News and Press Information
For Immediate Release:
Oregon History Museum Exhibit Reveals the Ground-breaking Birth of “Claymation”
Exhibit features Will Vinton’s personal animation art collection, including drawings, character designs, clay sculptures, storyboards and more
Portland, Ore. – May 10, 2009 – Opening May 15 and running through September 16, the Oregon History Museum will host a special exhibit entitled The Amazing World of Claymation. For the first time, visitors will be able to view the historic animation art collection of Claymation founder and Oregon native, Will Vinton.
The showcase exhibit will draw from Vinton’s personal animation art collection – including drawings, paintings, clay and cast sculptures, videos and storyboards. This one-of-a-kind show celebrates the quality and quantity of the artistry required to create the award-winning Claymation films. Museum visitors will get a glimpse of what went into making some of the world’s best-known animated characters, including the Domino’s Pizza “Noid,” the famous California Raisins, and Eddie Murphy’s “Thurgood Stubbs,” from the television show “The PJs.”
The Amazing World of Claymation will illustrate and demonstrate the different steps that comprise the production of an animated feature, including script, character design, production design and storyboards, voice recording, character construction, sets and props, animation, and post-production. In addition, there will be a focus on Will Vinton’s most notable productions, such as the early short films “Closed Mondays” and “Rip Van Winkle,” the California Raisins TV commercials, the feature film “The Adventures of Mark Twain” – the world’s first all-Claymation feature – and “The PJs” TV series.
“Will Vinton’s influence on the animation industry is of international proportions,” said Oregon Historical Society Executive Director, George Vogt. “His contribution of sophistication and artistry provided the building blocks for the animated film world as we know it today.”
A special media and member exhibit preview to kick off the spring/summer run is scheduled for Thursday, May 14, 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Museum hours are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday.
As animated as it gets
Will Vinton breaks out the good stuff — a career’s
worth of art, model, designs Claymation maestro is keeping
busy since ouster from studio
By JOSEPH GALLIVAN, The Portland Tribune
Tuesday, February 1, 2005 -
The animation industry throws a lot of good stuff away. Ask
Will Vinton. He's curating "Will Vinton's
Animation Art Collection," an
exhibition at the Art Institute of Portland of the puppets
and drawings that put his former studio on the map.
"I've got 50 times more stuff than can possibly be put in a gallery,"
he says of the works, made by a wide range of artists, mostly
in the Northwest. "I've been collecting it all my career."
Typically, at the end of a production, work is taken home by
artists or thrown in the trash.
Vinton, after getting an architecture degree from the University of California
at Berkeley in the 1960s, made his name in film by excelling
in and trademarking Claymation — a stop-motion animation process
using small clay figures, usually less than a foot high. The
McMinnville native brought a rare Oscar home to Oregon in 1974
for the best animated short film, "Closed Mondays," but his bread
and butter has been in advertising.
Movie props always have a certain aura to them, and many in this exhibition
hold an analog fascination. Several characters sit on the shelves,
some slightly cracked from years of drying out, others thoughtfully
housed under acrylic plastic. In addition to set designs and
models, there are sketches. For instance, drawings of Mark Twain
stand alone as skillful caricature, even though they were preparatory
to the making of a model.
"It's a little bit of a dying art, to see all these hand-drawn and
hand-sculpted materials," Vinton says. "This is all the original
art. Even acetate cels are not really hand-painted anymore; they're
Xeroxed and colored by a printer. These days, too, in terms of
cel animation, they can bypass all that and do it all on the
computer, so you don't have any of those artifacts, apart from
those they make specially for gallery purposes."
As he removes the plastic wrap from a tray of clay "sketches" of dogs,
the modeling clay's oily smell wafts up. They were created by
a modeler he works with, Gary Bialke, for a project based on
a script Vinton wrote called "A Dog's Tale."
"They're quite crude and simple, but quite wonderful too," Vinton
says. "I've always hired people who are better sculptors than
Several tiny white spheres of different sizes, each with a single black
dot, are lined up on the tray floor.
