New Film Shows the Rise and Fall of Will Vinton’s Claymation Dream

Ulises Duenas


Will Vinton was a man who dreamt big. A pioneer in claymation, he sought to be the next Walt Disney with his own entertainment empire, and even though he got close, he never quite made it.


Claydream is a documentary that shows Vinton’s rise and fall, from his early success to being ousted from his own studio. It’s an interesting story that shows the greed of corporations and how creative minds can fall victim to the beast of show business. 


Will Vinton had an interest in filmmaking from an early age and he made a short film while in college with his close friend Bob Gardiner. Closed Mondays was made using claymation and the striking, new form of stop-motion animation garnered enough attention to win an Oscar in 1975.



However, Vinton and Gardiner had a falling-out soon after and both went on to pursue ventures in animation on their own. The documentary does a good job of telling the story's twists and turns without foreshadowing too much. Seeing the early examples of claymation and how it was made is also a nice touch, and it helps the viewer appreciate the art form.


Vinton caught his next big break when his production studio started making the “California Raisins” commercials, which became a pop-culture phenomenon in the 1980s. The problem is that Vinton Studios never expected the commercials to take off and didn’t have a share of the merchandising. So while the California Raisin Advisory was raking almost half a billion in merchandise sales, Vinton Studios didn’t see a dime of it. It’s around that part of the film that you start to feel bad for Vinton and his team. They started out as a small group of creatives who wanted to express their ideas through one of the most unique forms of art, and instead they were taken advantage of. 


As time went on, Vinton Studios struggled more and more and by the 1990s, the art of claymation went from the cool new thing to being oversaturated. Vinton’s dream of becoming the Walt Disney of claymation might have made him blind to the fact that he was missing a crown jewel character to make it all happen. When the viewer’s sympathy starts to fade, you learn that Vinton never lost his artist’s perspective and his biggest mistake was being too naive in the world of business. 



Vinton’s story becomes heartbreaking towards the end of the movie. While he had the creative spark and passion to become a huge name, his lack of business sense and dedication to keeping Vinton Studios employees on board cut his dream short.


Claydream tells an interesting story that adds a lot of context to what was happening in pop culture from the 80s to as recent as the 2010s. The claymation shown throughout the film is eye-catching, and the various interviews do a great job of showing you who Will Vinton was.


Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a senior writer at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


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