Alias|Wavefront Maya 1.0

Dublin Core


Alias|Wavefront Maya 1.0


software: 3D animation and visual effects software


Historical Context

Since the 1950s, computer operators had used a variety of cathode ray tube (CRT) terminals for displaying information in a rudimentary graphical form during the execution of data processing tasks. Some computer users went further and, in their spare time, experimented with the use of computers and CRTs for entertainment. In 1958, an American physicist William Higinbotham created Tennis possibly the first video game. As rudimentary as it was, it attracted much attention during visits to Brookhaven National Lab where Higinbotham was employed as an engineer in charge of instrumentation design. Then came more sophisticated video games such as Spacewar! developed in 1962 at MIT by Steve Russell in collaboration with other MIT students, as well as the first experimentation with computers for the purpose of art creation and animation. By the early 1970s, these experiments resulted in the first generation of commercial-grade computer image editing systems (such as Richard Shoup's SuperPaint, 1973) and animation programs (such as National Research Council Canada's computer animation program, 1971). These developments were possible in large part due to the advancements in computer and semiconductor industries, such as the arrival of affordable minicomputers and the introduction of semiconductor memories.

Computer animation in Canada began in 1971 when the National Research Council Canada (NRC) scientists Nestor Burtnyk and Marceli Wein offered their animation software that greatly simplified a traditional and labor-intensive frame-by-frame animation process, requiring animation artists to draw every single frame. Instead, their program required an artist to draw only key frames leaving the generation of frames linking the key ones entirely to the computer. Peter Foldès was the first artist to use NRC's animation software. His 1973 film Hunger won, among other distinctions, a Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival in 1974, the Best Animated Film award at the 1975 British Academy of Film & Television Awards, and an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Academy) nomination in 1974 in the Best Animated Short Film category. In 1996, Burtnyk and Wein were presented with an Academy award for "for their pioneering work in the development of software techniques for Computer Assisted Key Framing for Character Animation."

Burtnyk’s and Wein’s work was just the beginning of what would become one of the most innovative and impactful sectors in the Canadian software industry. Toronto-based Alias Systems Corporation founded in 1984, Softimage established in Montreal in 1986, and Side Effects Software incorporated in Toronto in 1987 quickly established themselves at the forefront in the development of tools supporting ever growing needs of digital artists and animators.


The work on Maya 3D animation and visual effects software started in 1993 at Alias Systems Corporation the company founded a decade earlier as Alias Research by Stephen Bingham, Susan McKenna, Nigel McGrath, and David Springer. The company's early objective was to produce a practical software package for the creation of realistic 3D video animations and to support computer-aided design. Alias' first productsthe Alias/1 (1985) and Alias/2 (1986) 3D software packageswere acquired by several automotive companies and employed in the production of special effects in blockbuster feature films including The Abyss a science fiction movie awarded the Academy's Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1989. Alias' new 3D animation softwarethe PowerAnimator introduced in 1990was even more successful. It was used in the production of special effects in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Jurassic Park (1993), earning both movies Oscars in the Best Visual Effects category. In 1994, six blockbuster films employed PowerAnimator-generated special effects: Forrest Gump, The Mask, Speed, The Flintstones, True Lies, and Star Trek: The Next GenerationA Final Unity with the Oscar awarded to Forrest Gump.

The growing competition from other 3D companies as well as continuous pressure exerted by the entertainment and gaming industries upon 3D companies to deliver tools for even more realistic and sophisticated animation stimulated Alias to begin evolving its PowerAnimator into the next generation 3D animation software, Maya. In 1995, under the umbrella of Silicon Graphics, Alias merged with Santa Barbara, California-based Wavefrontanother successful computer graphics companyto form Alias|Wavefront with headquarters in Toronto. This merger opened the door to an even more sophisticated world of 3D animation. In January 1998, the company released Maya Versio 1.0 its new 3D animation software package. The software was primarily based on Alias' PowerAnimator and Wavefront's successful Advanced Visualizer. In the subsequent years, Alias|Wavefront was continuously upgrading and expanding Maya beginning with the release of Maya Builder, Maya Complete, and Maya Unlimited in 1999.

"Maya Unlimited extends the realm of possibility for digital artists who want to shape the frontier of advanced 3D technology,"

stated Alias|Wavefront in its corporate history published by the company in 2004.

