David Prowse, the champion English weightlifter and bodybuilder who supplied his 6-foot-7 frame — but not the voice or the deep breathing — to portray Darth Vader in the original STAR WARS trilogy, died early Saturday morning following a short illness. He was 85.
Prowse’s death was confirmed to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER by his agent Thomas Bowington. Bowington Management also shared the news on Twitter, announcing his passing with “great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world.”
Appropriately, the strapping Prowse also portrayed the Frankenstein monster in three movies: the James Bond spoof CASINO ROYALE (1967) and, for Hammer Films, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970) and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974), the last opposite a future STAR WARS co-star, Peter Cushing.
In Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), Prowse appeared as the muscular manservant working for author Frank Alexander (Patrick Magee), and he later helped a slender Christopher Reeve bulk up for the role of the Man of Steel in the Superman films.
Prowse was well-known in the U.K. for portraying the Green Cross Code Man — a superhero-like character used in public-service advertisements to help children get across the street safely — from 1967 through 1990. For that, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
“It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done,” he once said.
Born on July 1, 1935, in Bristol, England, Prowse was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis of the knee and forced to wear a leg splint for four years as a youngster (it turned out he actually had osteoarthritis). Yet he went on to compete for the Mr. Universe bodybuilding title in 1960 before capturing the British weightlifting championship three straight years running, from 1962-64. (At age 50, he was still able to dead-lift 700 pounds.)
Prowse’s first forays into acting included gigs on THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE SAINT and DOCTOR WHO, and he went on to star as “The Mighty Tonka” in a toy commercial directed by Ridley Scott.
George Lucas had seen him in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and offered him a part in the first STAR WARS (1977).
“Lucas said to me, ‘You’ve got a choice of two characters in the movie,'” Prowse recalled in a 2016 interview. “He said, ‘There’s a character called Chewbacca, which is like a huge teddy bear, or alternatively, there’s the main villain in the piece.’ Well, there’s no choice, is there? Thank you very much, I’ll have the villain’s piece.”
Prowse didn’t realize that his head and face would be covered by that now-iconic Samurai-inspired helmet and mask or that his outfit, made of fiberglass and leather, would weigh 40 pounds and be extremely, uncomfortably hot.
“Once [the mask] was fitted, I became virtually blind, and the heat generated by the suit obeyed the laws of physics and traveled upward, straight into the mask,” he wrote in his 2005 memoir, STRAIGHT FROM THE FORCE’S MOUTH. “This immediately misted up the eyepieces, which was inconvenient, to say the least, but was not an insurmountable problem so long as I could look down through the triangular cut-out beneath the mask’s nose molding and use it as a spyhole.”
Prowse spoke his lines in his West Country accent during the filming in London as Carrie Fisher playfully nicknamed him “Darth Farmer” because of his rural tone. He said he realized his voice was hard to make out through the thick mask but was told his dialogue would be added down the road.
But months later, back in the U.S., Lucas subbed in the deep voice of James Earl Jones for his during postproduction. “I think [Jones] did a wonderful job, but I still think I would have done equally as well given the right opportunity,” Prowse said.
Meanwhile, even Vader’s menacing, deep breathing wasn’t performed by Prowse — that was an effect created by sound designer Ben Burtt, who recorded himself though a scuba-diving respirator.
Jones, who reportedly got $7,000 for his work on the first film, then returned, as did Prowse, once again hidden, for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) and RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).
Prowse said he figured he would be seen — finally! — in RETURN OF THE JEDI when Vader’s mask is removed, but moviegoers saw the scarred face of British actor Sebastian Shaw instead. And Prowse was replaced again by stuntman/fencing coach Bob Anderson in scenes featuring lightsaber duels in EPISODES V and VI.
With a nod to an actor who appeared in EPISODES II and III, STAR WARS legend Mark Hamill clarified this Darth Vader business quite nicely in a June 2018 tweet:
A-David Prowse IS Darth Vader.
B-James Earl Jones is his voice.
C-Bob Anderson is his stunt-double.
D-Hayden Christensen is my son’s age.
To be sure, Prowse was proud of what he brought to the trilogy.
“Body acting and bodybuilding are more closely related than most people would image, and all that posing I’d done to impress the judges in my early years [paid] dividends,” he wrote in his book. “From within the black leather suit, I treated Vader’s every gesture as a bodybuilding pose, refining here and exaggerating there, until my character ‘spoke’ with every tilt of his head or movement of his arms.”
He was the subject of a 2015 documentary, I AM YOUR FATHER, and a script for an unproduced movie about this life, titled STRONGMAN, appeared on the 2017 Black List.
Prowse, who in his later years did publicity work for Welsh singer Jayce Lewis, was married since 1963 to Norma Scammell and had three children.
