Will Vinton

Will Vinton

Will Vinton (born 1948) is an American director and producer of animated films. He was born in McMinnville, Oregon, near Portland. He has won an Oscar for his work, and several Emmy Awards and Clio Awards for the work of his studio.


During the 1960s, Vinton studied physics, architecture and filmmaking at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was influenced by the work of Antoni Gaudi. During this time, Vinton made a black-and-white feature-length documentary film about the California counter-culture movement titled, "Gone For a Better Deal" which toured college campuses in various film festivals of the time. Two more films about student protest followed, "Berkeley Games" and "First Ten Days", as well a narrative short "Reply", and his first animation, "Culture Shock".

Collaboration with Bob Gardiner

Meeting clay animator Bob Gardiner in the Berkeley, California area in the early 1970s, Vinton brought him to Portland and the two commandeered Vinton's home basement to make a quick 1 1/2-minute test film of clay animation (and the supporting armatures) called "Wobbly Wino", completed in early 1973. Gardiner refined his sculpting and animation skills while Vinton built a system for animating his Bolex Rex-5 16mm camera and the two began work in mid-1973 on an 8-minute 16mm short film about a drunk wino who stumbles into a closed art museum and interacts with the paintings and sculptures. Completed in late 1974 after 14 months of production, the innovative film combined Gardiner's amazing sculpting skills with Vinton's considerable camera skills and "Closed Mondays" stunned film festival judges around the world. "Closed Mondays" then won an Oscar for best animated short film in the spring of 1975, the first film produced in Portland to do so.

Vinton and Gardiner parted ways during the production of their second short film, "Mountain Music" completed by Vinton in 1976. Gardiner focused on producing PSA spots for local political issues (eventually evolving into other artistic media such as music and holograms) while Vinton established Will Vinton Productions (later Will Vinton Studios) in Portland to capitalize on his constantly-improving animation technology. Quickly expanding his studio by hiring new animators, Vinton produced dozens of commercials for regional and then national companies.

Going solo

Still with only a handful of animators, he produced a highly-polished trilogy of acclaimed 27-minute fairy tales in the late 1970s and early 1980s, "Martin the Cobbler" (1977), "Rip Van Winkle" (1978, nominated for an Academy Award), and "The Little Prince" (1979). The trio of films later were collectively theatrically released under the title "Trilogy", then to video as "The Little Prince and Friends." 1978 also saw the production of a 17-minute documentary featuring the behind-the-scenes technical processes used by Vinton and his animators. Titled "Claymation", the term caught on with viewers, and was soon trademarked by Vinton, later to become synonymous with clay animation in general.

The 35mm years

Graduating to 35mm film, other short films were produced during this time: "Legacy" (1979), "Dinosaur" (1980), "The Creation" (directed by Joan Gratz, 1981, Oscar nominated), "The Great Cognito" (directed by Barry Bruce, 1982, Oscar nominated), and early music videos: a longform "video" called "A Christmas Gift" for Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary, and "Vanz Kant Danz" (1987) for Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty. VHS Video compilations of these films were released in the 1980s as "Festival of Claymation" and "Son of Combo II".

Vinton, himself no longer actively animating by now, also produced special effects scenes for TV shows and movies, including a sequence for Bette Midler's "Divine Madness" movie (1980), an Emmy-winning sequence for the "Moonlighting" TV series (1987), the opening and closing title sequences for the feature comedy film "Brain Donors" (1992), and his own feature-length movie, "The Adventures of Mark Twain" (1985). His studio's animation effects for Disney's "Return to Oz" (1985) were also nominated for a special effects Oscar.

Springing from his work on "Return to Oz", Vinton was hired by the Disney studio to produce animation effects for their Michael Jackson multi-media Disneyland-Disneyworld extravaganza, "Captain EO" in 1986 (September 12, 1986) and the "Speed Demon" sequence for Michael Jackson musical anthology feature-length film, "Moonwalker" (1987).

Prominent among his hundreds of now international commercial creations were the California Raisins, the Domino's Pizza Noid, and the M&M's Red, Yellow, and Green characters.

The California Raisins' first big hit was the song "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" in the first of their series of TV spots for the California Raisin Advisory Board. They became such a media phenomenon that they went on to star in their own pair of primetime specials for CBS television, "Meet the Raisins" (1988) and "The Raisins Sold Out" (1990). A couple music albums of songs from the specials, produced by Nu Shooz pop-rock band leader John Smith were released also.

CBS also commissioned three more prime-time specials, "A Claymation Christmas Celebration" (1988, an Emmy winner), "The Claymation Comedy of Horrors" a 1991 Halloween special, and "A Claymation Easter" (1992) All were later released to video and DVD.

During the 1990s, the Vinton Studios produced the animated series "The PJs" for the FOX TV network. The series was conceived and executive-produced by Eddie Murphy, who voiced many of the roles. Another animated series was produced for the UPN TV network by the Vinton studio, "Gary and Mike", now a cult favorite. Both series used a refinement in Vinton's style of dimensional animation. Most of the clay figures were replaced by models of moulded foam rubber, eliminating many of the limitations, and maintenance issues, that are inherent with clay, which had been developed by Vinton and his technical teams as far as it could go. Vinton soon coined a new term for this process, "Foamation".

The 1990s also flourished as a variety of Vinton's 400 + animators and technicians flowered with new creations and films of their own using the Vinton facilities called the "Walkabout Program". Craig Bartlett created his "Arnold Escapes From Church" short film (1986, winner of an Oscar in 1987) which later spawned "Hey Arnold", a cel-animated series for Nickelodeon and generated two more clay-animated short films, "The Arnold Waltz" (1990) and "Arnold Rides a Chair" (1991).

