Vinton Leaves Vinton

Will Vinton, chair and founder of award-wining claymation studio Vinton Studios, has been laid off after 27 years with the company. The move came less than six months after Nike co-founder Phil Knight was tapped as a majority shareholder and board member of the animation shop.

Vinton, who is often regarded as one of the pioneers of claymation, founded the Portland, Oregon-based studio, stepped down as a board member early last week. Over the years, his studio was behind such pop culture and animated favorites as The California Raisins, The Mr. Resistor collection, The PJs and most recently, Fox’s Gary and Mike series. The company has a core staff of 75 in Portland, New York and Los Angeles.

According to various trade publications, the new executive staff, head by president and CEO Jeff Farnath (who joined the company in Feb. 2001 from Walt Disney Feature Animation), is hoping to make the leap to feature animation in the near future. Jeff Auerbach is the Vinton Studios’ president of the entertainment division, while Paul Golden heads up the company’s ad division. Auerbach told The Hollywood Reporter, that his company is “shifting from primetime TV to feature animated films” with a particular interest in family-friendly entertainment and computer-animated projects. He also said Vinton Studios recently signed a deal with a major studio, without disclosing any further details.

“It has been one amazing 27-year run,” wrote Vinton in an e-mail to The Reporter. “And I have no (well, few!) regrets!”