PORTLAND, Ore. — Will Vinton, an Oscar-winning animator who invented Claymation, a style of stop-motion animation, and brought the California Raisins to TV, has died in Oregon. He was 70.
Citing a family statement, The Oregonian reported that Vinton died Thursday following a lengthy battle with multiple myeloma.
He won an Oscar in 1975 for the animated short film “Closed Mondays” then founded Vinton Studios in Portland the next year and went on to win three Emmys as a producer.
Stop-motion is a technique that requires animators to shoot puppets a single frame at a time, adjusting them slightly between frames to simulate movement. Claymation used putty or clay for a textured, somewhat cartoonish feel.
Vinton Studios was best known for the 1986 California Raisins ad campaign featuring Claymation raisins dancing to “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
“He saw the world as an imaginative playground full of fantasy, joy, and character,” Vinton’s children wrote on his Facebook page.
Rose Bond, a professor at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, said Vinton single-handedly established the city’s animation community.
“He put the city on the map as far as stop-motion in America,” Bond said.
Vinton, with his distinctive handlebar mustache, was among the city’s best-known artists.
Vinton Studios at its peak in the late 1990s employed 400 people with annual revenue of $28 million.
Vinton, however, acknowledged that the business was a financial mess, and he sought out Oregon’s richest man, Nike founder Phil Knight, for financial assistance.
Knight purchased a stake in the company for $5 million in 1998. He asked for monthly financial statements from Vinton and suggested the studio hire his son, Travis Knight, as an animator, the newspaper reported.
The company’s financial woes continued, and Knight eventually seized control. In 2003, the studio laid off Vinton without severance. Knight renamed the studio and put his son in charge.
Vinton remained active after leaving the studio and taught at the Art Institute of Portland.
He is survived by his wife, three children and two sisters.