Computer animation

The late 1990s also saw Vinton adding computer animation to his output, used most visibly for his many M&M's character commercials. A short CGI film, "Fluffy", directed by Doug Aberle, was created during this time. Other CGI films — some combined with clay and stop-motion animation — soon followed. Vinton also briefly dabbled in a consumer user form of computer animation software called "Playmation", co-developed by animation software writers based at a computer animation company, Hash, Inc., located across the Columbia River in Portland's sister city, Vancouver, Washington. Vinton and associates also dabbled in animation for the internet with a series called "Ozzie the Elf".

Vinton Studio

By the end of the 1990s, the Vinton studio, seeking funds for more feature length films, had become big enough to bring in outside investors, which included shoe company Nike, Inc. owner Phil Knight and his son, who had worked at the studio as an animator.

In 2002, Vinton lost control of the studio he founded after Knight became the majority shareholder and Vinton failed to garner funds for further feature production in Los Angeles, eventually being dismissed from the studio. Vinton later sought damages for this and sued for ownership of his name. In 2005 Will Vinton Studios was renamed Laika Entertainment House. Premier animator-director Henry Selick joined the Laika studio in 2005.

Vinton has since founded a new production facility (with a web site), "Will Vinton's Freewill Entertainment", also based in Portland. Vinton is also associated with the Portland branch of The Art Institute in Northwest Portland and maintains an office there as an artist in residence. The "Creative Artist Agency" in Beverly Hills, California represents Vinton for production projects (CAA). Projects include a graphic novel called "Jack Hightower" produced in tandem with Dark Horse comics located in Milwaukie, Oregon a suburb of Portland. Plans exist for a variety of film, TV, and multi-media projects and one short film, "The Morning After", the first produced under Vinton's new banner, which combines CGI and live action, was completed in 2005.

Body of work

Feature films

* "The Wild", 89 min. (executive producer)
* "Festival of Claymation", 80 min. (director, producer) compilation of short films
* "The Adventures of Mark Twain", 86 min. (director, producer), aka "Comet Quest" (UK: video title)
* "Shadow Play", 95 min. (producer) live action thriller
* "Return to Oz", (claymation director, producer) Academy Award Nominee
* "Gone for a Better Deal", 86 min. (director, producer) live action documentary

TV series

* "Gary and Mike", TV Series 23:00 x 13 (executive producer) Prime-time Emmy Award Nominee
* "The PJs", TV Series 23:00 x 52 (executive producer) Prime-time Emmy Award Winner
* "The California Raisin Show", TV Series 23:00 x 13 (creative director, executive producer)
* "Klay's TV", TV Series Pilot (director, executive producer)
* "Slacker Cats", TV Series Pilot (executive producer)
* "Boyer Brother", TV Series Pilot (executive producer)
* "Cecille" segment for Sesame Street, 4 min. x 8 (producer)
* "Adventures in Wonderland", (animated segments), 4 min. x 30 (executive producer)

TV specials

* "Will Vinton's A Claymation Christmas Celebration", 24 min. (director, producer) Prime-time Emmy Winner
* "Claymation Easter Special", 24:00 (director) (executive producer, producer) Prime-time Emmy Winner
* "Claymation Comedy of Horrors", 24:00 (executive producer, producer) Prime-time Emmy Winner
* "Raisins Sold Out: California Raisins II", 24:00 (director, producer) Prime-time Emmy Nominee
* "Meet the Raisins!", 24:00 (director, producer, executive producer) Prime-time Emmy Winner

hort films

* "The Little Prince", 25 min. (director, producer)
* "Martin the Cobbler", 26 min. (director, producer)
* "Rip Van Winkle", 26 min. (director, producer) Academy Award Nominee
* "The Diary of Adam and Eve", 24 min. (director, producer)
* "Closed Mondays", 9 min. (co-creator) Academy Award Winner
* "Mr. Resistor", 8 min. (executive producer)
* "Bride of Resistor", 6 min. (executive producer)
* "Dinosaurs! - A Fun-Filled Trip Back in Time!", 17 min. (director, producer)
* "Legacy", 7 min. (director, producer)
* "A Christmas Gift", 7 min. (director, producer)
* "The Great Cognito", 5 min. (director, producer) Academy Award Nominee
* "The Creation", 9 min. (director, producer)
* Michael Jackson "Speed Demon" music video, 12 min. (director, producer)
* "The Morning After", 7:30 (director, producer)
* "Mountain Music", 9 min. (director, producer)
* "Wobbly Wino", 2 min. (director, producer)
* "Culture Shock", 17 min. (director, producer)
* "Go Down Death", 10 min. (director, producer)
* "Claymation", documentary, 18 min. (director, producer)
* "Vanz Kant Danz" (John Fogerty music video), 6 min. (director, producer)
* "The Lost ‘M’ Adventure" (CGI featuring the M&M's characters), 12 min. (executive producer)
* "Xerox and Mylar", 5 min. (executive producer)
* "The Stars Came Dreaming", 12 min. (executive producer)
* "Day of the Dead", 8 min. (executive producer)


External links

* [http://www.laika.com/ Laika Entertainment House] previously Vinton Studios
* [http://www.willvinton.net/ Willvinton.net] , Vinton's personal history website
* [http://www.freewill.tv/ Freewill Entertainment]
*imdb name|id=0899139

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  • Will Vinton — (* 1947 in McMinnville, Oregon) ist ein US amerikanischer Filmproduzent, Regisseur und Animator. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Auszeichnungen 3 Weblinks …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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