The actor said Lucas wrongly accused him of leaking news of Vader’s death to the media and eventually banned him from participating in official STAR WARS conventions. (A journalist who broke the story would reveal years later that Prowse was not his source.) Still, he remained very much in demand, but in October 2017 he announced that he was retiring and would no longer make any public appearances.
Of course, “nobody will ever forget Darth Vader,” he said in 2012, “and it is a great honor for me to have played the ultimate screen villain of all time.”
Taken from THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.
Ron Cobb, designer of the ALIEN ship and the BACK TO THE FUTURE DeLorian, has died at 83. The underground cartoonist turned production designer was hand-picked by Steven Spielberg to direct a film that led to E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL and worked on CONAN THE BARBARIAN and THE LAST STARFIGHTER. Cobb died Monday – his birthday – of Lewy body dimentia in Sydney, his wife of 48 years, Robin Love, reported.
Cobb brought to life several cantina creatures for STAR WARS (1977) and came up with weaponry and sets for CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982), the exterior and interior of the Nostromo ship in ALIEN (1978) and the earth colony complex in ALIENS (1986) and the DeLorean time machine in BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985).
His prolific design work also included the breathing tanks and helmets in THE ABYSS (1989), the Omega Sector logo and the H bombs in TRUE LIES (1990), the interior of the Mothership and the stranded tanker in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) and the vehicles of THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984).
It was while working as a production designer on John Milius’ CONAN THE BARBARIAN that Cobb first met Steven Spielberg, who was working down the hallway at Universal on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
“I would suggest [to Spielberg] angles, ideas, verbalize the act of directing — ‘Let’s do this and do that, and we could shoot over his shoulder and then a close-up of the shadow,’ ” Cobb told the Los Angeles Times in 1988.
So impressed was Spielberg that he suggested Cobb direct his future film NIGHT SKIES, a retelling of an infamous 1955 incident in Kentucky in which a family claimed to have had an encounter with five aliens at their farmhouse.
When the family threatened to sue to stop the making of the movie, Cobb offered to write a comparable idea, and the last scene of his story was to show an alien that is marooned on Earth.
“I originated the story, my choice for screenplay writer was John Sayles,” Cobb wrote on his website. But “projections of the effects budget proved problematic.”
Indeed, the cost to create the effects for the five aliens reached $3.5 million, so the project was shelved — until Spielberg reverted to an idea he had of a boy who protects an abandoned alien.
Cobb was given a cameo as a doctor in the ensuing E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982), but he didn’t think much of the finished product, calling it “a banal retelling of the Christ story, sentimental and self-indulgent, a pathetic lost-puppy kind of story.”
Later, Cobb’s wife noticed that there was a $7,500 “kill fee” in his NIGHT SKIES contract — plus 1 percent of the net profits — should he not get to direct the movie. She sent off an invoice to Universal and received an envelope with a check inside for more than $400,000.
For the rest of his life, Cobb was asked by friends, “What did you do on E.T.?” His reply was, “I didn’t direct it.”
Cobb began his career at Disney at age 17 as an “inbetweener” animator on SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959).
He became a celebrated editorial cartoonist for underground newspapers after submitting cartoons to the Los Angeles Free Press, which in the 1960s was operating out of the basement of the Fifth Estate coffee house on the Sunset Strip.
His counterculture work was syndicated in more than 80 newspapers across America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
“I’m fascinated with man in stress situations, I’m fascinated with man at a crisis,” he told a student newspaper in 1972. “So I love to create artificial crises, because I think that rather than making a timid, harmless point with a cartoon, I would much prefer to draw someone into a situation where they have to say … ‘Yeah! That could happen!’ or ‘Yeah! … What would I say if that did happen?’ — where they have to react.”
A collection of his cartoons was published in 1974 and ’76 in The Cobb Book and Cobb Again, and his movie illustrations were collated in the large-format publication Colorvision. He also designed covers for Forrest Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.
In the early 1970s, Cobb performed speaking tours around Australia and New Zealand on request of the Aquarius Foundation, a cultural branch of the Australian Union of Students. The tour was run by his future wife, and they would co-write a 1987 episode of the Twilight Zone reboot.
The first film on which Cobb worked was John Carpenter’s feature directorial debut, DARK STAR (1974), written by Dan O’Bannon. Cobb later provided conceptual paintings for O’Bannon’s ALIEN, collaborating with Swiss painter H.R. Giger on the project.
“We had seen his drawings and we were all a bit worried about what this German (sic) surrealist was going to be like when he showed up on set,” Cobb recalled. “But Hans Ruedi Giger was nothing like the monsters he drew. He was very theatrical, dressing all in black and very Gothic, but he was a sweet, funny man.”
It was Cobb who suggested that the alien’s blood be corrosive, thereby solving a potential plot hole as to why the crew wouldn’t simply shoot or mutilate the creature.
