Legendary Portland Animator Will Vinton Has Died

The clay animation pioneer put Portland on the map as an animation hotspot.

Oregon-born clay animation pioneer Will Vinton died this morning after battling multiple myeloma for over a decade. Vinton's children announced his death on the filmmaker's Facebook page. He was 70 years old.

Vinton was born in McMinnville in 1947 and began creating films in Portland in the 70s. Within the decade, Vinton put Portland on the map as a hotspot for innovative animation. His 1974 short, Closed Mondays, which he co-created with Bob Gardiner, was the first Portland-made film to win an Oscar.

Closed Mondays revealed a sense of imagination, wonder and a good-humored worldview that characterized the rest of Vinton's career.

The Adventures of Mark Twain, from 1985, was the first full-length film made with his trademarked claymation technique, and remains a stop motion classic. His studio kickstarted the careers of influential animators like Joan Gratz and Craig Bartlett, and created iconic imagery for national ad campaigns like the California Raisins and M&M's computer animated characters.

In 2005, Phil Knight retooled Will Vinton Studios into the now famous Laika Studios.

Vinton's family touched on his legacy in their Facebook post:

Vinton's family also announced a celebration of Vinton's life at No Vacancy on Sunday, Oct. 21. You can read the whole post here.