Claymation king molds CAA pact

Oscar-winner created Calif. Raisins, M&M ads

Two months after ankling the animation studio that bears his name, Claymation king Will Vinton will sculpt new projects with the helping hands of 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 candies.

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.

Knight plight

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.