While preparing for CONAN THE BARBARIAN, Milius never forgot a 1964 exhibit of Cobb’s fantasy drawings and hired him as his production designer.
“I thought it would be very interesting to not bow to sort of a MGM fantasy-like set,” Cobb said for the cable show The Director’s Series, “but keep almost as a subtle gag this totally imaginary world looking as believable as possible. I thought it might be interesting to see if I could simulate reality.”
“That’s probably why the picture lacks a lot of sorcery because we wanted to keep it more naturalistic, more like a historical story, almost as though this is the true story of the real Conan.”
For BACK TO THE FUTURE, Spielberg, a producer on the film, had a question for Cobb: “How would you make a DeLorean into a time machine?” His answer was to make it look homemade, as though Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown pieced together parts from Radio Shack. His initial design was improved upon by production illustrator Andrew Probert, who added a second exhaust vent to the DMC-12.
In 1992, Cobb directed Garbo, a small Australian comedy about two rubbish collectors who have an infatuation with actress Greta Garbo.
A former draughtsman with the Army Corps in Vietnam, Cobb is survived by his wife and a son, Nicky.
Taken from THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.
Long time VES member Rebecca Ramsey passed away recently. Rebecca was a Producer and Executive Producer of VFX, VR/AR/MR, 3D stereo, design and motion graphics for features, TV, titles, commercials and new media. She was known for her generosity and willingness to share her contacts and leads with anyone, and was referred to as “LinkedIn” before that site even existed.
Her credits include WATCHMEN, MONSTER HUNT, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2, SPEED RACER, SPIDER-MAN 3, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST, CRIMINAL MINDS, I, ROBOT, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, SE7EN and many others. Throughout her career she worked at Stargate Studios, Base Fx, Gradient Effects, Look Effects, Modern Videofilm, Hatch, Kaleidoscope Films, RGA/LA and Todd AO Digital.
In an effort to pay for her medical expenses and funeral costs, Drew Ysais has set up a GoFundMe page. Our thoughts go out to her family. Rebecca will be missed by all who knew her.
Douglas Knapp, a longtime camera operator and cinematographer with credits including MURPHY BROWN, two STAR TREK series and films from John Carpenter and Tim Burton, has died. He was 70.
Knapp died February 3rd at his home in Burbank after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, his daughter, Allyson Cook, told THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.
Knapp attended the USC School of Cinematic Arts with Carpenter, and he served as the cinematographer on the writer-director’s feature debut, the sci-fi comedy DARK STAR (1974), and then on his follow-up, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976). He also was camera operator on Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981).
Knapp spent four years on STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE and seven years on STAR TREK: VOYAGER as camera operator and cinematographer. “You’re probably thinking, ‘That has to be a real drag after a while.’ Well, it was a lot of fun,” he told a group of San Diego filmmakers in 2016.
Knapp also was camera operator on Burton’s FRANKENWEENIE (1984) and BEETLEJUICE (1988) and on such other films as BACK TO SCHOOL (1986), COMING TO AMERICA (1988), NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) and DRIVING MISS DAISY (1992).
And he worked on the 2012 short IN THE PICTURE, which featured Debbie Reynolds and was the first film in more than 50 years to be shot in the original three-panel Cinerama process.
Born on Aug. 5, 1949, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Knapp was raised in Calgary. He attended Western Canada High School in the Alberta city and graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 1972.
While still in college, he worked on the Peter Bogdanovich documentary DIRECTED BY JOHN FORD (1971); later, he was best boy on Terrence Malick’s BADLANDS (1973).
A longtime board member of the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, Knapp received the President’s Award from the Society of Camera Operators in 1994 and served on the board of the Visual Effects Society.
He taught cinematography at the Los Angeles Film School and West Los Angeles College.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his partner, Rebecca Forstadt, a voice actress; his brother, Michael; his son-in-law, Rob; and Cookie Knapp, the voice of Computer in DARK STAR.
Taken from THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.
Visual artist and futurist Syd Mead, who helped shape the look of influential sci-fi films including BLADE RUNNER, TRON, ALIENS and STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, died Monday of complications from lymphoma in Pasadena, California. He was 86.
“Syd was truly a defining creative force in the world of visual arts,” said Mike Chambers, VES Board Chair. “He had a rare ability to create fiercely inventive images, both iconic and sublime, and he contributed to some of our most unforgettable cinematic experiences. Syd’s legendary contributions to the field of design, and the inspiration he has provided for generations of visual effects artists is immense.”
Autoline journalist John McElroy first reported the news, which was confirmed by his spouse Roger Servick to several media outlets.
Mead was set to receive the Art Directors Guild’s William Cameron Menzies Award during the Guild’s 24th Annual awards in February for his contributions on ALIENS, BLADE RUNNER and STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE.