"They're eyes," he says. "Well-animated eyes are extremely powerful."
Moving from an analog to a digital world is a common challenge for people
over 40, in particular for artists. (The divide is probably not
that obvious to youngsters, but this exhibition will rectify
Vinton tries to take the best of both worlds.
He likes seeing animation projected digitally, as at Disney's El Capitan
Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard: "It's solid; it looks like it's
painted on the wall. There's no movement like you get with celluloid."
Vinton's cell phone rings about every 10 minutes. In Portland, he teaches
and works on projects for his new company, Freewill Entertainment.
He spends a couple of days a week in Los Angeles, mostly in meetings.
He doesn't really like L.A., so he gets a lot done when he's
One project he's been working on is a mix of animation and live action
called "The Morning After," shot in high-definition video at
24 frames per second.
"We did some of the editing on this G4 laptop," he says, impressed.
What's good, and why
The future he really wants to talk about is the flesh and blood walking
these halls — his students. Vinton does one dedicated day a week
at the Art Institute, where he has an office. He shows classic
animations (including some of his own) to students, and explains
why they're good.
"Stop motion is a great place for animators to learn," he
says. "The computer's a great tool, but it's a hard tool to access.
Animating a stop-motion puppet can give instant feedback. It's
intuitive. You're working in real space.
"The computer's just an elaborate pencil or paintbrush. It all comes
down to the ability to visualize and draw things. These days
it's relatively trivial to shoot your own movie and do the soundtrack.
They can do all that without having to learn anything about editing
or photography. That doesn't mean it's good, just that they can
Walking his talk
Vinton holds a workshop on breathing life into characters. Students work
in teams of three — writer, director, artist — to learn the
ways of Hollywood: how to develop character and back story, even
how to pitch an idea.
"Some animators say you can tell everything about a character based
on how he walks," Vinton says.
"The other side of the bargain is I get to use the staff and facilities
and even some of the students. They have unbelievable facilities
here, one G5 for every other student, great sound studios."
In its airy, efficient new building in the Brewery Blocks, the Art Institute
(which is part of a nationwide chain, the Art Institutes Inc.,
a part of Education Management Corp.) is very much a vocational
school compared to the Pacific Northwest College of Art six blocks
to the north. Students get a foundation in drawing, but game
development and film are popular courses.
In the 20 months since majority shareholder Phil Knight and his son,
Travis Knight, forced him out of his old studio (which he founded
in 1975, and which will change its name this year), Vinton has
been thinking about the future and the lessons he can pass on.
His 14-year-old son is learning animation.
"He's really into Flash animation, but he hasn't touched the models
yet," Vinton says.
It's a two-way street. The father constantly calls his son to troubleshoot
"He's a technical wizard," he says proudly.
A rare behind-the-scenes look at animation design:
Will Vinton's Animation Art Collection is on display at
The Art Institute of Portland Gallery
Portland, OR (January 26, 2005) – Groundbreaking
animation producer/director Will Vinton and his teams have a way of
creating truly memorable animated characters, such as the California
Raisins, the PJ's, and those lovable M & M's. Now you have the
unique opportunity to view animation art and design from Will
Vinton's Animation Art Collection, on display at The Art
Institute of Portland Gallery, 1122 NW Davis, from February 3 – March
First Thursday Opening Reception for
Will Vinton's Animation Art Collection
Thursday, February 3, 2005
5:30 p.m. Artist Discussion led by Will Vinton
6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Artist Reception with
live music and light appetizers
||Will Vinton's Animation Art Collection is a celebration of the art
and artistry that goes into designing animated characters. The purpose
of the exhibit is to honor the many regional artists who have contributed
to many of Vinton's animated productions. The show features some well-known
animation art (such as 3-D sculptures of the California Raisins and
the PJ's), but the essence of this exciting exhibit focuses on educating
visitors about the precise, demanding and involved process of creating
animation art and design. One piece, entitled "Finding the Perfect
Princess," follows artists' journey of defining and redefining
sketches and models in search of creating just the right features
for an animated character. A section of the exhibit is devoted to
the art of storyboarding which offers the viewer a taste of the process
animators go through when developing scenes. Visitors will also be
able to view early stage design models as well as completed final
design models. To complete the exhibit, visitors can watch video character
tests for "The PJ's," clips from "The Adventures of
Mark Twain," and other animations to complement the sketches,
storyboards, sculptures, animation cells, and photographs.
