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Pretending to be Pixar in 3D Movie Maker, Microsoft’s weird 1995 animation studio for kids



This article first appeared in PC Gamer magazine issue 354 in March 2021. Every month we run exclusive features exploring the world of PC gaming – from behind-the-scenes previews, to incredible community stories, to fascinating interviews, and more. 

Today’s PC gamers are constantly feeding YouTube and Twitch with game footage, but back in 1995, capturing our screens was hardly thought of. Though even then there existed seeds of 2000s machinima. One such seed was 3D Movie Maker, a program that empowered kids to spend afternoons animating car crashes and alien abductions. It’s one of Microsoft’s best bits of ’90s software, recognising the potential for real-time 3D rendering as a creative tool. It’s also bizarre. 

There was an idea back in the ’90s that modern software should map its functions onto the most obvious metaphors possible. In Microsoft Bob, for instance, programs were organised into the rooms of a house. PC Gamer’s ’90s demo discs similarly featured adventure game-style interfaces. These virtual spaces couldn’t have boring old tutorials—Turing and Asimov promised artificial intelligence, not tooltips—so they were augmented with chatty characters such as a cartoon dog, our own Coconut Monkey, and the infamous Clippy from Microsoft Office. 3D Movie Maker had a guide, too, but since it was for kids and this was the ’90s, he was a horrible blue guy with goat pupils that ran perpendicular to each other. He was a real nightmare, McZee. 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The models were clearly influenced by American cartoons of the time, such as Rugrats and Rocko’s Modern Life, and that was good enough for ten-year-old me

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