In the opening scene of Toy Story, released in 1995, a cluster of boxes is scattered across a child’s bedroom. The sun streams into the room as a Mr Potato Head doll demands money from a seemingly stricken cast of plastic and plush toys outside a cardboard bank.
Into the picture arrives the hero – a cowboy sheriff made of plastic and fabric with a pull-string to make him speak. The sheriff casts a shadow over the villainous potato who flees from the law.
It’s a scene plucked from a child’s imagination. It was also the culmination of decades of development in computer animation.
This year two of the men behind those advancements, Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan, are the recipients of the Turing Award. The award recognizes “lasting and major” contributions to the field of computing and is considered to be the “Nobel Prize” of computer science.
The award is given by the Association for Computing Machinery and comes with a $1m cash prize split between the winners.
Dr Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar, the studio behind Toy Story, and Dr Hanrahan, one of Pixar’s early employees, were notified of their win in early March.
It gave the two old friends and former colleagues just enough time to meet for a celebratory meal before coronavirus lockdown measures were put in place in California, where they both live.