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On Fathers, Sons, and That Little Lamp in the Pixar Logo

Spencer Porter's father worked for a startup company that sold computer hardware. It wasn't profitable, but the workers were enthusiastic. In 1985, when Porter was only a year old, his father took him to his workplace for the day. At the time, the company was considering a demonstration video to advertise their graphics capability.   

At some point during that day, my dad played with me with a tennis ball. John Lasseter, an artist who worked with him, watched us, and suddenly the short film he had been trying to figure out was right in front of him. Using my actions, proportions and personality as a model for his main character, Lasseter created the short film “Luxo Jr.”

The name may not mean anything to you, and you may have never seen the short film,  but you’d probably recognize the title character. He’s a little lamp with a short body and a big head.

The startup that my dad worked at was Pixar. John Lasseter went on to direct many of Pixar’s greatest hits: “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Cars.” And today, before every Pixar movie, that little lamp hops out, jumps onto the “I” in “PIXAR,” squashes it, and looks out to the audience.

In a way, that little lamp is me.

The 1986 demonstration short Luxo Jr. was so impressive that Pixar converted from selling hardware to using their capabilities to tell stories. Porter always thought of the animated short as a home movie, since it perfectly captured the way he and his father moved. Now a television writer, Porter tells how the short encapsulated his relationship with his father, and later on, his relationship with his son, at Salon. -via Metafilter


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