Academy honors Iwerks

He'll receive Gordon E. Sawyer Oscar Feb. 28

Don Iwerks, co-founder of Iwerks Entertainment, has been voted the Gordon E. Sawyer Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Board of Governors, in recognition of contributions to the movie industry made by the large-format and simulator film pioneer.

The Sawyer Award was established in 1981 to honor exceptional accomplishments toward the advancement of the science and technology of motion pictures. Iwerks will receive the Oscar statuette at the Academy’s scientific and technical awards presentation dinner on Feb. 28 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, as part of the Acad’s 70th Oscar awards program.

Iwerks, the 13th recipient of the Sawyer prize, began his career at Disney in 1950. He worked on TV productions, pushing camera technology into new realms to capture natural footage in jungles, deserts and underwater.

Among the many technological breakthroughs developed at Disney under Iwerks’ guidance were the 360-degree Circle Vision camera and projection systems and the application of Xerox technology to the animation process, first used in the animated pic, “101 Dalmatians.”

Iwerks also was a key developer of the sodium traveling matte process, including cameras and optical printers, which allowed the combination of painted backgrounds with traditional animation and live animation, used in creating the film, “Mary Poppins.”

While at Disney, Iwerks also worked on early animatronics, including the 1964 World’s Fair attraction, “It’s a Small World.”

In 1986, Iwerks co-founded Iwerks Entertainment with Stan Kinsey. The firm is now a global leader in large-format film and simulator-film attractions, used in theme parks and other venues. Iwerks recently co-developed, with Bob Gurr, the Iwerks Quatro projection system, which runs four films sequentially without rewinding or using loop cabinets.

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