If Toy Story can be considered the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs of CGI, then Luxo Jr. is the Steamboat Willie.note A 1986 short directed by John Lasseter and the first short to be credited to Pixar (formerly Lucasfilm's Graphics Group, as they had been credited on their first short The Adventures of André & Wally B.). It premiered at that year's SIGGRAPH conference (where it received a massive standing ovation mere seconds into it) and was later released theatrically with Toy Story 2.
A desk lamp sits on a desk. A ball rolls into frame. The lamp is sentient and animate, and it has a child, in the person of another, smaller desk lamp. Luxo Sr. and its child Luxo Jr. kick the ball around a while. Luxo Jr. then jumps on the ball and starts bouncing on it—with unfortunate consequences.
Created with the intended purpose of demonstrating the utility of computers in creating animated films (something Lasseter had been fired from Disney for attempting to do just a few years prior), the success of this short and it's follow up, Tin Toy, convinced Pixar to abandon the computer software business and become a full-fledged animation studio. A year later, George Lucas, satisfied with the work that the team had done for his studio and looking to sell off assets to cover the combined cost of his divorce settlement, the construction of Skywalker Ranch and the losses from Howard the Duck, sold the budding studio to Apple Computers co-founder Steve Jobs, and the rest is history.
The title character became Pixar's mascot, famously appearing in the studio's Vanity Plate where it jumps on the letter I in "Pixar" and taking it's place. Both character were also featured in a handful of Sesame Street shorts.
- Ambiguous Gender: Luxo Sr. and Jr., who as sentient lamps, don't really have visible gender indicators. John Lasseter considered it a personal accomplishment when a colleague of his at SIGGRAPH, who usually asks him technical questions about his work, was instead pleading to know whether Luxo Sr. was the mother or the father.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Luxo Sr., and Luxo Jr., but not the ball (luckily for the ball).
- Aside Glance: Luxo Sr. shoots one at the camera and then shakes its head. (Luxo Jr. does this in all the later Pixar title cards.)
- Character Title: Luxo Jr refers to the smaller lamp.
- Creative Closing Credits: The closing credits show various sketches and drawings that were part of the making of the film.
- Easter Egg: The Luxo ball from this short has made it into many other Pixar films.
- Happy Ending: Luxo Jr. gets a second, bigger ball to play with.
- No Flow in CGI: This early CGI short managed to sidestep this problem by having objects with smooth, non-flowing surfaces—except for the power cords to the lamps. That proved the most difficult thing to animate.
- Vanity Plate: The Pixar vanity plate of the lamp hopping up and down on the 'i' until it collapses, and then replacing it, came from this short, with the lamp hopping on a ball until it deflates.