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CLAYMATION MOVES ON

New CEO to take ani house in new direction

Will Vinton Studios, the Portland, Ore.-based animation house, has named Tom Turpin chief executive officer, a newly created post. Turpin joins the company from Virgin Sound & Vision, a multimedia division of the far-reaching Richard Branson empire. At VSV, Turpin was CEO.

At Vinton Studios, Turpin replaces founder Will Vinton, who is stepping aside to concentrate on directing and the development of original programming. Last year, Vinton inked two feature helming deals: “Things” for DreamWorks, and “Cliff Coal” for Mel Gibson’s Icon Prods.

Vinton’s title is now chairman. David Altschul continues as company president.

The exec shuffles were made, said Turpin, as Vinton Studios moves toward ownership of content that could be co-produced with the Hollywood majors.

Turpin said WVS will take a three-phase approach to expansion. First, he said, he plans to “diversity and maximize all the contract production business.” That category includes computer animation, cel animation, stop-motion animation, live action and the company’s trademarked Claymation process.

The second phase, said Turpin, is to become “pro-active about original programming.” Turpin said the company plans to stick to character animation, its strong point, rather than develop effects-laden spectaculars.

Phase three, he said, “is moving from being a company that creates ideas funded by someone else to being a company that creates content it also funds.”

Turpin said he plans to split his time between Portland and Los Angeles. Eventually, WVS will probably open a Los Angeles development office, he said.

Vinton scored his first big hit when he used Claymation for a series of dancing California raisin commercials several years ago.In addition to the two features Vinton has in development now, the company has created a number of primetime animated specials for CBS. In 1985, Vinton made his feature directing debut with the clay-figure-animated “The Adventures of Mark Twain.”

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