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Will Vinton, Oscar-Winning Claymation Animator, Dies at 70

Will Vinton, an Oscar-winning master of Claymation who coined the term, has died. He was 70.

Vinton’s children announced his death in a Facebook post, writing that he had been battling multiple myeloma for 12 years.

Educated at UC Berkeley, Vinton met future collaborator and clay animator Bob Gardiner in the early ’70s. The pair relocated to Vinton’s native Portland, where they created what would be come Claymation. After they parted ways, the mustachioed animator founded Will Vinton Studios, hiring new creators to expand the studio.

The Oregonian won his Oscar, which he shared with Gardiner, for their 1975 short film “Closed Mondays.” His studio also oversaw creation of several Emmy-winning projects, including TV series “The PJs” and TV specials “A Claymation Christmas Celebration,” “A Claymation Easter,” and “Claymation Comedy of Horrors.” He received three other Oscar nominations for short films “Rip Van Winkle,” “The Great Cognito,” and “The Creation.”

By the 1990s, Vinton Studios had grown large enough to have outside investors, which eventually resulted in Vinton losing control of the majority stake to Phil Knight in 2002. Vinton sought damages and sued for his name, resulting in Will Vinton Studios becoming Laika in 2005. Vinton founded a new production company, Will Vinton’s Freewill Entertainment, and retired in 2008.

Vinton’s legacy includes the establishment of Portland as a stop-motion destination for creators and animators. His studio created numerous iconic Claymation characters for advertisements, especially the California Raisins, which gained notoriety for the art of Claymation as a whole after an ad using the Motown hit “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” went the ’80s equivalent of viral.

Vinton is the subject of the 2019 documentary “Welcome to My Daydream.” Watch the trailer below.

He is survived by his wife, daughter, and two sons. A celebration of his life is being held Oct. 21 at the No Vacancy Lounge in Portland, Oreg.


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