Will Vinton Biography, Filmography and Awards


Not many filmmakers kick off their careers with an Academy Award. Few animation Directors go on to breathe life into so many characters that become living icons of animation. And few have created so many milestones in 3D animation having launched the careers of the California Raisins, the Noid, Dinosaurs “Herb & Rex,” M&M’s “Red & Yellow” and The PJs’ Thurgood Stubbs. Will Vinton has done just that - all while founding and growing one of the most respected, creative, dimensional character animation studios in history, Will Vinton Studios.

Will grew up in the town of McMinnville, Oregon. In the early ‘70s, he enrolled at the University of California in Berkeley to pursue studies in physics, architecture and filmmaking. Fascinated by the fluid designs created in clay similar to the work of Spanish sculptural architect Antoni Gaudi, Will began experimenting with clay animation. After graduating with a degree in architecture, he entered the world of film production, working primarily as a director but also as a writer, cinematographer and editor on a variety of personal and commercial entertainment projects. His experimental feature, GONE FOR A BETTER DEAL, captured the essence of the “counter-culture” and became a key source of footage for other productions including BERKELEY IN THE 60’s.

In 1975, Will won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film for CLOSED MONDAYS, a clay animated short he co-created with Bob Gardiner. After this auspicious beginning in animation he coined the term Claymation® to describe his unique process of animating with plasticene clay, and registered the word as a trademark. He founded Will Vinton Productions (which later became known as Will Vinton Studios) to explore the potential of Claymation and dimensional animation. He has also been a successful Creative Director nurturing other Directors in animation.

Will directed and produced the world’s first all Claymation feature film, the critically acclaimed ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN. Soon after, he directed the first three California Raisin commercials that launched a legendary series of hip commercials, entertainment, merchandising, and a CBS Saturday morning TV series, THE CALIFORNIA RAINSIN SHOW. And his theatrical feature, FESTIVAL OF CLAYMATION, a compilation of his early short films has been an enduring hit at college campuses everywhere.

As a Director and Producer of 3D animation, Will Vinton has won virtually every film and television award given a filmmaker - several hundred in total. In addition to his Oscar, he has received four additional Academy Award Nominations (THE GREAT COGNITO, THE CREATION, RIP VAN WINKLE, and RETURN TO OZ) – and numerous Emmys and Emmy nominations for Outstanding Primetime Animated programs (THE PJs, GARY AND MIKE, THE CALIFORNIA RAINSIN SHOW, WILL VINTON’S CLAYMATION EASTER, THE CLAYMATION COMEDY OF HORRORS, MEET THE RAISINS, WILL VINTON’S CLAYMATION CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION, THE ONLINE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE THE ELF). Will has also received numerous Clios and international advertising awards for Directing animated commercials.

Will recently Executive Produced THE PJS (in partnership with Eddie Murphy and Imagine Television), a primetime half-hour comedy for the WB, and GARY & MIKE, a primetime half-hour comedy series (a partnership with Big Ticket Television) for UPN. Under Will’s creative leadership, his Character Development Lab has taken on the design, re-building and remaking of a variety of commercial and entertainment characters including the M&Ms, Tony the Tiger, Popeye, and the Maytag Man.

Will Vinton’s character animation milestones and pioneering productions have contributed immensely to animation history and he has helped launch the careers of countless other filmmakers in 3D animation productions.

With boundless energy, today Will continues to achieve acclaim, breaking new ground in computer character animation, Claymation, Stop-motion, and flash animation. Under his new banner, “Freewill Entertainment”, his energies are currently focused on developing, directing, and producing unique character animated productions for film and television. He currently has TV pilots at Fox Broadcasting and MTV, a movie script at ABC, a graphic novel with Dark Horse Comics, and several development projects with various Hollywood based producing partners. Will is also a part-time “Artist in Residence” at the Art Institute of Portland where he conducts workshops, panels and seminars on character animation and filmmaking.