|Vinton is the Artist-in-Residence
at The Art Institute of Portland. Under his new company, Freewill
Entertainment, he continues to break new ground in computer character
animation, Claymation and stop-motion animation. He recently released
a short film, "The Morning After." He also is working
on a graphic novel for Dark Horse Comics, and is writing and developing
several new projects for film and television.
||To kick-off First Thursday receptions for this exhibit, Vinton
will personally present his collection to the public in an artist
discussion scheduled for both February 3 and March 3 at 5:30 p.m.
For more information, please contact The Art Institute of Portland
Gallery at 503-382-4801.
About The Art Institute of Portland Gallery
Located in the first level of The Art Institute of Portland,
the Gallery is host to exhibits featuring works by students,
faculty, alumni and outside artists. The Gallery is open to the public
Monday – Thursday,
9 am to 6 pm; Friday, 9 am – 4 pm; and Saturday 9 am – 2
pm. To view current and past exhibits, as well as student
work from various programs, please visit our Web site at www.aipd.artinstitutes.edu/gallery.asp.
About The Art Institute of Portland
The Art Institute of Portland (www.aipd.aii.edu/nz), a regionally-accredited
institution located in the heart of the Pearl District, offers Bachelor
of Science degree programs in Advertising, Apparel Design, Design Management,
Digital Media Production, Game Art & Design, Graphic Design, Interactive
Media Design, Interior Design, Media Arts & Animation and Visual & Game
Programming; The Art Institute of Portland offers Associate of Arts
degree programs in Apparel Design, Apparel Accessory Design, Graphic
Design, Interactive Media Design and Interior Design.
Will Vinton, reanimated
His studio lost, the artist faces a new battle to get back in
By MIKE ROGOWAY, The Oregonian
Sunday, January 16, 2005 -
Grinning broadly, clasping hands and trading hugs, Will Vinton
greeted friends and former colleagues
filing into the Portland
Art Museum's theater last weekend to see the Oscar-winning
animator's first original work in years.
Almost two years after losing his job and three decades after
winning his golden statue, Vinton is starting over after a spectacular
fall that cost him his animation studio, his livelihood and his
house. He risked the firm on a failed run at the big time, then
lost his studio in a battle with Oregon's richest man, Nike co-founder
Still sporting his signature handlebar mustache and bare scalp,
the 57-year-old Vinton is back where he began: showing a low-budget
short film and dreaming big. He's free of the business entanglements
he candidly admits got away from him. And he's unabashedly upbeat
about being back in his creative element with the new film, a
seven-minute comedy called "The Morning After."
"It represents being a filmmaker again as opposed to being,
I guess, an executive," Vinton said.
The film mixes live action and animation in the style of "Who
Framed Roger Rabbit" as it chronicles the goofy aftermath
of an affair between a woman and a cartoon character. Vinton
plans to show it at festivals around the country, hoping it will
launch a new film career.
He still has plenty of fans in Portland and well-connected friends
in the entertainment business. Yet, it's been years since his
trademark Claymation became a popular craze, and skeptics doubt
Vinton has the creative spark for a second act.
For Vinton, the past two years have been about reasserting himself
creatively and pursuing an artistic freedom he said he spent
years trying to recapture while running his studio.
"Ironically, I've totally succeeded on that front," Vinton
says. "On the financial front, it was very nearly, I would
say, a disaster."
Rolling the dice
For that, Vinton doesn't shirk his share of responsibility.
