Sunday, May 14, 2006

N.Y. Institute of Technology, Part 1

NYIT in Westbury, Long Island, is a school that had an animation studio attached to it for a while. While the studio and its films are not widely remembered, a lot of very interesting people passed through the place.

John Celestri is a fellow New Yorker, though I didn't meet him until we were both in Toronto. He was at NYIT in the '70's and I've asked him to share some of his memories.

John’s Blog Memories of NYIT: Part 1

Both Mark Mayerson and I have separately come to the understanding that historically what went on at the New York Institute of Technology during the mid- to late-1970s was the hidden ending to both the Paramount and Terrytoon studios.

I was on staff there from March of 1975 to May of 1976.

My additional observation is that it was also the hidden birth of computer animation as we know it today. The fact is that Tubby the Tuba was put into production so that Dr. Alexander Schure (who basically owned and ran NYIT) could study the process of putting together an animated feature and see what technical problems needed to be surmounted by a computer. As Tubby was being produced by a crew of semi-retired animators headed by Chuck Harriton and John Gentilella, a separate crew on the far side of the Long Island campus (headed by young Edwin Catmull) was busy experimenting with ways to draw and color pictures on a computer screen.

(Here's a paper by Ed Catmull on the problems of computer assisted animation and an interview with Catmull about his time at NYIT.)

When the traditional work on Tubby was completed, a selected crew of the Paramount and Terrytoon animators were reassigned to the computer crew. Among them were John Gentilella, Dante Barbetta, and Earl James. Their task was to draw and animate objects with the tools the computer crew was developing, showing them what difficulties they had using the tools.

The eventual direct result of all this experimentation is the creation of both Disney’s CAPS system and Pixar’s CGI systems. Just the thought of this major historical connection makes my head spin.


Anonymous said...

I was in the original graduating class from NYIT back in 1967. After my first layoff from the Hubley studio (where I got to meet & know Johnny Gent), I got a job on Tubby The Tuba. 1973.

The stories I have are unbelievable given my short stay there - 6 weeks. Sam Singer (Courageous Cat) was in charge, and he imported a number of ex-Disney folk who didn't last long. Neither did Sam Singer.(I'll post the insane stories someday when I'm in a humorous mood.) Unfortunately, the rancor and backbiting were too much to take, and I left.

There was no hint of a computer while I was there, but it was common knowledge that Alexander Schure wanted to become the next Disney.

He eventually did get it right with computers and financed some incredible work which led to Lucasfilm's The Adventures of André and Wally B. Alvy Ray Smith - ex of NYIT - leading that piece.

Anonymous said...

Michael, by the time I arrived Sam Singer, along with most of the rancor and backbiting, was gone. However, a whole new set of problems developed when the Union wanted to move in.

Maybe blogging these memories of NYIT will bring other ex-Tubbies out of hiding. I'd love to hear some of your stories, too.

Anonymous said...

a group of sheridan grads went down in 1987 to work on StrawBerry Fields Forever, an endless project. Two of those students, Brian Ferguson and Mike Surrey both went on to Disney and are among their top animators now, having worked on nearly all the major films out of the studio from Little Mermaid to Chicken Little.