University of Utah computer science alumnus Ed Catmull, the president of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios who ushered in a new era of computer animation in Hollywood entertainment, announced he will retire at the end of this year.

“Never in my wildest imagination could I have conceived of the path or the extraordinary people I have worked with over all of these years — the twists and turns, the ups and downs, along with exhilarating passion, talent, and dedication that have led to something extraordinary, something that has an enduring impact in the world,” Catmull said in a statement released Oct. 23.

As the president of Pixar Animation Studios, based in Emeryville, Calif., Catmull was responsible for overseeing the company’s rise to fame as the world’s most distinguished computer animation studio with box office hits such as “Toy Story,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “Up,” and “Coco.” In all, the film studio has garnered 15 Academy Awards, nine Golden Globes and 11 Grammys. Simultaneously, his tenure as the president of Walt Disney Animation Studios produced such hits as “Frozen,” “Big Hero 6,” and “Moana.”

Catmull first attended the University of Utah in 1963 as a physics student but later took computer science classes as graphics were emerging as a technology. It was during this “Camelot” period in the U’s computer science department that Catmull was paving new ground in computers along with other noted U innovators including Nolan Bushnell of Atari, interface designer Alan Kay, Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark, and Adobe founder John Warnock.

During his time at the U in 1972, Catmull would produce a landmark film, a computer-animated version of his left hand (pictured, left) that would be the first milestone for a new era in animated entertainment. In 1979, movie mogul George Lucas hired Catmull to head the computer animation division for Lucasfilm, first producing some of the special effects for the film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” In 1986, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs purchased Lucasfilm’s computer animation division and created Pixar with Catmull. In addition to dozens of short films, Pixar so far has produced 20 feature-length computer animated films that have earned more than $13 billion globally at the box office. In 2006, Pixar merged with Disney, and Catmull remained as president of the company while also becoming president of Disney’s Animation Studios.

“As much as anyone on the face of the earth, Ed has pushed computer-generated visuals into people’s lives,” said Richard B. Brown, dean of the U.’s College of Engineering. Catmull currently is a member of the college’s Engineering National Advisory Council.

While Catmull will retire the end of this year, he will remain with the company as a consultant until July 2019. Disney has not yet named a successor to Catmull.

“Ed is a one-of-a-kind talent, a genius who sees beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary,” Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn said in a statement. “His unique perspective and invaluable leadership have fostered the creation of films and technologies that will stand the test of time.”

Ed Catmull Interview