And indeed, it did. Maya quickly became the 3D modelling and animation software of choice for the animation and gaming industries. Since 1999, it has been used for the creation of special effects in numerous popular movies including Matrix (1999, Oscar in the Best Visual Effects category), Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace (1999, Oscar nomination in the Best Visual Effects category), Stuart Little (1999, Oscar nomination in the Best Visual Effects category), Dinosaur (2000, the fifth highest-grossing film of that year), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Oscar in the Best Visual Effects category), Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), Shrek (2001, Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category), The Birds (2001, Oscar in the Best Animated Short Film category), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002, Oscar in the Best Visual Effects category), Spider-Man (2002, Oscar nomination in the Best Visual Effects category), Ice Age (2002, Oscar in the Animated Feature Film category), The ChubbChubbs! (2002, Oscar in the Animated Short Film category), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002, Oscar nomination in the Best Visual Effects category), The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King (2003, Oscar in the Best Visual Effects category), and many others.

In 2002, Alias|Wavefront, was awarded an Oscar in the Technical Achievement category for its development of Maya. While this was Alias|Wavefront's first time to receive an Oscar, several employees had been honoured by the Academy previously for their achievements in the Scientific and Technical Awards categories. These Academy recognitions would continue to be bestowed upon the company's employees in the following years.

In July 2003, the company changed its name to Alias. In October 2005, it was acquired by Autodesk of San Rafael, California. Since then, Autodesk has continued to develop Maya and other Alias' popular software packages including StudioTools, ImageStudio, and PortfolioWall  Alias' key solutions for design and visualization.

Maya major releases:

Maya version 1.0 (Alias|Wavefront, January 1998)
Maya Complete (Alias|Wavefront, 1999)
Maya Unlimited (Alias|Wavefront, 1999)
Maya 3 (Alias|Wavefront, June 2000)
Maya 4.5 (Alias|Wavefront, June 2002)
Maya 5 (Alias|Wavefront, April 2003)
Maya 6 (Alias, 2004)
Maya 6.5 (Alias, January 2005)
Maya 7 (Alias, August 2005)
Maya 8 (Autodesk, 2006)
Maya 8.5 (Autodesk, 2007)
Autodesk Maya 2009 (Autodesk, 2008)
Autodesk Maya 2010 (Autodesk, 2009)
Autodesk Maya 2011 (Autodesk, 2010)
Autodesk Maya 2023 (Autodesk, 2022)

The museum has:
- Maya 1.0, (box set), Alias|Wavefront, January 1998; the box set  
   *  Learning Maya Version 1.0, Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  Using Maya Modelling, Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  Maya 1.0 Release Notes, Alias|Wavefront, February 1998
   *  Maya 1.0 Developer's Kit Release Notes, Alias|Wavefront,
       February 1998
   *  Maya 1.0 Installing & Licensing, Alias|Wavefront, 1998
   *  Maya 1.0 F/X, Artisan, and Developer's Kit (DVD-ROM),
      Alias|Wavefront, 1998
   *  Using Maya Version 1.0, Basics, Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  Using Maya Version 1.0, Animation, Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  Using Maya Version 1.0, Dynamics, Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  Using Maya Version 1.0, HyperGraph, Sets & Expressions,
      Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  Using Maya Version 1.0, Rendering, Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  VIZPAINT 2D User's Guide 3.3, Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  Using MEL, ver. 1.0, Alias|Wavefront, January 1998
   *  Discover Maya (DVD-ROM), Alias|Wavefront, 1998
   *  Composer 4.5M (DVD-ROM), Alias|Wavefront, 1998
   *  several promotional and reference brochures, 1998
- Character Animation in Maya, Alias|Wavefront, January 1999;  the front
  cover has a stamp "Property of Lucas Arts Entertainment Company Art
- Learning Maya 5, Foundation, Alias|Wavefront, 2003; includes 
- Learning Autodesk Maya 8, Foundation (DVD-ROM), Autodesk, 2006
- G. Maestri and M. Larkins, Maya 8 at a Glance, Wiley Publishing
  Inc., 2006; includes DVD-ROM
- Autodesk Maya 8.5, (DVD-ROM), Autodesk, 2007
- Learning Autodesk Maya 2009, The Special Effects Handbook,
  Autodesk, 2008
- Eric Keller, Mastering Maya 2009, Wiley Publishing Inc., 2009;
  includes DVD-ROM
- Silicon Graphics Indigo^2 workstation, model nr. CMNB007BF195, with
  PowerAnimator installed.






Artifacts donated by Robertson Holt


world, 1998--




Alias|Wavefront, “Alias|Wavefront Maya 1.0,” York University Computer Museum Canada, accessed July 19, 2024,

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