In the Animation Hall Of Fame archives there is a box containing a black tee-shirt that sports the word Claymation and Will Vinton Studios. As AHOF co-founder Nancy Miles recounts, “I loved that shirt and I really liked the man who gave it to me. I met Will Vinton through my dear friend animator Larry Lauria. I thought his Closed Mondays short was funny and brilliant!
He had coined the word Claymation which is what we now refer to clay animation in general. He was at that time working on a project Vanz Kant Danz with Fogerty’s Creedance Clearwater Revival one of my favorite groups. Years ago I ran an animation collectors club in Washington DC and we and ASIFA screened his works then.”
Will was born on November 17 th , 1947 to Gale and Saima Vinton. He loved to create things and after high school he went to the University of California, Berkeley where he studied architecture. He was entranced by the Spanish architect Modernist Antoni Gaudi. “If I really wanted to be inspired by designs like Gaudí’s, I had to throw away the T square and straight edge and grab some Plasticine clay,” Mr. Vinton said in his 2011 speech. “I started modeling and designing by way of sculpting.” While in Berkeley he became friends with Bob Gardiner who was working on plasticine sculpting and stop motion techniques. Together they became the leading duo of stop motion animation.
Over the years Will developed many award winning and notable works from advertising to short features. Will Vinton Studios emerged as the leading Stop Motion Studio in the US creating California Raisons, The Pizza Noid, Rip Van Winkle, The Adventures of Mark Twain, and the PJs. But in 2003 he took on partners in Phil Knight who founded Nike. Travis, his son, was an animator there under Will. Eventually he lost control of it and the rebirth became Liaka Studios-- still the US forerunner in Stop Motion Animation.
When AHOF CEO and co-founder Hal Miles and I met I found out they knew each other. Over the years since then we talked to Will on the phone about his work many times and he helped in authenticating many of his original puppets and sets that are in the AHOF archives and travelling exhibitions. He liked the idea of the Hall of Fame and we hope he was pleased that Buddy Miles, one of his California Raisons, is in our Journey Into IMAGIMATION traveling exhibit on the history of animation. When we pole people who see the exhibit, it is one of the favorite things they love seeing again and again and reminisce about.
Will leaves a wife Gillian, two sons Billy and Jesse, and a daughter Alexandra, and a huge legacy. We are honored to have known him and that his work is firmly planted in our archive. We look forward to his colleagues, friends, and family carrying on his work and finishing out his projects.