ADG president Nelson Coates said, “I am so saddened to hear of the passing of visionary illustrator and concept artist Syd Mead. His pivotal role in shaping cinema was unique, with a singular ability to visualize the future. As one of the most influential conceptual artists of our time, his visions and illustrations of future technological worlds will remain as a testament to his vast imagination.”
Mead started his design career in the auto, electronics and steel industries working for Ford Motor Co., Sony, U.S. Steel and Phillips Electronics. He then transitioned to film. His career began as a production illustrator working with director Robert Wise (WEST SIDE STORY) to create Earth’s nemesis V’Ger in the 1979 STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE.
He continued fusing technology with creativity, bringing to life some of the biggest films in science fiction. In 1982, he served as a visual futurist on BLADE RUNNER, before collaborating as a conceptual artist with director Steven Lisberger on the 1982 TRON.
He explained his inspiration for BLADE RUNNER to Curbed in 2015, “For a city in 2019, which isn’t that far from now, I used the model of Western cities like New York or Chicago that were laid out after the invention of mass transit and automobiles, with grids and linear transport. I thought, we’re at 2,500 feet now, let’s boost it to 3,000 feet, and then pretend the city has an upper city and lower city. The street level becomes the basement, and decent people just don’t want to go there. In my mind, all the tall buildings have a sky lobby, and nobody goes below the 30th floor, and that’s the way life would be organized,” Mead said.
Mead later designed the Leonov spaceship seen in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY sequel 2010 before becoming a robot designer on the family film SHORT CIRCUIT starring Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg. More recently, Mead’s created designs for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, ELYSIUM and TOMORROWLAND and consulted on BLADE RUNNER 2049.
The Visual Effects Society honored Mr. Mead with the Visionary Award at the 14th Annual VES Awards in 2016.
Compiled from VARIETY and other sources.
Gene Warren, Jr.
We are sad to note the passing of visual effects supervisor and 22 year VES member Gene Warren Jr., co-founder of Fantasy II Film Effects. Gene received an Academy Award – with Dennis Muren, Stan Winston and Robert Skotak – for his work on TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY. He is also known for his work providing spectacular in-camera illusions for Francis Coppola’s DRACULA, and he shared a VES Award nomination with his son, Gene Warren III, for miniature work on the action thriller THE EXPENDABLES.
Born 1941 in Hollywood, California, to Gene Warren Sr., Oscar winner for 1960’s THE TIME MACHINE, Gene first worked on his father’s productions, including the children’s television series LAND OF THE LOST. In 1980, Gene co-founded Fantasy II with Leslie Huntley and Peter Kleinow. Projects included future war scenes and the tanker detonation in THE TERMINATOR, epic surface craft scenes in THE ABYSS, and the extraordinary suspension bridge collapse for THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. Fantasy II’s work for the HBO ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN appeared on the cover of Cinefex 57.
Gene was a passionate political activist, and an adherent of hand-crafted, in-camera practical effects. In recent years, Gene taught an introduction to, and history of pre-digital visual effects at University of Southern California, he wrote several novels, and he developed a talent for karaoke, particularly Roy Orbison.
Cinefex founder Don Shay recalled, “Gene was in Jim Cameron’s inner circle of old-school effects guys who got the job done with excellent work on a minimal budget. I don’t find it at all surprising that even after Jim became successful enough to hire the ILMs of the world to do his bidding, he would still toss a choice bone or two to his old compadres. Good work is good work.”
Compiled from the Cinefex Facebook page.
It is with a heavy heart that the VES informs you of the loss of a much loved early member.
Patricia Blau, known to her friends as Patty, peacefully passed away on Tuesday night, September 17 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. She was 64 years old. Patty worked for ILM for many years, eventually achieving the title of Vice President in Charge of Animation Development.
She was also a prolific award-winning fine artist. She will be dearly missed by all who knew her.
Liza Keith, longtime VES member, digital effects technical director and shader writer specializing in look development, passed away peacefully on February 16, 2019. As a part of the Los Angeles effects community, she will be deeply missed. Liza was a pioneer from the start of her career, earning her B.S. in Math and Computer Science at UCLA at a time when STEM-oriented degree work was still not pursued by many women. Her career tracked with the exciting growth of the computer graphics community in LA and on the planet. Beginning in 1987, she worked in digital effects, contributing to a wide range of films, animated features, large format motion rides and broadcast television projects.
As a team member or a consultant, she contributed her expertise at many groundbreaking companies including Abel Image Research, Rhythm & Hues, Cinesite (Los Angeles and London), ILM, Digital Domain, Sony Imageworks, Disney Feature Animation and Framestore. Liza was a true Los Angeles native whose projects also took her to London, Paris, India and Canada.
