One famous ray-traced image, by James Arvo and David Kirk in 1987, shows six stone columns, five of which are surmounted by the Platonic solids (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron). The sixth column supports a teapot. The image is titled “The Six Platonic Solids”—which has led some people to call the teapot a Teapotahedron. This image appeared on the covers of several books and computer graphic journals.
The Utah teapot sometimes appears in the “Pipes” screensaver shipped with Microsoft Windows, but only in versions prior to Windows XP, and has been included in the “polyhedra” XScreenSaver hack since 2008.
Jim Blinn (in one of his “Project MATHEMATICS!” videos) proves an amusing (but trivial) version of the Pythagorean theorem: Construct a (2D) teapot on each side of a right triangle and the area of the teapot on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the areas of the teapots on the other two sides.
Loren Carpenter’s 1980 CGI film Vol Libre features the teapot, appearing briefly at the beginning and end of the film in the foreground with a fractal-rendered mountainscape behind it.
IN POP CULTURE
With the advent of the first computer generated short films and proceeding full-length feature films, it has become an in-joke to hide the Utah teapot in one of the film’s scenes. For example, in the movie Toy Story, the Utah teapot appears in a short tea-party scene. The teapot also appears in The Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror VI” in which Homer discovers the “third dimension.” It also appears in Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. on the table in Boo’s bedroom.
Through 3D printing, the Utah Teapot has come full circle from being a computer model based on an actual teapot to being an actual teapot based on the computer model. It is widely available in many renderings in different materials from small plastic knick-knacks to a fully functional ceramic teapot. It is sometimes intentionally rendered as a blocky, low poly object to celebrate its origin as a computer model.
In 2009, the Belgian design studio, Unfold, 3D printed the Utah Teapot in ceramic with the objective of returning theiconographic teapot to its roots as a piece of functional dish-ware while showing its status as an icon of the digital world.
In 2015, the California-based company and self-described “Make-Tank”, Emerging Objects, followed suit, but this time printed the teapot, along with teacups and teaspoons, out of actual tea.