At SXSW, Pixar writer-director Pete Docter, et al., spoke on stage about some of the studio’s earliest days. Bryan Bishop, for The Verge:
While Pixar had been making commercials and shorts for years, producer Galyn Susman said that the young studio drastically underestimated the resources needed to pull off a full-length feature. “We thought that we would be able to animate the entire film with eight animators,” she said. “That didn’t happen. We ended up with 33.” The same went with staffing across the board, from editorial to those working on lighting and the computer models — but the most dramatic gap was in raw computing power.
According to Susman, the Pixar team initially thought they could render the film over 20 months using 53 processors. Each of the machines in the render farm was named after an animal, and when it completed a frame it would play the corresponding animal’s sound. The number of machines eventually grew to 300, but even that pales in comparison to the computing power Pixar wields today. Susman said that the company now has 23,000 processors at its disposal — enough to render the original Toy Story in real time.
I love the behind the scenes looks at how this pioneering work was done.