VES 70 Interviews2020-11-16T21:27:59-08:00

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.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

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View this exclusive conversation with Academy Award-winning visual effects pioneer and filmmaker Douglas Trumbull, VES.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) 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.

With the iconic intro “I am the H.A.L 9000 you may call me Hal”…we delve into one of the most ambitious and influential science fiction films ever made. Trumbull shares the tale of attracting the attention of director Stanley Kubrick and getting hired to oversee visual effects on this epic spectacle at the age of 23…the innovative approach to creating zero gravity effects, using slit-scan photography to bring the Star Gate sequence to life, and the techniques used to create the pioneering effects on this Cinerama film, photographed in Super Panavision 70.

Trumbull talks about lessons learned from Kubrick and staging pranks at dailies…reflects on the film’s polarizing critical opinion upon release, rebranding it as “the ultimate trip” and what became of the 19 minutes of footage Kubrick removed following the premiere. And he gives insights into the film’s enormous impact on cinema and his own passion project reimagining immersive experience for movie-goers with his MAGI theatrical distribution system – an homage to 2001.

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

Douglas Trumbull, VES is a VFX pioneer, who has been at the forefront of visual effects for decades.  He was responsible for the dazzling special photographic effects of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and was the Visual Effects Supervisor for such classics as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE and BLADE RUNNER, each of which earned him Academy Award nominations. He has devoted years towards the goal of improving and reimagining the cinema experience. Among his many accolades, Trumbull is the recipient of the coveted Gordon E. Sawyer Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement, the VES Georges Méliès Award and was one of the inaugural inductees into the VES Hall of Fame.

GHOSTBUSTERS

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View this exclusive conversation with award-winning special effects cinematographer and visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund, ASC, VES.

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) 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.

Who ya gonna call? Edlund shares his pathway to working on the classic supernatural comedy – the maiden voyage of his own effects house Boss Films. He gives insights into creating the optical effects for the stream of ghosts flowing from the firehouse through the streets of New York City…the making of the iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man…shooting in 65mm, building an optical printer and ‘inventing our way out of a corner’ throughout the production and getting the work done in only 10 months. Edlund talks about the influence of POLTERGEIST, tales of working with Ivan Reitman…the creation of “Slimer” in homage to John Belushi…and the combination of practical effects, miniatures and puppets that delivered the ghoulish visuals.

This cultural phenomenon about a trio of eccentric parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business holds a special place for Edlund, so grab your proton pack and watch it now!

Richard Edlund, VES, ASC established his reputation winning four Oscars for the visual effects in STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and RETURN OF THE JEDI and was nominated for POLTERGEIST, 2010, GHOSTBUSTERS, POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE, DIE HARD and ALIEN 3. He has won three Academy Scientific and Engineering Awards, an Emmy, and two BAFTA Awards, the ASC President’s Award and VES Lifetime Achievement Award and he is a longtime Governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and founding member of the AMPAS visual effects branch.

JAWS

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

JAWS (1975) 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.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…we explore this classic American thriller about a man-eating great white shark attacking beachgoers at a summer resort town. Okun shares his thoughts on why you never film at sea and the impact of that troubled shoot…how the malfunctioning mechanical shark prompted editing that made the film scarier…the trials and tribulations of creating the shark, including how it got its on-set name. Okun talks about JAWS from a filmmaker’s angles, this epic story of disaster and failure…how it changed the summer box office and spawned decades of shark-infested TV and move fare…and how he used JAWS to inform his work as visual effects supervisor on 1999 science fiction horror film, DEEP BLUE SEA.

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.

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!

okunad.jpg

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.