Her technical talent and drive were obvious to all who worked with her. Liza’s contributions were featured in several award-winning films including LIFE OF PI, TRUE LIES, X-MEN 2, and PETER PAN. She counted the iconic TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY among her credits. Her shader writing can be found in HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN and MEET THE ROBINSONS. Liza’s ability to communicate with both artists and members of technical teams also often made her the ideal person to oversee design and implementation of rendering pipeline between those departments.
Liza was a smart, passionate, pattern breaker well known in the Los Angeles digital effects community. She religiously attended the annual SIGGRAPH Conference. She is remembered as a mentor to the next generation of digital effects experts via her informal “women in digital” meetups. As a RenderMan expert, Liza shared her inspiration, often patiently teaching those with less experience.
As a friend, a colleague, a sister and an aunt, Liza is fondly remembered and will be greatly missed.
Danny Gordon Taylor
Long-time VES member Danny Gordon Taylor, an animation specialist who earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts on the Hugh Jackman-starring REAL STEEL, has died. He was 69.
Taylor died July 10 in his sleep in Lapeer, Michigan, his friend John Ellis told THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The cause of death was a heart attack.
Taylor worked for Industrial Light & Magic — he did computer graphics for a special edition of the original STAR WARS in 1997 while there — and for Digital Domain and WETA Digital during his career.
His credits as an animator and animation supervisor also included THE MASK (1994), JUMANJI (1995), THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997), TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003), TRANSFORMERSs (2007), TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (2009), THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014), THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 (2017) and ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (2019).
Taylor shared his Oscar nom for REAL STEEL (2011) with Erik Nash, John Rosengrant and Swen Gillberg.
Raised in Tonawanda, New York, near Buffalo, Taylor worked for WDCA-TV 20 in Washington before launching Taylor Made Images in Hyattsville, Maryland. At his company from 1983-91, he did traditional animation and VFX work for clients including DuPont, PBS, Sam Raimi, the IRS and the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as a feature film, Metamorphosis: THE ALIAN FACTOR (1990).
“Dan was brilliant,” Ellis said, “and he told me recently that he missed those days of rubber bands and bailing wire effects.”
Survivors include his wife, Sandy; daughters Molly and Melissa; son MJ; and sister Loretta.
Compiled from THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.
Producer and Visual Effects Supervisor John Swallow has passed away at 65. He was a member of the Society for more than two decades, and will be missed by all who knew him.
A straightforward man with a generous spirit and a gift for making friends, John Swallow pursued artistic expression throughout his life, from his work on a wide range of Hollywood films to his bluesy rock ‘n’ roll music and vivid nature photography.
After receiving a bachelor’s in Design and Photography from California State University, Long Beach, John worked for Apogee Productions, rising to Vice President of Production. There and elsewhere, he pioneered cutting-edge special effects technologies, leaving Apogee to become Executive Producer at Pacific Data Images, where his feature film work included effects for NATURAL BORN KILLERS, CARLITO’S WAY, TOYS, LORENZO’S OIL, TWIN PEAKS, GREMLINS 2, DIE HARD 2 and THE NATURAL. John was also the Effects Producer for the film DRAGONHEART.
He then became Executive Vice President of Production Technology at Universal Studios with the following titles released during his tenure: the BOURNE series, KING KONG, FAST AND FURIOUS 1 & 2, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, JURASSIC PARK 2 & 3, the MUMMY series, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, the NUTTY PROFESSOR movies, GLADIATOR and more.
John also worked as an independent producer with projects all over the world, which included CABIN IN THE WOODS, HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY, CIRQUE DU FREAK, LAND OF THE LOST, RED DAWN, and SINCITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. He was the VFX Supervisor on the Netflix projects GODLESS and THE HIGHWAYMEN. John was a member of the Producers Guild, the Visual Effects Society, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Visual Effects Branch.
John developed his intense love of nature on family camping and fishing trips. While still in high school, he volunteered for the Mountain Lion Foundation to save cougars from extinction and worked with the American Cetacean Society to educate people about the plight of the California Gray Whale. Before his career in film, he trained and handled big cats, primates, and elephants for Marine World, Africa U.S.A. John also helped produce The Ocean Symphony, a series of PSAs for Ocean Conservancy. For several years, John served on the boards of two conservation groups, Vital Ground Foundation and The Cougar Fund. He was also an adviser and pro bono photographer for Wildlife Land Trust, the conservation arm of The Humane Society.
Two converging themes of John’s life – art and nature – found expression in his music and his wildlife photography. John had two solo photography shows and participated in group shows in the Los Angeles area. As a member of Hurricane Inside, he pursued a lifelong love of music, producing two albums with his band and performing at the SXSW Music Festival. John E. Swallow died at home in Los Angeles. He was planning another trip to Alaska to photograph wildlife, among other creative projects.
