Mark Gustafson, the acclaimed Portland animator who won an Oscar for co-directing Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, died at age 63 following a heart attack on Thursday. The Oregonian first reported the news.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Mark Gustafson,” ShadowMachine, the Portland animation studio behind Pinocchio, said in a statement. “Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Jennifer, his family and loved ones.”
“I admired Mark Gustafson, even before I met him,” del Toro wrote on Twitter. “A pillar of stop motion animation—a true artist. A compassionate, sensitive and mordantly witty man. A legend—and a friend that inspired and gave hope to all around him.”
Gustafson kicked off his career at Will Vinton Studios. Among the projects he worked on were Claymation Christmas Celebration and Meet the Raisins!, which featured the studio’s iconic rendition of the California Raisins.
Del Toro was not the first Hollywood auteur to seek Gustafson’s expertise. In 2009, Gustafson served as the animation director on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, for which he was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
In addition to his Pinocchio Oscar, Gustafson’s impressive trove of trophies includes a Cannes Bronze Lion, three Emmy Awards, and an Annie Award (for The PJs, another Will Vinton project).
“His contribution to the world of stop-motion animation is legendary,” ShadowMachine said. “Mark’s passing comes as a great shock to the animation community and is a great loss to the entertainment industry at large. He was one of a kind and he will be missed.”