In his spare time, Will actively supports educational and economic opportunities for the film and television industry. As Founder and Chairman, Will launched the PORTLAND CREATIVE CONFERENCE, a high-profile, annual symposium celebrating creativity and innovation in the entertainment and advertising business. He also actively supports and sits on the Board of several non-profit arts/education organizations including the innovative Northwest Academy. Will has received a BA in Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, an Honorary PHD in Fine Arts from Linfield College, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley.

When he’s not in LA, London or New York, Will resides in a house he built on the banks of the Willamette River, near Portland. He enjoys snow skiing, water sports and a Northwest lifestyle with his wife Gillian, two sons, Billy and Jesse, and daughter Alexandra.



Will Vinton: Filmography as Director and Producer

Feature Films:

  • Festival of Claymation, 80min. (director, producer) compilation of short films
  • The Adventures of Mark Twain, 86 min. (director, producer)
    ... aka Comet Quest (UK: video title)
  • Shadow Play, 95 min. (producer) live action thriller
  • Return to Oz (claymation director, producer) Academy Award Nominee
  • Gone for a Better Deal, 86 min. (director, producer) live action doccumentary

TV Series:

  • Gary and Mike” TV Series 23:00 x 13 (executive producer) Prime-time Emmy Nominee
  • The PJs” TV Series 23:00 x 52 (executive producer) Prime-time Emmy Award Winner
  • The California Raisin Show” TV Series 23:00 x 13 (creative director, executive producer)
  • The PJs” TV Series Pilot 8:00 (director, executive producer)
  • Klay's TV” TV Series Pilot (director, executive producer)
  • Slacker Cats” TV Series Pilot (executive producer)
  • Boyer Brother” TV Series Pilot (executive producer)
  • Cecille” Segment for Sesame Street, 4 min. x 8 (producer)
  • Adventures in Wonderland” (animated segments), 4 min. x 30 (executive producer)

TV Specials:

  • Will Vinton's A Claymation Christmas Celebration, 24 min. (director, producer) Prime-time Emmy Winner
  • Claymation Easter Special, 24:00 (director) (executive producer, producer) Prime-time Emmy Winner
  • Claymation Comedy of Horrors, 24:00 (executive producer, producer) Prime-time Emmy Winner
  • Raisins Sold Out: California Raisins II, 24:00 (director, producer) Prime-time Emmy Nominee
  • Meet the Raisins!, 24:00 (director, producer, executive producer) Prime-time Emmy Winner
  • The Little Prince, 25 min. (director, producer)
  • Martin the Cobbler, 26 min. (director, producer)
  • Rip Van Winkle, 26 min. (director, producer) Academy Award Nominee
  • The Diary of Adam and Eve, 24 min. (director, producer)

Short Films:

  • Closed Mondays, 9 min. (co-creator) Academy Award Winner
  • Mr. Resistor, 8 min. (executive producer)
  • Bride of Resistor, 6 min. (executive producer)
  • Dinosaur, 17 min. (director, producer)
  • Legacy, 7 min. (director, producer)
  • A Christmas Gift, 7 min. (director, producer)
  • The Great Cognito, 5 min. (director, producer) Academy Award Nominee
  • The Creation, 9 min. (director, producer)
  • Michael Jackson “Speed Demon” music video, 12 min. (director, producer)
  • The Morning After, 7:30 (director, producer)
  • Mountain Music, 9 min. (director, producer)
  • Wobbly Wino, 2 min. (director, producer)
  • Cultureshock, 17 min. (director, producer)
  • Go Down Death, 10 min. (director, producer)
  • Claymation (documentary) 18 min. (director, producer)
  • Vanz Kant Danz (John Fogerty music video), 6 min. (director, producer)
  • The Lost ‘M’ Adventure (3D-M&Ms) 12 min. (executive producer)
  • Xerox and Mylar, 5 min. (executive producer)
  • The Stars Came Dreaming, 12 min. (executive producer)
  • Day of the Dead, 8 min. (executive producer)