2018

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 CLOSED MONDAYS, and was later nominated for three other animated shorts and for his visual effects work on Walter Murch's RETURN TO OZ (1985).

He also won two Emmys for A CLAYMATION CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION and for his CLAYMATION EASTER special as well as three other nominations.

In the 1980s and '90s, Portland, Oregon-based Will Vinton Studios became the largest stop-motion studio in the U.S. and the force behind iconic advertising characters including the California Raisins — memorably dancing to the Motown hit "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" on the way to a spot in the Smithsonian Institution — and the Domino's Pizza Noid.

In 1985, Vinton directed his sole feature film, THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN, voiced by James Whitmore.

In the days before CG animation, the clay creations of Will Vinton Studios became incredibly popular as a novel way to see dimensional animated characters. (Michael Jackson specifically asked to be made into a California Raisin caricature, and Vinton directed a segment of his 1988 film, MOONWALKER.)

Vinton's studio continued to push innovation and visibility for stop motion, producing the first primetime network stop-motion animated series with THE PJs in 1999. The studio pioneered digital image capture techniques, which allowed stop-motion animators to see how their performances unfold in real time.

While Vinton was eventually forced out of Will Vinton Studios (which would go on to become Laika), his influence made Portland a destination for stop-motion fabricators, animators and filmmakers, continuing the vibrant animation community that was built by him.

Vinton is the subject of a documentary, WELCOME TO MY DAYDREAM, to be released next year.

A celebration of his life is set for 3 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the No Vacancy Lounge in Portland.

(Truncated from THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER)