My main inspiration came from Ray Harryhausen. His films and creatures gave me a picture of fantasy that was light years beyond what other films attempted. I had earnestly hoped to one day meet him; little did I know we would become friends. An additional animation influence was watching the many behind-the-scenes features on the Walt Disney show in the '50s.
In 1962, Famous Monsters magazine published a three-part article on Ray, and I started crude attempts to learn stop-motion animation. Then, in 1965, one year out of high school, I packed up my 8mm stop-motion animated films, and went down to see The Animators. They weren't hiring, but apparently were impressed, as they hired me 3 months later.
I started as an animation cameraman, and after a few years, took over the traditional animation assignments, as well as any stop-motion animation projects. My first Feature Film work was shooting the End Sequence for the original classic, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I became a partner, and spent 14 years there. Then I opened my own company, Anivision. It afforded me the opportunity to focus on character animation. Around that time, a young art student came in for an interview and I saw his understanding of anatomy and dynamic posing and I hired him as my animation assistant. Ron Frenz would go on to create amazing comic work on Spiderman and many other titles. I directed and animated many commercials and a worked on some feature films, such as CREEPSHOW, CREEPSHOW 2, and EVIL DEAD 2.
As computer animation evolved, I reluctantly added it, but found it was an exciting challenge. But more importantly, it was just another medium to bring characters to life. It was a real kick to work with Doug Beswick and Everett Burrell on one of the Starship Troopers Chronicles shows, as well as an episode of Xena. Another young artist named Mike Trcic came in one day with some amazing samples of animation puppets as well as actual animation. He joined our little company on several jobs, and later went on to an amazing career culminating with his sculpt of the TRex for Jurassic Park. Mike was also the one who recommended me to Sam Raimi for Evil Dead 2.
It has been an interesting journey which allowed me bring characters to life through drawings, to design and build armatures, sculpt, mold, cast puppet characters to animate, and create various special effects. It demanded that I improve my drawing and animation abilities. And it also demanded that I learn a whole new technology (which changes constantly). In addition, it led to a teaching career of 25 years, and then on to creating resin kits and other freelance assignments as well.
And it has been a very special thrill that Ray Harryhausen was so kind in maintaining a long distance relationship which I have treasured. And it has been so valuable to me personally to have enjoyed the friendship and inspiration of Jim Danforth, David Allen, Ernie Farino, Mike Gornick, Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, Mike Trcic, Jim Aupperle, and countless others who have inspired me, such as Frank Frazetta, William Stout, Mark Schultz, Tony Cipriano, Tony McVey, Alex Raymond, Roy Krenkel, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Joe Laudati, Ron Frenz, Daniel Horne, and so many more. Thanks everyone!
In 2009, I received my Masters degree. My work in that program was to focus on my original mentor, Ray Harryhausen. I devised a number of drawing and model building projects which I hoped would honor the quality and inspiration that Ray brought to millions. Thanks, Ray!
I continued staying active in the field while teaching. In 2015, in conjunction with Mike Schwab, I animated 3 demo episodes for FOX animation for a possible new series. In 2017, I resigned my teaching position after 25 years at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where I also developed a great deal of the animation curriculum. I also taught life drawing, sculpting, storyboarding, etc.
And I have been attending sci-fi and fantasy cons again as a guest for my work in this amazing field. Meeting fans who love your work is always very special, and great times as a guest at Chiller, Famous Monsters, CinemaWasteland, Saturday Nightmares, MonsterBash, Living Dead Festival, and more. It's also very special when Mike Gornick and I are together again. Here's a shot of George Romero, Mike Gornick, and myself..."the Pittsburgh Connection", as Mike commented.
Through my friendship and association with Ernie Farino, I had the opportunity to work on a real dream project. He was going to design and publish Mike Hankin's RAY HARRYHAUSEN: MASTER OF THE MAJICKS ( www.archive-editions.com ). This evolved into a large-format, three volume extravaganza which stands as the definitive source on Ray Harryhausen and his amazing career. I contributed suggestions, proofreading, stills from my personal collection, and I scanned thousands of images. It was truly a work of love by all involved, and a way to pay tribute to Ray. After Ray left us, I was also blessed to be able to write a tribute piece on Ray for Famous Monsters magazine, coming full circle.
Currently, I have been sculpting and creating resin kits for sale,as well as pursuing some other interesting artistic opportunities. I have begun work with Greg Nicotero, creating animation for his new CREEPSHOW TV series.