Vinton Studios was a victim of unnecessary investments and ill-considered
plans, he said, "spending money without any clear way of
making it back, which was one of the hallmarks of the '90s."
Originally from McMinnville, Vinton now splits his time between
Oregon and Hollywood. His office is at The Art Institute of Portland,
a private school in the Pearl District where Vinton has been
artist-in-residence since September, giving informal talks about
the history of animation and the business of art.
Seated at his desk, Vinton is just a mile from his old studio
in Northwest Portland. Arrayed behind him are figures of Vinton
Studios' best-known creations -- among them, the California Raisins
and the Noid, a pizza-spoiling gremlin invented for Domino's.
Vinton's Oscar, won with Bob Gardiner in 1975 for the animated
short "Closed Mondays," stands behind the desk. Flanking
the statue are three Emmys he won as producer at Vinton Studios.
Vinton took little else but memories from that time.
His finances were closely tied to the company's, and there was
little left for Vinton after he lost his struggle with Nike's
"I had to readjust immediately, the whole lifestyle," Vinton
said. "It's very hard to go from, you know, making a lot
of money to scaling (back) your lifestyle and everything around
Vinton pulled his two sons out of private school and sold the
riverfront home in Oak Grove where he lived with his wife and
children for eight years. Vinton now makes his living from writing,
speaking engagements and the Art Institute.
It's a comfortable life, he said, but not what he'd grown accustomed
to. Looking back, Vinton acknowledged he paid the price for some
"There was definitely a time when I was rolling the dice
and growing the company," Vinton said. "I was thinking
in different terms, that maybe money is the key to getting back
to what I want to do."
Amid a popular resurgence in animation, Vinton said, he saw
a chance to make the studio into a larger company with bigger
creative goals -- along the lines of Pixar Animation Studios,
creator of the movies "Toy Story" and "The Incredibles." He
brought on professional management and hired more animators to
chase bigger projects and increase his studio's profile.
Miscast as a studio executive, Vinton thought business success
would free him to spend more time on animation and transform
his studio from a boutique into an industry powerhouse. But even
then, he admitted, he wasn't sure he'd be able to carry it off.
His studio's employment peaked at 400 in the late '90s, with
annual revenues of $28 million. But Vinton Studios didn't land
the volume of big-time creative or commercial work it was counting
on, and financial crisis ensued. Knight, who'd helped fund Vinton's
aspirations, ultimately took control of the struggling studio
and forced Vinton out. A nasty court fight followed Vinton's
ouster, and he came out on the losing end.
"I didn't think the downside would be as deep as it was," Vinton
If the dark times slowed Vinton's creative zeal or professional
drive, he doesn't show any sign now. If he still harbors bitterness
over the studio fight, he won't say so.
Walking around with a copy of the film industry trade paper
Variety under his arm and his cell phone ringing continually,
Vinton speaks of making specials for MTV or Fox.
"One of the things I find really remarkable about him is
he has this perpetual optimism," said Andrew Wiese, a 35-year-old
Hollywood screenwriter who has been Vinton's writing partner
since he lost the studio. "He has a lot of faith in people
and people's good intentions."
The pair wrote a screenplay that didn't sell, then went to work
last year on a graphic novel for Dark Horse Comics, the Milwaukie
publisher known for titles including "The Mask" and "Hellboy." Dark
Horse hired an illustrator to draw up Wiese and Vinton's story
and plans to release the 100-page graphic novel "Jack Hightower" late
What Vinton brings to the table, Dark Horse President Mike Richardson
said, is dedication to creating memorable characters. "He
really gets it and understands what makes these stories and these
characters come to life," Richardson said.
Film historian Jerry Beck, author of a new animation history
book called "Animation Art," said Vinton developed
a style that humanized his characters. Beck said Vinton's clay
figures, brought to life with stop-motion photography, had a
level of personality no one had achieved before.
