Former Disney executive Bob Lambert, a digital media trailblazer who played a central role in the development of computer animated features and in the transition from film to digital cinema exhibition, died suddenly of unnamed causes on Friday in Glendale, Calif. He was 55.
Lambert ultimately served at the Walt Disney Co. as the senior technology executive in charge of strategic planning, intellectual property, patent strategy, standards and regulatory issues and talent recruitment. He was an executive at the studio for 25 years until 2010, working in film, television, gaming, e-commerce and social media.
While working for Disney Feature Animation, Lambert conceptualized a strategy and methodology for replacing cell animation with CGI production. He selected Pixar to design the software and oversee the collaborative process between the two companies. The digital production system that resulted earned Disney an Academy Award for Scientific & Technical Achievement.
Lambert was also a founder and chairman of Digital Cinema Initiatives, the six-studio consortium that laid the groundwork for the transition from film to d-cinema exhibition by establishing and documenting specifications for technical performance, reliability and quality control.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Bob Lambert,” said MPAA chairman-CEO Chris Dodd in a statement. “A pioneer for both the creative and tech communities, Bob led us into the transition from celluloid film to digital and forever improved the quality of our films and our movie-watching experience. Few in our tech community were more respected or well-liked than Bob. He will be sorely missed by all of his many friends at the MPAA and its member companies.”
Lambert was chairman emeritus and chief strategic officer of USC’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC@USC), a think tank that brings entertainment studios, technology providers and others together in order to improve digital entertainment initiatives.
He recently served as CEO of the Digital Firm in Los Angeles and was named executive vice president of strategy and innovation for the World Technology Network. Prior to Disney, he was executive director of development for Paramount Pictures.
Lambert was an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Technology Council and a fellow of the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers. He also served as a judge for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards.
Lambert held 30 patents in media technologies and was named an industry pioneer by ShoWest (now CinemaCon).
He served on the board of directors for numerous universities, start-up ventures and non-profits, including USC, Virginia Tech and the American Film Institute.
Donations may be sent to the ASPCA.