computer face from Futureworld
The World's First Computer Animation And Effects In Film:
Many of us think of the movie “Tron” as the the first film to use computer animation or effects in any form.  But the technology goes back a lot further than 1982, when Tron was released.  Here are some notable milestones in computer animation and effects in film:
First Computer Rendering:

Arguably the first movie ever to use computers to create a visual effect (a 2D rotating structure on one level of the underground lab) was The Andromeda Strain, in 1971.  The effect was extremely advanced for its time, with work by Douglas Trumbull (who also worked on “2001: A Space Odyssey”), James Shourt, and Albert Whitlock (who worked on the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Birds”).
World’s First “True” Computer Animation:

The short film “The Hunger” (1974) from the National Film Board Of Canada is notable as the first computer animation to be nominated for an Academy Award (as best short film).  The 2 dimensional 11 minute feature about world hunger was the first to use computers to “fill in” the action between key cels drawn by a human artist.  Because a computer actually “created” the animation depicted in the images, this is the world’s first example of "true" computer animation.  Follow the links to watch a clip of the movie.

Watch "The Hunger", Courtesy National Film Board Of Canada:
First Animation In Film Using 3D CGI:

The first film to use 3D computer-generated images to create an animation was the movie “Futureworld”, in 1976. The movie featured computer generated images of a hand and face.  The hand was a “digitized” version of the left hand of Edwin Catmull, who later co-founded Pixar Animation Studios.  The groundbreaking CGI effects in the movie were later awarded a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award in 1994. 
First 3D Animation In Film:
First Computer Generated Character In Film:
star wars trench scene still image
stained glass character from young sherlock holmes
bit character from tron
There is some debate as to who brought us the first CGI “character.”  Some believe the polyhedron character “Bit” in Tron qualifies for this honor.  But because of the character’s limited range of controls and animation, some insist that “Bit” does not qualify as a true “character.”  Others insist the first CGI character animation was featured in the movie Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985.  The character was depicted as a “stained glass figure come to life”, and was actually engineered by Pixar, who were known more for their animated short “Luxo, Jr.” in their early days.
You will probably not be surprised to learn that the first movie to use 3D computer animation was the iconic film Star Wars, in 1977.  A 3D wireframe view of the Death Star trench was depicted as a training aid for rebel pilots.  The animation was quite basic, and did not have any kind of textures or shading applied to the walls of the trench.  Again, though, it was quite an innovation for its time.

First Computer Rendering (Andromeda Strain, 1971)
3D Face From The Movie "Futureworld" (1976)
The Famous "Death Star Trench" From Star Wars (1977)
Stained Glass CGI Character From "Young Sherlock Holmes" (1985)
"Bit" Character From Tron (1982)
Watch The Whole Movie (11 min)
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