I finally experienced my first SIGGRAPH conference. I have always heard about SIGGRAPH, and while at DreamWorks Animation I would often have artists requesting time off so they could attend the conference. While I had a pretty good idea about what it was I had never gone until this year.
SIGGRAPH is short for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques. It is an annual conference on computer graphics which you can imagine is pretty important for computer animation.
Being someone that has always wanted to start their own animation company I have always had a respect for those entrepreneurs that have already done it. There is of course Walt Disney, but there is also the less known people such as Will Vinton. I learned about Will and his studio a few months ago, and was surprised I never heard of him before. Starting your own company there are so many decisions that you have to make on a daily basis, and any of those decisions could be the one that causes your company to fail. Will made a wrong decisions that cost him his studio. Will Vinton is credited with coming up with the term “Claymation”, and was even trademarked by him. He won an Oscar, and several Emmy Awards for the work that his studio did. Even if you don’t know him you might know his work. His company Will Vinton Studios made many classic claymation feature films, TV series, TV specials, and short films. His commercial work is what I remember the most, and it includes the California Raisins, the Domino’s Pizza Noid, and the M&M’s Red, Yellow, and Green characters. Will’s company was doing really well, and taking on many more projects. Many felt his studio was growing to fast, and that is how he lost control of it. By the end of the 1990’s the studio was seeking funds for more feature films. One of the key investors was Phil Knight, the owner of the shoe company Nike, Inc.. Part of the deal for Knight to invest more was that he would require a larger stake in the company. He also got his son Travis a job at the company as an animator. Travis previously had a failed career as a rapper under the name Chilly Tee. You might be thinking I’m getting off subject, but this is where things went wrong. In 2002, Will Vinton ended up losing control of Vinton Studios when Phil Knight became the majority shareholder in the company. Eventually they decided that Will was no longer needed, and he was fired from the company he started. Phil Knight ended up putting his son Travis in charge of the company, and the company was later renamed to Laika. You may know Laika for their feature films Coraline, & ParaNorman. This story sounds very similar to the story of Steve Jobs with Apple computers, but the difference is Steve was able to come back and retake over his company. When I read about this a couple of months ago there was no happy return for Mr. Vinton, but I read an article this morning about how he is trying to make a comeback. His new company Vinton Entertainment announced a co-production deal with Gnosis Moving Pictures for a series of animated features directed by Vinton. You can learn more about these projects check out this article, but this is not the focus of my post.