VES member Thilo Ewers (1981-2018), colleague, friend, husband and father of three was taken away from his loved ones and the work he loved way too early. Known for his work on LIVE BY NIGHT, FAST… read more
Academy Award-nominated art director, production illustrator and visual effects artist George Jenson died on May 25 at the age of 87. He was the production illustrator on RETURN OF THE JEDI, and received an Oscar nomination for visual effects for his work on 2010. Jenson began his film career in 1964 as a production illustrator/storyboard artist at 20th Century Fox Studios, working for producer Irwin Allen’s series LOST IN SPACE, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, TIME TUNNEL and LAND OF THE GIANTS. He moved to Filmation Associates as a layout artist and illustrator on the animated TV series STAR TREK, MISSION MAGIC, LASSIE’S RESCUE RANGERS and MY FAVORITE MARTIAN from 1972 to ’75. Jenson… read more
Virgil Mirano, a VES member for more than 20 years, passed away in January of 2018. From the mid-1970’s through the 1990’s, Virgil manned the stills photo lab of three of the large VFX houses in L.A. – first with Robert Abel… read more
Arnold Kunert was a long-time VES member and a remarkable human being, a dedicated fan, film historian and cinematic biographer of Ray Harryhausen, the single greatest stop motion animation genius in film history. Arnold campaigned for his friend and associate to receive an honorary Academy Award in 1992 as well as his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003. He produced the Saturn Award-winning documentary RAY HARRYHAUSEN: THE EARLY YEARS as well as DAWS BUTLER: VOICE MAGICIAN and BUDD BOETTICHER: ONE ON ONE as well as the “Ray Harryhausen Presents” animated short THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. Arnold passed away on March 14th. His artistry, friendship, and affection for the genre that we all love so deeply will never be forgotten. He is survived by his wife Marlene.
Stan Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics whose fantabulous but flawed creations made him a real-life superhero to comic book lovers everywhere, has died. He was 95. Lee, who began in the business in 1939 and created or co-created Black Panther, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and Ant-Man, among countless other characters, died early Monday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a family representative told The Hollywood Reporter. Kirk Schenck, an attorney for Lee’s daughter, J.C. Lee, also confirmed his death to the Associated Press. Lee’s final few years were tumultuous. After… read more
Will Vinton, the Oscar-winning visionary with the distinctive waxed mustache who coined the term “Claymation” and founded the studio that created the California Raisins, has died at 70. His family wrote, “His work will live on in animation history and will continue to inspire creative thinkers and makers.” The Oregon native saw himself as a filmmaker first and an animator second. With an eye for movement and design, he was a natural when it came to editing and camera work as well. From his humble beginnings as a former architectural student, he became the epicenter for the animation and filmmaking community in the Pacific Northwest. Vinton won his Oscar in 1975 for the animated short film… read more
Director, Visual Effects and Animation Supervisor Terry Windell passed away on July 21 at the age of 61. He directed many award-winning commercials as well as several episodes of STAR TREK: VOYAGER and ENTERPRISE. While working as a background artist on HEAVY METAL, he was hired by ILM where he worked on POLTERGEIST and E,T,: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL. He met Richard Edlund, VES while at ILM and worked on RETUIRN OF THE JEDI, GHOSTBUSTERS , FRIGHT NIGHT and 2010. When Edlund left to found Boss Films, Windell followed. In 1989, Windell made his directorial debut with an impressive four spot effects-laden campaign for DHL, which garnered numerous honors including a Silver Clio and a New York Film… read more
Veteran VES member, Emmy winner and co-founder of fxguide, Jeff Heusser, passed away in July. He was a caring husband, brother, uncle and friend to many. To the very end, Jeff was funny, kind, and caring for and about others more than himself. We celebrate his life, his selflessness, and the impact he had on all of us who knew him and those who he touched all around the world. Jeff started in the industry at public television station WCET in Cincinnati, Ohio where he worked in almost every production job before moving up to producing and directing. His next stop was WLWT where he directed the news and other live and taped shows. He also won several Emmys for his work there. He then got into… read more
Long-time VES member and former Co-Chair of the VES Awards Committee passed away on Sunday, March 19th at City of Hope in Los Angeles after a decades long battle with cancer. She fought bravely to the very end with courage that belied her diminutive size. She worked in the visual effects industry since the early 1980s, always putting in the long hours because she loved her work so much, and was fortunate to be a part of the VES and a former Chair of the L.A. ACM SIGGRAPH chapter, to both of which she enjoyed giving her time and energy.Throughout her career, she contributed to such innovative projects as THE LAST STARFIGHTER, STAR TREK: VOYAGER, DAYBREAK, BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM and CITY OF GHOSTS.
Everyone who knew her is invited to attend her funeral on Tuesday, March 28th at 3:00PM at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.
