Ten years ago, Will Vinton was fired from his own animation company by Phil Knight. That studio would go on to become Laika. Vinton has spent a decade dabbling in graphic novels, other animated film projects and plastics. Now, the Academy Award-winning animator is planning a Broadway musical.

Last week, Vinton and songwriter David Pomeranz launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $85,000 for their new musical, The Kiss, a battle-of-the-sexes riff on The Frog Prince. It’s a bold new bid for Vinton, the Claymation wizard behind the California Raisins, the talking M&Ms and the Domino’s Pizza Noid, who’s juggled several projects since being forced out of Will Vinton Studios in 2003. Those endeavors have ranged from a series of graphic novels to an abandoned plastics company called Insulastics, but The Kiss finds Vinton in new territory. The project started out as an animated movie, but he and Pomeranz eventually decided it was better suited for the stage.

“In the animation world, the stuff we were thinking about is more commonplace,” Vinton tells WW. “There’s nothing special about magic and transformations. On the stage, it’s going to be absolutely stunning. It’s going to be half-magic show. We want to amp up the special effects to a new level.”

According to Vinton, that means lots of makeup, prosthetics and elaborate costumes. Audiences will have their first chance to glimpse the new show at the end of March, when an initial showing—“a glorified workshop production,” Vinton says—will be held at Lake Oswego’s Lakewood Center for the Arts. (A $125 contribution to the Kickstarter campaign will get you a single ticket.) He hopes to have the show on Broadway by 2016.


Vinton, a lifelong Oregonian who grew up in McMinnville, says his parents were fans of musical theater, and his older sisters often performed on the stage. “In animation, my sense of humor and timing comes from some of those early experiences in musical comedy,” he says. “Now it feels like I’m going back to something I know, but I’m bringing all the tools of animation I have.”

In developing The Kiss—which Vinton describes as buoyant and hummable, distancing it from contemporary musicals by the likes of Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber—the 66-year-old been surprised by the level of support he’s received. “I’ve actually found it to be a more artist-friendly process than dealing with movies and television,” Vinton says. “Those industries are dominated by a few of the studios, and there’s not much respect for artistry. We’ve found the theater world to be more open, especially to independent producers and independent ideas.”

But that support has only gone so far, and Vinton says he and Pomeranz have stretched their ability to self-finance to the limit. That’s where Kickstarter comes in. As of this afternoon, they’d raised $8,440 toward their $85,000 goal. The campaign ends Monday, Feb. 17.