"Things that we now take for granted with computer graphics,
he was doing it with clay 30 years ago," Beck said.
Although modern animation may be magnificent technically, Beck
said, it lacks the human texture that Vinton brought to his craft.
That alone ensures curiosity about Vinton's new work, he said.
"If he were just to do little animated films, there'd be
a lot of interest in it -- at least in the animation community
there would be," Beck said.
Others are more skeptical.
Portland animator Joan Gratz, herself an Oscar winner and a
former colleague of Vinton's, said time may have passed Vinton
He had an upbeat vision, she said, and Vinton's clay animation
was compelling, if not sophisticated. But today, she said, animators
and audiences are looking for something darker and more complex
than what Vinton produced.
"Part of its charm came from its novelty, and it's certainly
not a novelty anymore," said Gratz, who is still loosely
affiliated with Vinton Studios.
Other longtime colleagues and collaborators, who asked not to
be named, said Vinton's ambition often exceeded his ability.
He surrounded himself with talent, one said, but seldom presented
clear or compelling ideas of his own.
A second act?
Working for a one-man company he calls Freewill Entertainment,
Vinton finds his future resting not on his past successes or
failures but on what he, and he alone, does next.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
"I would like the work that I do to speak for itself, really," Vinton
said. "That would be my greatest wish."
Many ideas Vinton started on right after parting with his studio
are still in early stages. Aside from working on his graphic
novel, Vinton is teaming with Mainframe Entertainment Inc., a
Canadian studio specializing in computer animation, to develop
TV specials or series.
It's too soon to know how the entertainment industry will receive
his new film and the many other projects on Vinton's mental drawing
board. But on the Friday night he showed off "The Morning
After," he looked confident and plainly reveled in the attention
as he ushered more than 100 guests into the theater.
Inside, Vinton stepped to the front to introduce his movie and
speak briefly of the possibilities ahead. He lifted his finger
above his head and waved it in a circle.
"Let's roll it!" he called emphatically. The house
lights came down and the film flickered to life.
Animating the Local Creative Culture:
Will Vinton Joins The Art Institute of Portland as Artist-in-Residence
OR (September 20, 2004) – Local animation guru
Will Vinton joins The Art Institute of Portland as Artist-in-Residence.
Winner of Oscar, Emmy and Clio awards, Vinton is best known
for expanding the world of animation through his work in
and Stop-motion animation. "The Artist-in-Residence position
helps further the mission of the College to support the creative
community in Portland" said Steve Goldman, President
of the College. "It is an honor to forge this new partnership
with an artist of Will Vinton's stature and accomplishment.
We are confident that Will's work at the College will
benefit the local creative community as well as our students,
As Artist-in-Residence, Vinton will work closely with The Art
Institute of Portland staff, faculty and students on a multitude
of projects. He will conduct targeted workshops with advanced
students and hold open lectures on a variety of topics to the
College. In addition, he will help recruit new faculty to the
classroom from the professional community and mentor department
directors on curricular issues and approaches to the arts.
In an effort to expand the College's outreach, he will also
help develop contacts in the employment community in the animation
and film industries. "The Art Institute of Portland is
becoming an important center for animation art and design,
and for filmmaking in general - I think there are great opportunities
to create deeper connections between the college and the media
/ design industries," Will Vinton said. "I'm
pleased to become a part of this vibrant educational community
as a complement to my personal creative endeavors. The College
is a very familiar, collaborative, and fun environment."
Will Vinton has been a pioneer and visionary in the animation
field for quite some time. His innovative style and passion for
animation helped put Portland, Oregon on the map as a destination
for creative professionals. He coined the phrase Claymation,
and went on to introduce several new brands of animation to audiences
across the globe by launching the careers of the California Raisins,
the Noid, Dinosaurs "Herb & Rex," M&M's "Red & Yellow"
and The PJs' Thurgood Stubbs. In his commitment to supporting
a thriving local creative community, he co-founded and chaired
the Portland Creative Conference for 12 years. Vinton continues
to break 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, television
and advertising. Among his current projects, Vinton is developing
a prime-time television series with Fox Broadcasting. Vinton
and Freewill Entertainment are represented by Creative Artists
Agency (CAA) and managed by Quattro Media.
