ClayDream @ Tribeca

It is the last day of the Tribeca festival. Time has flown but here is a review of a feature film to keep things going.

Will Vinton. Name ring any bells? Probably not unless you are a big fan of claymation films. This documentary, directed and written by Marq Evans (The Glamor & the Squalor), tries to rectify that. Will Vinton amongst his community is thought of as the Walt Disney of clay. Meaning he could make magic out of a ball of clay. A man with imagination to burn who used it to open up all kinds of worlds in his films.

The tragedy held within this story is that after building an enviable 30 year career in film it all was brought down. Not by the man himself or his films but by an investor, Phil Knight of Nike fame. The Father of Claymation, as he was known, saw his reputation suffer.

During the 1980s and 90s, Will Vinton revolutionized claymation films. His story was seen as a great example of chasing and achieving the American Dream. The studio he founded, Will Vinton Studios, was rewarded with Emmy and Oscar awards. Recognition from his peers.

The film is, as many of this type, built upon interviews with the man himself and those he worked with over the years along with clips from Vinton’s films. We see very early in it all how passionate the man was for the art of filmmaking. Learning continues with the revealing that he was the creative mind behind the California Raisins, The M&M characters and The Noid from Domino’s Pizza. Worked on short films, commercials and specials. Like Disney he even had plans for an amusement park. Was so respected during the 80s and 90s that he counted the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, amongst his friends.

This is a story of the well known battle between art and money. As if all too often the case, when art becomes profitable people come in to try to make their own money off of it. This is the story here. Sadly Vinton eventually lost control of his own studio. Knight was brought in as an investor and in a mere few years decisions led to this ending. Legal battles happened in the courts but to no avail for Vinton.

When director Evans approached the man about telling his story Vinton was initially hesitant. It took months of convincing then the filmmaker agreed. Sadly, though he collaborated with Evans on the film, Will Vinton died in 2018 so never saw the finished product of this film.

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