Will Vinton, Oscar-winning animator and key figure in stop-motion animation history, has passed away at the age of 70. The Oregonian animator was a pioneer in the field of clay animation in particular, and passed after battling multiple myeloma for more than 10 years.
Today, Vinton is largely known as the founder of Will Vinton Studios, which became acclaimed, Oscar-winning studio Laika Studios in 2005, the producers of films such as Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings. This was in the twilight of Vinton’s career, but he still deserves credit for the creation of the company that would eventually become Laika.
Likewise, Vinton’s personal accomplishments as an animator were numerous. He was born in 1947, and began creating short films in Portland, Oregon in the ‘70s, drawing other animators to the Portland area in the process. In 1974 he created the short film “Closed Mondays” alongside co-creator Bob Gardiner, which went on to win an Oscar. It’s a rather disorienting little film about an alcoholic, cantankerous old man stumbling his way through an art gallery, and you can view it below. Its ending is more than a little disturbing.
Will Vinton Studios went on to make such features as 1985’s The Adventures of Mark Twain, as well as contributing to famous ad campaigns such as the California Raisins, and the computer-animated M&Ms characters still in use today. Along the way, Vinton accepted investment from Nike owner Phil Knight, whose son Travis worked at the studio as an animator, and eventually lost control of the studio when Knight became the majority shareholder in 2002. This led to a contentious relationship and a lawsuit, as Vinton was unable to participate in Laika’s eventual high-profile films. Still, the studio never would have existed without him.
Vinton’s family posted the following on Facebook, in commemoration of the man:
“He saw the world as an imaginative playground full of fantasy, joy, and character. He instilled in us the greatest values of creativity, strength, and pride in ones own work. He created stories and characters filled with laughter, music, and powerful lessons that are globally beloved. He brightened any room with his signature mustache, and he continued to make jokes and laugh until the very end. His work will live on in animation history and will continue to inspire creative thinkers and makers.”