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Honorary graduate William Reeves

Alumnus Bill Reeves has played a major role in bringing computational tools to the art of animation and demonstrated that mathematics, computer science, software development and art can be combined to make amazing images.

Reeves received an honorary degree from the University of Toronto June 5, 2013. (Watch a video of the ceremony below.)

Reeves studied mathematics at the University of Waterloo, receiving his Bachelor of Math in 1974. For his graduate work in Computer Science at U of T, he specialized in computer graphics and animation, earning a Master's degree in 1976 and a PhD in 1980. His doctoral research led to new techniques for computer-based inbetweening, published in ACM SIGGRAPH in 1981.

In 1980, Reeves joined the Computer Division of Lucasfilm as project leader of the systems group and a member of the computer graphics group. From 1982, he worked full time in the graphics group as project leader for modeling and animation and conducted research in the representation and animation of naturalistic images. In 1982, Bill invented a new image synthesis technique called Particle Systems that enables the generation of very complex and detailed images. This research was published by ACM SIGGRAPH in 1983 and in 1985. In 1997, Reeves was awarded a Technical Academy Award for his invention of Particle Systems.

In 1986, Reeves joined Pixar as head of Animation Research and Development. He participated in the creation of several animated short films, which were test beds for research in animation and rendering systems. With John Lasseter, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Luxo Jr. (1986) and was awarded an Oscar® for Tin Toy (1988).

Between 1989 and 1991, Bill devoted his time to enhancing Pixar’s computer animation software to raise it to the level where it could be used to create a full-length feature animated film. From 1991 to 1995, he worked as Supervising Technical Director on Toy Story, the first feature film created entirely using computer animation. It was honored in 1995 by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences with a special Oscar® for groundbreaking innovation in film making. In 1998, Bill was awarded a second Technical Academy Award along with three colleagues from Pixar for their development of the Marionette animation system — the software Pixar used for modeling and animation beginning in 1988.

His other film credits at Pixar include Supervising Technical Director, Technical Preproduction Lead, or Global Technology Lead on A Bug’s Life (1998),  Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), and Toy Story 3 (2010). More recently, he worked on Monsters University, opening in the US and Canada on June 21st 2013.

In 2010, ASIFA-Hollywood recognized Bill Reeves with the Ub Iwerks Award for his technical advancements that have made a significant impact on the art or industry of animation.