What links Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure with the beginnings of Hollywood CG movies, a whole host of animated features and the original artists that helped to define the Disney method? That would Bill Kroyer, an animation veteran who learnt from the original masters at Disney, pioneered CG rendering in Tron – and collaborated with Activision during the mid-90s on the fascinating Pitfall sequel.
Similar to Disney’s Aladdin from Virgin Games, The Mayan Adventure aimed to bring Hollywood-level animation to gaming, but without access to House of Mouse’s artists, Bill Kroyer and his team were the ideal pick, having worked both at Disney and independently.
What resulted was one of the most genuinely fascinating 16-bit 2D platformers of the era, delivered across a multitude of platforms – as DF Retro has previously reported. In the wake of that retrospective, DF Retro viewer Sal Carreiro – who studies at the school where Kroyer and his wife teach – contacted us to help arrange a very special interview.
In this detailed discussion, Kroyer talks about his early days in the mid-70s as he tried to break into feature animation, how he learned his trade at Disney, along with the astonishing story of how Tron was developed on custom computer hardware, and entirely rendered using hand-entered coordinates (!) with only one – or two, at best – revisions of each CG shot.
And then there’s the tale behind how Pitfall Harry – as it was originally called – came to be, how Kroyer and his team met up with Bobby Kotick and his business partner, and the remarkable story of how the pair managed to raise the funds to acquire Activision in the first place. On top of that, Kroyer offers up his opinions on the techniques used in CG animated features of today, and his concerns that key skill-sets in the creation of hand-drawn animation could be lost forever. It’s something completely different to anything we’ve done at Digital Foundry before and we hope you enjoy it.
If you like what you see here, be sure to check out the full DF Retro playlist on YouTube.