King of Clay Leaves Vinton Studios

Will Vinton, founder and chairman of Vinton Studios 27 years ago, who trademarked the animation term Claymation, a technique he and his studio were famous for, has left the company. "I have been laid off along with a number of staff members," Vinton said April 17, 2003 in an e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by THE OREGONIAN. "I will be leaving the company as an employee right away." He also told employees that he resigned from the Vinton board of directors April 14. He could not be reached for comment.

Well-regarded in the animation industry for his talent and his friendly, warm manner, as well as for his signature handlebar-mustache, Vinton, 55, has been honored at many animation events and festivals with retrospectives and career awards.

Vinton Studios, founded as Will Vinton Studios, has successfully produced feature films, short films and television shows such as THE PJS and GARY AND MIKE, but it is best known for animated spots featuring the California Raisins and computer-generated talking M&Ms. The studio has garnered numerous CLIO awards for its advertising, 11 Emmy awards for its television productions and a host of other awards.

According to THE OREGONIAN, CEO Jeff Farnath, the former Disney feature animation executive who joined the studio in September 2000, is pushing the studio away from animated advertising, a long-time staple of its business, toward feature films instead. The story said other changes and restructuring are in store for the studio in Portland, Oregon. Jeff Auerbach, president of Vinton's entertainment division, joined the in 2001 and has been leading a shift from primetime TV to feature animated films according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

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