Pete Kozachik, the Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor of The Nightmare Before Christmas and accomplished stop-motion animator and cinematographer on several Tim Burton and Henry Selick projects, died September 12 at age 72. His passing was first reported by NBC News affiliate KVOA in Tucson, where Kozachik’s brother, Steve, is vice mayor and a city councilman. The cause of death was reported as complications from primary progressive aphasia, a type of dementia.
Born March 28, 1951, Kozachik was a graduate of Tucson’s Catalina High School and of the University of Arizona, but began making stop-motion films in his backyard in the sixth grade. His early Hollywood credits included being on the stop-motion animation crew for Joseph Ruben’s Dreamscape (1984), a VFX camera operator with ILM for Howard the Duck (1986), Willow (1988) and Star Trek IV: The Journey Home (1986). He continued to lend his craft to effects-loaded blockbusters like RoboCop 2 & 3 and Ghostbusters II through the ’90s, when he stepped into feature animation with The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).
Kozachik was hired on as VFX supervisor and director of photography on the cult-favorite stop-motion horror-comedy, conceived by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick. For their efforts, the VFX team — also including Eric Leighton, Ariel Velasco-Shaw and Gordon Baker — shared a Best Visual Effects Oscar nomination.
While Jurassic Park went home with the statuette, Kozachik had won over both Burton and Selick, with whom he would go on to collaborate on the fully-animated James and the Giant Peach (1996), Corpse Bride (2005) and Coraline (2009), as well as the live-action hybrid feature Monkeybone (2001), starring Brendan Frasier. As part of the tight-knit stop-motion world, Kozahik also worked with Phil Tippett, and provided additional photography for his magnum opus, Mad God (2021).
While a recommended memorial donation recipient was not named in reports, the National Aphasia Association and related organizations can offer more information on and resources for patients and their loved ones living with PPA.
[Sources: KVOA, Deadline, TheWrap, Unit16]