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Back in 1972, graduate student Ed Catmull was hard at work on a computer animation project. The somewhat primitive 3D rendering of a plaster model of his hand might not look like much by today's standards, but it laid the foundation for the film studio Catmull was about to co-found — a little company called Pixar. While the animation might just look like a couple of shapes on screen, it's actually better than Cars 2.
It's hard to imagine a time when 3D cartoons weren't ubiquitous at the multiplex — and maybe they wouldn't be if Catmull hadn't succeeded in placing polygon vertices on a computer screen using the right mathematical formulas and a whole bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo that exceeds my vocabulary.