"We are delighted to add Mr. Vinton's experience
and vision to our community," Goldman said. "While
we strive to educate new designers and artists, and to help bring
fresh talent to the Pacific Northwest, it is also our mission
to give back to the community, adding to the effort of leaders
in our state who champion the important cause of the arts. Mr.
Vinton's work has inspired many of our students and faculty,
and we believe this is a partnership with great possibility."
Claymation king molds CAA pact
Oscar-winner created Calif. Raisins, M&M ads
By DAVID BLOOM, Variety.com
June 5, 2003 – Two months after ankling the animation studio that bears
his name, Claymation king Will Vinton will sculpt new projects with the helping
the Creative Artists Agency.
The Oscar-winning Vinton is best known for developing Claymation,
the painstaking process of creating characters out of clay and
then shooting the their minutely shifted poses frame by frame.
His resulting distinctive stop-motion work has been repeatedly
honored, most notably for popular ad campaigns featuring the
California Raisins and "Red" and "Yellow" M&Ms
Recent projects have included exec producing WB series "The
PJs" with Eddie Murphy and Imagine TV and UPN's "Gary & Mike." His
studio also created 1985 animated feature "The Adventures
of Mark Twain." He's now focusing on developing and directing
a range of animated feature and other projects. CAA will represent
Vinton with an eye toward getting those projects off the ground.
Vinton founded Will Vinton Studios in 1976, after winning an
Oscar for best animated short with Bob Gardiner for "Closed
Mondays." He was nominated four other times for Oscars and
also received multiple Emmy and Clio awards.
But the company struggled in the recent soft advertising market,
cutting staff by three-fourths in several rounds of layoffs during
a series of cash crises. Last year, Vinton and CEO Jeff Farnath
cut a deal with Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight, an investor
who already owned a minority share, to pour more money into the
Oregon toon shop while it sought the long-term financial harbor
of a feature film deal.
Within six months of Knight's assuming majority ownership, however,
Vinton was gone, ankling the board in mid-April after Farnath
laid him off from his staff position. In late May, Vinton filed
a $3.1 million suit against Knight, Knight's son and two other
board directors with Nike ties, claiming he was unfairly forced
out without adequate compensation. Farnath said Vinton had turned
down three severance offers.
CREATIVE ARTISTS AGENCY SIGNS
ANIMATION INNOVATOR WILL VINTON
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., June 4,
2003 – Creative Artists
Agency (CAA), the world's leading talent and literary agency,
announced today that Will Vinton is now a client.
A leader and innovator in stop motion and 3D animation, Vinton
has won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short, been nominated
for four additional Academy Awards and been a multi-winner and
nominee for Emmys and Clios. Creator of the animation technique
using plasticine clay, Vinton coined and trademarked the term
Claymation®. He created the California Raisins and M&M’s “Red” and “Yellow” characters
of television commercial, entertainment, and merchandise fame.
He also founded Will Vinton Studios to further explore 3D animation
Vinton recently Executive Produced the television series THE
PJS (in partnership with Eddie Murphy and Imagine Television)
for the WB, and GARY & MIKE (a partnership with Big Ticket
Television) for UPN.
Vinton continues to design ground-breaking animation methods,
and is currently focusing on developing, directing, and producing
unique animated productions.
Creative Artists Agency is a talent and literary agency with offices in Beverly Hills and
Nashville. CAA represents many of the most creative and successful artists working in film, television,
music, theatre and video games, and provides a range of strategic marketing services to corporate clients. The agency serves as
the access point through which artists, consumers and global brands intersect to create, acquire and sell entertainment properties,
and to enrich entertainment and brand experiences. Youth Intelligence, a leading youth market research and trend forecasting company,
is a division of CAA.
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