We were stunned and saddened to learn of the untimely passing of visual effects legend Stan Winston. The four-time Oscar-winning make-up and animatronics wizard behind such blockbusters as the Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Predator, Aliens and the Jurassic Park trilogy died at his home in Malibu, Calif. on Sunday after a prolonged battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell. Winston, 62, was at the top of his game at the time of his death. His shop recently completed effects work for Paramount’s massive summer hits Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Winston completed a three-year makeup apprenticeship program at Walt Disney Studios in 1972 and established Stan Winston Studio in the garage of the small house in Northridge he shared with wife Karen, son Matthew and daughter Debbie. He landed his first Academy Award nomination in 1981 for the quirky Andy Kaufman vehicle Heartbeeps, and received another nine nominations over the next 20 years. His four wins came from the benchmark productions Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park. He was honored with a star on Hollywood ‘s Walk of Fame in 2001.
Even as computer-generated imagery began to dominate the vfx biz, Winston stayed relevant by creating physical elements that seamlessly integrated on screen with their CG counterparts. A prime example can be seen in Jurassic Park III, which features his animatronic velociraptors sharing screen time with completely animated brethren. Today, there are few shops that still work with rubber and servo motors. One is Chiodo Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., which is currently producing stop-motion animation with Doug TenNapel (Catscratch) for an episode of Comedy Central’s The Sarah Silverman Program. Brothers Stephen, Edward and Charlie Chiodo had this to say about Winston:
“We are so sad to hear of Stan’s passing. He was a trailblazer during the re-inventing of special effects in the last 30 years and we admired all his fantatastic creations. Stan stood out as a true artist in the technical world of Hollywood effects.”
In 2003, Winston expanded his repertoire to include CG animation and effects with the formation of SW Digital, which also served as his own production banner. At the time of his death, he was in the process of morphing his physical makeup and effects studio into the new Winston Effects Group with veteran effects supervisors John Rosengrant, Shane Mahan, Alan Scott and Lindsay Macgowan as partners and co-owners. Projects in the works at San Winston Studio include Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, the sequel Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, a big-screen take on G.I. Joe and James Cameron’s highly anticipated 3-D spectacle, Avatar.
Winston’s rise to success is chronicled in the recently released book The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winton Studio. The richly illustrated Titan Books title explores how he went from an aspiring actor and fledgling make-up artist to become a go-to guy for major Hollywood studios looking to give audiences unrivaled thrills. Writer Jody Duncan worked closely with the Winston Studios team to uncover candid accounts of technical troubles, break-through experiments, frayed tempers, long nights and special effects triumphs. For more information, and to view sample spreads from the book, go to www.thewinstoneffect.com.