VES 70 Interviews2020-09-11T13:54:31-07:00

VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time

The members of the Visual Effects Society voted to identify films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral element of cinematic expression and storytelling. The VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time includes films from the early 1900’s to 2015. The earliest entry on the list is A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune), the seminal 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès, whose iconic image exemplifies the VES’ legacy – past, present and future.

The following exclusive interviews with VFX luminaries about selected films on the VES 70 list help bring the marvels of these films to life and reflect on their lasting influence on visual effects.

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS

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View this exclusive conversation with award-winning visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun, VES.

View this exclusive conversation with award-winning visual effects supervisor, Jeffrey A. Okun, VES JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) is one of the titles on the VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time. The VES 70 represents films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral element of cinematic expression and storytelling.

Many of today’s VFX practitioners and filmmakers point to the impact of Ray Harryhausen and his storied filmography, and have cited JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS as one of the greatest films ever made. Okun shares his thoughts on the adventure mythological fantasy and its legendary creatures, and the making of the iconic fight scene, featuring seven armed skeleton warriors, the “children of the Hydra’s teeth.” Okun talks about the pioneering use of stop-motion animation, his favorite scenes and his encounters with Harryhausen, starting with their meeting at a gathering of VFX masters — Dennis Muren’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame party.

This film holds a special place for Okun..  so grab a front row seat and watch it now!

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Jeffrey A. Okun, VES is a VES Fellow and recipient of the VES Founder’s Award, and served as VES Board Chair for seven years. He is known for creating ‘organic’ and invisible effects, as well as spectacular ‘tent-pole’ visual effects, and has won the VES Award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects for his work on THE LAST SAMURAI. Okun has delivered wide-ranging effects in award winning films such as ALPHA, BLOOD DIAMOND, STARGATE, SPHERE, RED PLANET, DEEP BLUE SEA, LOLITA and THE LAST STARFIGHTER. Okun also created and co-edited the VES HANDBOOK OF VISUAL EFFECTS, an award-winning VFX reference book, the 3rd edition of which was published in July 2020.

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA

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View this exclusive conversation with award-winning matte artist and visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw, VES.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) is one of the titles on the VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time.  The VES 70 represents films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral element of cinematic expression and storytelling.

This star-studded, ambitious tale of a trouble-shooting 19th century seaman investigating the disappearance of whaling ships, a megalomaniac Captain Nemo and high-tech submarine, was Walt Disney’s magnificent debut into live-action films.  It was also the first film that Harrison’s celebrated father, award-wining matte designer and special effects creator Peter Ellenshaw, worked on, after moving to Sherman Oaks from the U.K. and being dubbed the new ‘boy wonder’ on the Disney campus.  Harrison shares tales of visiting the set and lessons learned from his dad, and why this film holds a special place for him.

He talks about Disney’s technical masterstroke of mounting the epic in the new-at-the-time CinemaScope aspect ratio and the challenge and glory of creating the exciting and memorable encounter with a pack of giant sea squid. And he might let on what happened to the official Oscar nomination for this winner of the golden statue for Best Achievement in Special Effects.

Harrison Ellenshaw, VES, was an original member of the VES Board of Directors, and is a VES Fellow and the recipient of the VES Founders Award. His credits as a matte artist and a visual effects supervisor include work on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, STAR WARS, BIG WEDNESDAY, THE BLACK HOLE, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, TRON, DICK TRACY and DAVE.  Harrison headed up several different independent visual effects companies, including Triple DDD, which created 3D effects for the Disney theme park film CAPTAIN EO, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas and also managed Disney’s independent effects facility Buena Vista Visual Effects, which created VFX for over 35 films. Harrison is a recipient of the Art Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and an Academy Award nomination for THE BLACK HOLE.

THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD

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View this exclusive conversation with award-winning visual effects artists and supervisor Dennis Muren, VES, ASC.

THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) is one of the titles on the VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time.  The VES 70 represents films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral element of cinematic expression and storytelling.

Many of today’s filmmakers point to the influence of this swashbuckling fantastic adventure chronicling the journey of Sinbad and Princess Parisa and spoils by the scheming sorcerer – the first film using stop-motion special effects shot in full color.  Dennis talks about the impact of this film – and Ray Harryhausen’s storied filmography – on his career, the visual effects community and its special place of inspiration in the history of STAR WARS.

Dennis shares his thoughts on creating the widescreen stop-motion animation sequences…research on the creature creation of the cyclops and cobra-woman (Harryhausen’s personal favorite character in the film)…the sword fight scene between Sinbad and skeleton, the genius that went into making the living skeleton and its thru line to the epic scene in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.  And he talks about what filmmakers can and should learn from viewing the classics – and his own tales from meeting Harryhausen.  This film holds a special place for Dennis personally and professionally…so grab a front row seat.

HOF Dennis Muren

Dennis Muren, VES, ASC is the Senior Visual Effects Supervisor and Creative Director of Industrial Light & Magic. From his work on nearly all of the STAR WARS films – and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY and JURASSIC PARK – Muren has defined the role of visual effects supervisor and attained a near-mythic status among visual effects aficionados. He has nine Academy Awards, is a recipient of the VES Lifetime Achievement Award and was the first visual effects artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS

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View this exclusive conversation with award-winning matte artist and visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw, VES.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is one of the titles on the VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time.  The VES 70 represents films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral element of cinematic expression and storytelling.

The animated musical fantasy film was the first full-length cel animated feature film and the earliest Disney animated feature film.  You know the story of Snow White – the magic mirror, seven dwarfs, evil queen, the poison apple and true love’s kiss.  Harrison takes a closer look and shares his personal tales and professional insights into the film he calls “A Walt Disney masterpiece with a villain that makes Darth Vader look like a pussycat!”

