I'll start with a quote, from A.K. Dewdney's The Magic Machine:
I can readily imagine the first full-fledged, feature-length motion picture generated by computer. The year is 2001. I stumble down the aisle while carrying an oversize bucket of synthetic popcorn and a soft drink containing a few additives that make all the usual ingredients unnecessary. The house lights dim, the curtains part, and the silver screen comes alive with an adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Frodo the Hobbit strolls through an open glen. In the distance jagged, snow-capped mountain peaks thrust into the sky. In the foreground exotic trees and plants of unknown species shimmer in the sunlight. The scene changes to a wizard gazing into a crystal ball. In the center of the sphere a fortress appears, flames leaping from its battlements.
Although it is hard to say just how convincingly Frodo will walk and talk in such a film, I am convinced that the mountains, the plants, the crystal ball, and the flames will all come off magnificently. The success will be due largely to the pioneering software and hardware of a company called Pixar, formerly the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Laboratory.
Dewdney wrote this in December of 1986.
He was only off by two years -- and if you count 2001 as part of the release window for the whole film cycle, and you substitute Gollum for Frodo (I guess he figured the whole thing would be CGI), then he was pretty close.
The big difference, of course, is that the movie we got is a mixture of live-action and CGI, rather than the all-digital PIXAR spectacle Dewdney imagined. Now there was something to mull over: what if it had been PIXAR and Disney that had booted up this project, rather than New Line, Warner Brothers, Peter Jackson, and WETA? Would a PIXAR / Disney(-fied) version of the project been very different, tonally, from the version we did get?
Based on what Disney has since become -- I mean, come on, they just bought Indiana Jones, for goodness' sake -- I'm not sure it would have been all that different in the long run.
I wonder now what Dewdney thought about all this in retrospect.
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