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Will Vinton (1947 – 2018), Claymation animator brought California Raisins to life

Getty Images / Kevin Winter

Founded the award-winning Will Vinton Studios

Will Vinton (1947 – 2018) was a stop-motion animator who coined the term Claymation. During the 1980s and 90s his cartoonish clay animations were frequently seen in national commercials. He helped make the California Raisins a sensation, and also animated the Noid for Domino’s Pizza, and M&M’s candy characters.

In 1975 he won an Academy Award with Bob Gardner for the animated short, “Closed Mondays.” He then founded Will Vinton Studios in Portland, Oregon. The studio produced several notable short films, the feature-length “The Adventures of Mark Twain” (1985), and following the phenomenal success of the California Raisins, several TV specials for CBS, including “Meet the Raisins” and “A Claymation Christmas Celebration.” The studio also produced the animated series “The PJs” starring the voice of Eddie Murphy.

A documentary about Will Vinton’s life and career, “Welcome to My Daydream: The Story of Will Vinton,” is currently in production.

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Died: Thursday, October 4, 2018 (Who else died on October 4?)

Details of death: Died in Portland of multiple myeloma cancer at the age of 70


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The Legacy of Will Vinton Studios: Vinton’s studio ran into financial difficulties and he lost control of the studio he founded in 2002. However, the successor studio, Laika, continues to use many of the techniques he pioneered to great artistic effect. Their films “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” “The Boxtrolls,” and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” have all been nominated for Academy Awards for best animated feature.

Notable quote: “I’m back to my roots, doing new projects. I’m back to being an artist, as opposed to a businessman.” —Vinton speaking to an audience at Northwest Film Forum in 2008

What people said about him: “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.” —His children, Billy, Jesse & Alex

“He was always very optimistic, and sometimes when you’re animating it’s such a drag that it’s kind of hard to maintain that optimism… But he always seemed to believe in what he was doing and always had really positive things to say about it.” —Joan Gratz, Oscar-winning animator who formerly worked at Vinton Studios

Full obituary: The Oregonian

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