Longtime VES member Steve Moore passed away last week at age 69. He was a Visual Effects Editor and Supervisor who joined the Society in 1998. By that time, he had already worked on such projects as WILLOW, GHOSTBUSTERS II, MORTAL KOMBAT, THE ARRIVAL and TITANIC. His more recent work included X-MEN, PLANET OF THE APES, X-MEN 2, SEABISCUIT, CLOVERFIELD, AVATAR, THE GREAT GATSBY and many more. He is survived by his twin daughters Samantha Ray and Alyssa Moore. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Long-time VES member and Visual Effects Supervisor Peter Webb passed away after a long illness. Peter was the world’s first Flame artist, and was involved in early development of that software. His television and feature credits include STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, SUPER MARIO BROS., BATMAN FOREVER, ROMEO + JULIET, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, AUSTRALIA, THE PACIFIC and THE WOLVERINE. He worked at Iloura for 16 years, and was a dedicated and loving father and husband who will be missed.
Visual Effects pioneer Ron Thornton has died Nov 21st at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after a short illness. He was 59. Thornton, a native of London, England, began his entertainment career working for the BBC, creating props and miniatures for shows such as “Dr. Who,” and “Blakes 7.” In 1984, Thornton emigrated to the United States where he went on to shoot and create miniatures for films such as “Real Genius”, “Commando”, “Space Balls,” “Critters”, and “Robot Jox.” In 1987 he began to experiment with consumer level computer hardware to create 3-D computer graphics for pre-visualizing FX shots. It was mid-1991 when Thornton was approached by the producers of a sci-fi project in… read more
Andrea Losch, R.I.P. Andrea Losch passed away on April 25, 2016 at age 58. She worked as a visual effects Technical Director for more than 20 years, and was a VES member for over a decade. Throughout the course of her career, she worked at Industrial Light… read more
Long-time VES member Gary Hutzel passed away at 61. He was the winner of 4 Prime-time Emmys for his work on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA going as far back as 1992, and he also won 6 VES Awards for his work on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and CAPRICA. VES member Doug Drexler called Gary, “One of the greatest creative minds I’ve ever worked with. A wizard that made the impossible possible on a television budget.” “Gary set up an environment that was more like a band of brothers and sisters. A club house where everyone was a creative equal. Everyone was a filmmaker first, and a VFX artist second. He often said that you could not defeat a good idea… read more
October 6, 1943 – March 18, 2016 Ken L. Kramer, film preservationist and historian, passed away peacefully at home in Los Angeles (Sylmar) at the age of 72. He leaves behind his loving companion and wife of 37 years, Kathy (Losso), son Jayson, grandchildren Kyle, Austin… read more
Long time VES member, Oscar and BAFTA winning Special Effects artist Kit West passed away. The mechanical special effects ace behind such films as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, for which he won an Academy Award, and STAR WARS: EPISODE VI — RETURN OF THE JEDI has died. He was 80. West, who also received Oscar nominations for his work on YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (1985) and DRAGONHEART (1996), died Saturday at his home in London, a representative from the Berlin Associates agency told The Hollywood Reporter. West was responsible for the “old school” mechanical effects on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983). On the latter, he oversaw all the robots, including the radio-… read more
Long-time VES member and Visual Effects Supervisor Bill Coffin passed away in his sleep on September 3, 2016 at the age of 66. Bill was a first-rate Flame artist. He has worked on many feature films, D.I.’s, film and TV trailers, television shows, commercials, music videos, and made-for-TV movies. Bill’s feature film projects, include SPIDER-MAN, SIN CITY, X-MEN, MORTAL KOMBAT, SEABISCUIT. His commercial credits include brands such as Honda, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Verizon, and music videos for several top recording artists such as Faith Hill, Big… read more
(from CG Society) Francis L. Camacho worked as the Matchmove Supervisor for Prime Focus World in Mumbai, India where he was reponsible for the feature film matchmove team, quality control and matchmove training for the studio’s artists. previously he has worked for studios such as Uncharted Territory , Scanline LA, Digital Domain, Rhythm and Hues, Sony Imageworks, and Hammerhead Productions. He has worked on feature films including Prometheus, 2012, Iron Man3, The Amazing Spiderman, Tron:Legacy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and both Journey3 movies. Francis was highly experienced in camera tracking and matchmoving, roto-animation, and stereoscopic 3D tracking. He also worked as a… read more
Damir Frkovic, R.I.P. Damir Frkovic was a commercial imaging artist, photographer and visual designer. He was a VES member for more than a decade, and worked as a modeling and lighting artist on several features for Pixar Animation Studios, including TOY STORY, A BUG’S LIFE, TOY STORY 2, MONSTERS INC. and FINDING NEMO. Born in Croatia, raised and schooled in Canada, he traveled and worked all over the world on many creative projects for many clients and companies, including Pixar and Apple Inc. He passed away suddenly in March of this year, and is survived by his partner of 13 years, Shawnae Lorenz. Damir will be missed within the visual effects community.
