ^ Marcus Hearn (2005). The Cinema of George Lucas. New York City: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-8109-4968-7.
  41. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1997-1998". Filmsite. Retrieved March 3, 2024.
  42. ^ Rowe, Robin (2003-01-01). "Linux and Star Trek". Linux Journal.
  43. ^ "Cinema: A Painstaking Fantasy". Time. 2000-07-31. Archived from the original on November 21, 2005.
  44. ^ "Ray Tracers: Blue Sky Studios". Retrieved 2016-06-30.
  45. ^ Christensen, Per H. (July 2010). "Point-Based Global Illumination for Movie Production" (PDF). Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  46. ^ "Kid Robot and the World of Tomorrow". Wired.
  47. ^ "Elephants Dream".
  48. ^ "Flatland director Ladd Ehlinger Jr. starts column Filmmaker's Perspective for". Flatland.
  49. ^ Grochola, Pav (2019-05-20). "Ink Lines and Machine Learning - fxguide". Retrieved 2023-10-26.