The Orphanage shuts down in S.F.

Visual effects company worked on 'Iron Man'

The Orphanage, the 10-year-old vfx shop based in San Francisco and Los Angeles, has closed its doors.

Co-founder Stu Maschwitz announced Wednesday night on his blog that the company was suspending operations indefinitely, adding a note encouraging other vfx companies to hire the “Orphans.”

The highly regarded midsized shop contributed one of the best-known scenes to last year’s “Iron Man”: the shots in which Iron Man uses a small missile from inside the arm of his armor to blow up a tank. Company also did Iron Man’s “Heads-Up Display.”

Its commercials unit, which had been thriving, has also closed.

Unaffected by the closure is Los Angeles-based Orphanage Animation Studio, headed by Genndy Tartakovsky. OAS and the Jim Henson Co. continue to work on “The Power of the Dark Crystal,” OAS’ first announced feature.

Maschwitz told Daily Variety on Thursday that while the Orphanage Inc. had had an ownership stake in OAS, “The management of the Orphanage no longer has any ownership in Orphanage Animation Studios.”

Maschwitz said that the company’s owners were unsure whether they would sell or liquidate, but “whatever we do, that money is going first to creditors,” including employees who have not yet been paid in full.

Founded by former Industrial Light & Magic artists Maschwitz, Jonathan Rothbart and Scott Stewart in 1999, the Orphanage grew rapidly after its founding, reaching a peak of more than 160 employees.

But midsized vfx shops like the Orphanage are under pressure as they lack the resources of the bigger shops to undertake advance research and development and can be underbid by “garage” shops with lower overhead.

The Orphanage often worked closely with ILM and contributed to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” pictures. It also worked on John Woo’s “Red Cliff.”

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