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In 1958, when Phil Tippett was seven years old, his parents took him to see a movie at a Theater near his home in Berkeley, California.  The film, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, was filled with spectacular special effects and Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation.  Phil remembers the day vividly and asserts that the film changed his life.  He fell in love with the spectacle, and was particularly fascinated with the stopmo aspect of it all.  By the time he was thirteen years old, he had spent
the money he'd earned mowing lawns on an 8mm Keystone camera and was making things move in front of it.  He filmed walking figures made of pipe cleaners and formed stop-motion action in clay, all shot one frame at a time.  He found that when he worked it was so engrossing that he would lose all sense of time and place.  His whole mind was focused on the scene he was filming.  By the time he was seventeen years old, he was being paid minimum wage ($1.50 an hour) to animate for TV commercials.  The hard work and low pay was discouraging, so he put it aside temporarily to attend art school.  After leaving art school, he did some animation for low-budget films and than returned to TV commercials; one of his jobs was to animate the famous Pillsbury Doughboy.  While doing this work he began to develop working relationships with some of those who in five years would become important names in special effects: Jon Berg and Dennis Muren.  Dennis had been working at ILM (Industrial Lights & Magic) as a special effects cameraman, and at his recommendation Phil and Jon were hired to join the Star Wars production team and animate the miniature chess game.  When work began on The Empire Strikes Back, Phil began designing the tauntaun creature and animated all medium and long shots of Luke on the tauntaun.  Phil also worked on the Imperial snow walkers, those giant machines that resemble iron horses, but he gives most of the credit to Jon Berg for animation of the beasts.  Phil Tippett is now the founder of Tippett Studios and has been instrumental in the medium of stop-motion.  Phil's current project is "MAD GOD" it was on kickstarter recently, and collected over $120,000, hopefully Tippett will crank out the project soon (but in stop-motion animation 'soon' can mean any wear from three to ten years.) In fact Phil Tippett was the main inspiration for me to get into the art form, so thank you Phil Tippett.

Information sources: Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects: Thomas G. Smith, Tippett studios.

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