Howard A. Anderson, Jr., ASC – RIP We are sad to announce the death of long-time VES member, Howard A. Anderson Jr., ASC. He was born on March 31, 1920 and had been a member of the ASC since 1962. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2007, and he won the coveted President’s Award from the American Society of Cinematographers in 2004. He was nominated for the Best Special Visual Effects Oscar for his work on TOBRUK (1967) along with Albert Whitlock at the 40th Annual Academy Awards. He also did the VFX for the original 1960s STAR TREK series. He passed away on September 27, 2015, and is survived by 3 children, 12 grandchildren and 16 great… read more
Lucinda Strub, R.I.P. Lucinda Strub worked in practical special special effects for 30 years, was a long time VES member and winner of the Technical Achievement award at the 59th Academy Awards which she shared with her husband Matt Sweeney. She did special effects for THE GOONIES, THE LOST BOYS, the LETHAL WEAPON franchise, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, APOLLO 13, GALAXY QUEST, the FAST… read more
Special effects inventor and engineer Petro Vlahos, whose industry contributions made possible such iconic film moments as Julie Andrews dancing with penguins in the 1964 classic MARY POPPINS, died Sunday. He was 96… read more
Tim Hey was a true Man of Film. A lifelong lover of the medium, he began his long road as a projectionist at Odeon Cinemas, Ipswich in his native England. Displaying other’s work wasn’t enough to satisfy that love. Inspired by some of his favourite films and film makers, most notably Superman and Steven Spielberg, Tim wanted to be involved in the making. He took a risk, left a good job and enrolled at The Finishing School in London. With a year of training under his belt Tim began working as a Digital Paint Artist at Framestore-CFC on films such as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the James Bond film, Die Another Day. Tim proved to be an inspiration to his brother Jeremy, who… read more
Visual effects master Ray Harryhausen, whose stop-motion wizardry graced such films as JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and CLASH OF THE TITANS, has died aged 92. The American animator made his models by hand and painstakingly shot them frame by frame to create some of the best-known battle sequences in cinema. His death was confirmed to the BBC by a representative of the family. “Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive,” said an official statement from his foundation. “Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right.” Born in Los Angeles in June 1920, Raymond… read more
The visual effects community lost a great matte painter on Sunday. Born on January 19, 1923 in Lorain, Ohio Matthew’s first job after serving in the Navy was for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in January 1954. Much of his early studio work went uncredited but included many classic film’s like FORBIDDEN PLANET(1956), NORTH BY NORTHWEST and BEN HUR (both 1959). In 1976 he received an Academy Special Achievement Award for LOGAN’S RUN and was nominated on CLOSE ENCOUNTEERS OF THE THIRD KIND in 1977. His outstanding work spanned nearly 40 years into the 1990s, and included such films as SOYLENT GREEN (1973), THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979), BLADE RUNNER (1982), GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) and DANCES WITH WOLVES… read more
Compiled from various sources Long time VES member and Visual Effects Producer Eileen Moran died Monday in New Zealand after battling cancer. Over her brilliant career she won three VES Awards and an Oscar. Her films included FIGHT CLUB, THE LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy, KING KONG, AVATAR, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, PROMETHEUS and THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY among many others. She was too ill last week to attend the New Zealand world premiere of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, one of the last movies she worked on. Director Peter Jackson said, “She was a lovely, decent person who had great respect for all the artists she worked with.” “Eileen was an… read more
From HollywoodNews.com Among his recent credits are Charlie St. Cloud, Hot Tub Time Machine, The Uninvited, Vantage Point and the mini-series “Impact.” Hodgson had just begun work on Starz’ “Camelot,” the upcoming series focusing on the King Arthur legend, when he died. Hodgson was nominated for a Gemini Award – Canada’s highest honors for work in TV – in 2009 for his effects efforts on “Impact,” and in 2004 for “The Collector.” His effects work on“Impact” earned him a Leo Award – celebrating film and TV productions from British Columbia – and “The Collector” netted him a Leo Award nomination. Born Oct. 6, 1959 in Bellshill, Scotland, Hodgson was based in Vancouver. He is survived by his… read more
The Society and computer graphics community lost a great champion this past weekend; Sande Scoredos passed away Saturday morning after a prolonged illness. Sande, who served as Executive Director of Training and Artist Development At Sony Pictures Imageworks for the past 12-plus years, was a founding member of the VES, coming on-board within the first year of the Society’s existence. Right from the beginning, Sande was an active member of the Education Committee, serving several years as Co-Chair. During her tenure, the Committee produced many valuable events, presentations and hands-on trainings for members. She was also a guiding light in the first years of the Training and Mentoring… read more