From the film’s pioneering use of a multiplane camera and how Disney himself “sold” the idea of people sitting still for a 90-minute cartoon…to Harrison’s full circle journey from a young ride operator at Disneyland to supervising the Kodak/Cinesite 4K restoration of the film in the early 1990’s….to the enduring power and legacy of classic films – it’s all in here.

Harrison Ellenshaw, VES, was an original member of the VES Board of Directors, and is a VES Fellow and the recipient of the VES Founders Award. His credits as a matte artist and a visual effects supervisor include work on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, STAR WARS, BIG WEDNESDAY, THE BLACK HOLE, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, TRON, DICK TRACY and DAVE.  Harrison headed up several different independent visual effects companies, including Triple DDD, which created 3D effects for the Disney theme park film CAPTAIN EO, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas and also managed Disney’s independent effects facility Buena Vista Visual Effects, which created VFX for over 35 films. Harrison is a recipient of the Art Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and an Academy Award nomination for THE BLACK HOLE.

TRON

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View this exclusive conversation with creative and cinematic director Richard Winn Taylor, VES

TRON (1982) is one of the titles on the VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time.

The groundbreaking science fiction action adventure film was the first to tell a story in cyberspace, as a computer hacker is transported inside the fantasy software world of a maintenance computer and forced to participate in gladiator games as he attempts his escape. As the director of its innovative special effects and computer-generated imagery, Taylor talks about creating the look of live action characters in a glowing world, the making of this first film to use computer simulation as the full production process and its influence on filmmaking that followed.

He shares why the crew were considered outlaws at Disney and how video games ruled the day, what went on at the Academy bakeoff in being considered for a visual effects Oscar nomination and how a major political event played into the foiled marketing event of “almost” simultaneous TIME and NEWSWEEK covers.

Richard Winn Taylor II, VES holds an extensive background in live action direction, production design, special effects, and computer generated images for theatrical films, television commercials and computer games. Richard began his career as an artist and holds a BFA in painting and drawing from the University of Utah. Click here for more.

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)

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View this exclusive conversation with Creative Director at Magnopus Craig Barron, VES and SVP of Asset Management at Paramount Pictures Andrea Kalas.

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) is one of the titles listed on the VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time.

Before the era of the Summer blockbuster, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS proved that science fiction was more than just serial and B-movie fare. Director Byron Haskin made his bones as a Special Effects Artist, which garnered him four Oscar nominations and a Technical Achievement Award for pioneering the development of the triple head background projector. Producer George Pal was nominated for seven Oscars and won an Honorary Academy Award for the development of novel methods and techniques in his Puppetoons shorts.

Craig and Andrea worked to restore the picture along with Ben Burtt for the Criterion Blu-ray release, and they pull back the curtain on what went into restoring this three-strip Technicolor film chock-a-block with special and visual effects.

Craig Barron, VES has been an innovator in the cinematic technique of matte painting for the last two decades and has contributed to the visual effects of more than 100 films. He began his career at Industrial Light & Magic, where he worked on such films as THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982), Barron went on to start his own visual effects company, Matte World Digital, which created environments for such films as TITANIC (1997), ZODIAC (2007), ALICE IN WONDERLAND(2010), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) and HUGO (2011). Barron earned an Oscar® nomination for his work on BATMAN RETURNS (1992) and received an Oscar® for Visual Effects for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008). He is the co-author, with Mark Cotta Vaz, of the first comprehensive book about the history of matte painting, The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting. Barron is a member of the Academy’s Science and Technology Council and an Academy governor representing the Visual Effects Branch. As of 2014, he is the Creative Director of Magnopus (a consolidation of “Magnum Opus”–“Great Work” in Latin), a visual research and development company based in downtown Los Angeles.

Andrea Kalas is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with experience building systems for preservation, management and access of digital moving image assets. She understands the needs of both longevity and high volume, automated supply and knows the requirements of changing preservation and distribution models. She has an applied knowledge of best practices aligned with innovative technologies as well as varied experience and expertise in moving image technology management with success ensuring workflow for best use of high quality moving image assets. Andrea is an innovator in “in-production” digital asset management and digital preservation.

Andrea’s specialties include motion picture technology, process management, business planning and strategy, technical services management, film production, animation, film preservation, fundraising, public advocacy, film history, new technologies, online film and video archives, online resources and post production.

THE WIZARD OF OZ

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View this exclusive conversation with award-winning visual effects artists and supervisor Dennis Muren, VES, ASC.

THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) is one of the titles on the VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time. The VES 70 represents films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral element of cinematic expression and storytelling.

The iconic American musical fantasy film produced by MGM is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. We all know the tale of Dorothy traveling somewhere over the rainbow to the mythical land of OZ, witches, munchkins, Emerald City, a trio of cohorts on her journey along The Yellow Brick Road…and those ruby slippers.

Dennis shares his thoughts on the epic transition from black and white to the vibrant use of Technicolor…the inventive work of special effects director Arnold Gillespie…his fascination with the creation of the cyclone using muslin, powdery dust and stagehands working beneath the soundstage floor – and its impact on his VFX work on the 1996 film TWISTER… how the house fell from the sky and landed in Oz…the power of the musical score…and the enduring legacy of the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion.

HOF Dennis Muren

Dennis Muren, VES, ASC is the Senior Visual Effects Supervisor and Creative Director of Industrial Light & Magic. From his work on nearly all of the STAR WARS films – and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY and JURASSIC PARK – Muren has defined the role of visual effects supervisor and attained a near-mythic status among visual effects aficionados. He has nine Academy Awards, is a recipient of the VES Lifetime Achievement Award and was the first visual effects artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.