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Mark Gustafson (1959-2024)

The animation world has been shaken with some very sad news, with the announcement of the death of Mark Gustafson. Best known as the co-director of the Oscar-winning Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, he was among the world's leading figures in stop-motion animation. He was 64.

Born in Portland, Oregon he got his start in animation at Will Vinton Studios at the age of 20. There he worked on projects such as The Adventures Of Mark Twain, Return To Oz, Claymation Christmas Celebration and the Emmy-nominated Meet The Raisins : The Story Of The California Raisins.

Gustafson also worked on independent shorts such as 1994's Mr Resistor, for which he was nominated for an Annie Award, Joe Blow, and Bride Of Resistor. He also directed episodes of the stop-motion sitcom The PJs. Prior to Pinocchio, his highest-profile position was probably as the Animation Director on Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr Fox.

The animation community has been sharing their memories of Mark, not least his collaborator Guillermo del Toro. "I admired Mark Gustafson, even before I met him", del Toro said via Twitter. " A pillar of stop motion animation- a true artist.  A compassionate, sensitive and mordantly witty man.  A Legend- and a friend that inspired and gave hope to all around him.  He passed away yesterday. Today we honour and miss him."

"He leaves behind a Titanic legacy of animation that goes back to the very origins of Claymation and that shaped the career and craft of countless animators.  He leaves friends and colleagues and a historic filmography.  Prayers and thoughts go to his beloved wife,  Jennifer. They say- "Never meet your heroes..." I disagree.  You cannot be disappointed by someone being human... We all are. Burning the midnight oil during postproduction, or doing daily animation turnovers via Zoom during COVID or being trapped in an elevator in a Cinema in London.."

"I am as glad to have met Mark, the human as I was honored to have met the artist.  As I said, I admired him before I met him.  I loved having had the chance to share time and space with him during the highs and the lows.  Always and forever."

Vanessa Harryhausen of the Harryhausen Foundation said "What an extremely talented gentleman, and such a shockingly sad loss. We so loved Mark’s enthusiastic video message from last year, where he spoke so fondly about how much Dad’s work had meant to him. His work will always be remembered. Our love and thoughts are with his family at this sad time."

Our thoughts are with Mark's family and friends at this difficult time.