The Works – 2023
Alone at Night – 2023
The Works is a shelved 3D computer animated feature film, partially produced from 1979 to 1986. It would have been the first entirely 3D CGI film if it had been finished as intended, and included contributions from individuals who would go on to work at digital animation pioneers Pixar and DreamWorks Animation
The founder of NYIT, entrepreneur and eccentric millionaire Dr. Alexander Schure, had a long and ardent interest in animation. He was a great admirer of Walt Disney and dreamed of making animated features like those from the golden age of theatrical animation. He had already created a traditional animation facility at NYIT. After visiting the University of Utah and seeing the potential of the computer technology in the form of the computer drawing program Sketchpad created by Ivan Sutherland, he told his people to pore over the Utah research center and get him one of everything they had. He then established the NYIT Computer Graphics Lab, buying state-of-the-art equipment and hiring major researchers from throughout the computer graphics field.
At first, one of CGL’s main goals was to use computers to produce 2D animation and invent tools to assist traditional animators in their work. Schure reasoned that it should be possible to develop computer technology that would make the animation process cheaper and faster. An early version of the CAPS system later used by Disney animators were among the tools they created there.
Once its potential became clear, the main focus of the Lab became 3D computer graphics, and when Lance Williams presented his story, “The Works”, the idea was to attempt to make it as a 3D computer animated feature. Schure enthusiastically agreed and green-lit the project as he too dreamt of a computer animated movie and had this in mind when he created the facility. This movie project became the center of attention at NYIT CGL. For many of the individuals involved, it became a primary and personal goal to create the first computer generated feature.
While creating a one-of-a-kind film in a method that had never been done before was the motivation, the practical reason for the project was to continue to develop patentable tools while demonstrating what computer animation could accomplish for the entertainment industry. In theory the project’s success would lead to significant improvements in visual effects and in the editing process in film and television. Integrating computer power into visual media held promise in terms of speed, cost, creativity, and quality compared to more conventional techniques. The arrival of “The Works” would have been the beginning of a new animation genre. Interested representatives from movie studios and television networks regularly toured the lab as did musicians Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel, puppeteer Jim Henson and animation legends Chuck Jones and Shamus Culhane.
Schure was well aware of the challenges and potential for success going into the project and consistently provided very extensive resources to aid the research and development of the necessary technologies. Schure also believed that his staff would work best if they were constantly being supplied with the latest computer hardware. This meant that with each new advance in the field, his staff would have to upgrade their systems, convert existing programs, and rework familiar tools for use on new machines. When these upgrades actually delayed production significantly, Schure kept himself isolated from the complaints of his staff but for his part there were never any budgetary constraints or the pressure of a release date.