Stan Winston, 1946 – 2008

By Phil Plait | June 16, 2008 2:12 pm

Legendary — legendary — special effects makeup guy Stan Winston has died.

Major bummer. He did the effects for the greatest horror/thriller movie of all time, "The Thing". In a skeptical turn, he was misused in the Fox TV show "Alien Autopsy", saying he didn’t know how they could have faked it. However, later it came out that his real opinion was "Do I think it’s a hoax? Absolutely." My kinda guy.

He won Oscars for "Terminator 2", "Aliens", and "Jurassic Park". Even if you don’t know his name or his face, you know his work — which is extensive and amazing. He was one of the greatest entertainers behind the camera of all time.

Tip of the doffed latex mask to Ain’t It Cool News.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: SciFi

Comments (36)

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  1. Daniels webblogg » Stan Winston 1946-2008 | June 18, 2008
  1. MattGS

    Rest in peace, Stan Winston. You were a true artist.

  2. You were a real dickhead, Stan, but an accomplished artist who inspired many of us to bust our butts to break into the VFX biz. Thanks for the memories.

  3. Are we sure it’s not just FX?

  4. Rare blood cancer…hard to fake

  5. Chris Owen

    Damn. Being only young, I grew up watching movies like Jurassic Park. T.Rex is still one of my favourite movie monsters (even after they killed him off in JP3).

    Best of wishes to his family and friends.

  6. Joe Meils

    The man was a major innovator. He, along with Rick Baker and Rob Bottin (who was responsible for the bulk of “The Thing”… Stan subcontracted the kennel dog-thing sequence.) pretty much pushed makeup and animatronics to it’s current state of sophistication.

    Above and beyond that, the guy built an effects studio that allowed scores of up and comers a chance to shine.

    My favorite of Stans work? No, not the dinos from the Jurrassic Park films… No, not Pumpkinhead… No, not the Terminator exoskeletons…

    … the Thermians, from “Galaxy Quest.” Perhaps some of the most believeable non-humanoid aliens to be seen in the movies, ever! As my wife calls them, “cuddly Culthulus.” LOL I still can’t watch the “transporter scene” without marvelling at them… and laughing my butt off.

  7. Thomas Siefert

    I know his name and face.
    Once I had a meeting with an old client of our company that was a spitting image of Stan Winston. I was new in the branch and hadn’t met him before and I didn’t catch his name, probably because he looked so much like Winston. When I got back to the office I Googled a photo of Stan Winston and asked one of the other guys who he was and got the name of our client that way for my report. :-)

  8. Robbie

    This blows. I was just recommending The Thing to all kinds of people I know today.

    His team did the creature design and special effects for Predator, one of my favorite movies.

  9. With that body of work, it was natural to think he must have been about 95 years old. What a loss to film culture.

    In Jurassic Park, all the hype was about the CGI dinos, but a lot of those beautiful creatures were live on set creations of Stan Winston.

  10. ty

    Really sad, RIP.

  11. I know his name and his face… from my childhood Jurassic Park obsession.

    RIP

  12. damn, why do I only keep learning about great people like him after they die?

  13. If you asked me this morning how Stan Winston moving on to the next sound stage would effect me, I would have been fairly neutral. Boy, would I have been wrong.

    I grew up reading. The first real book I read was when my brother handed me Dune somewhere near the age of 15. From there I moved onto Clarke. The news of his passing affected me. Not like this.

    This took my breath away. Does.

    The number of movies he has touched…

    He brought to life the rest of the iceberg our imaginations conjured.

    No one will ever fill your shoes Stan.

  14. One more thought…

    Watch The Thing. Do it now.

    When you are done, look at the production date.

    1982

  15. Edward

    Did he work on the original “Thing”, made in the ’50s, or was it the
    remake made recently.

  16. John

    Edward,

    The 1982 remake, not the original, according to IMDB.

  17. Winston’s protoge, Rob Botin, was the genius behind the creature effects in that film.

  18. RMPink

    He worked on the wookie family costumes from The Star Wars Holiday Special?! That is amazing.

  19. RIP Stan. You were the last of a dieing breed. We loved you.

  20. Simon

    Luckily Richard Taylor is around to carry the torch. That Lucas guy is no slouch come to think of it. I’ll always remember seeing the astroid belt sequence from Star Wars when I was 11 or so…Those sounds….Those manouvers…I was dazed walking out of the cinema into the light of day.

  21. Ray Martin

    Sad indeed. He left behind the legacy of an enormous and impressive body of work – one that will be appreciated for a long time. He was a pioneer and, like Ray Harryhausen before him, an innovator of processes that others will continue to use and develop. He will be missed.

  22. Um, Brando, do you know something we don’t know?
    :perplexed:

    My daughter Victoria & I met Stan at the Bayly Art Museum at UVa 8 or so years ago when he gave a talk about special effects (in association with the Virginia Film Festival). There were only about 25 of us there at the talk. Stan was there with a full-sized velociraptor model, Terminator head and other goodies. Unforgettable! Vick was 6 years old or so at the time.

    Great guy, he’ll be missed!
    Rich in Charlottesville

  23. Ronn Blankenship

    One of the local stations showed “Jurassic Park” yesterday, followed by “The Making of . . . ” featuring him . . .

  24. Mek

    He did the effects for The Thing too? I didn’t know that, and it’s one of my favorite movies. Rest in peace Stan.

  25. Gareth

    “Did he work on the original “Thing”, made in the ’50s, or was it the
    remake made recently.”

    He’d have had to be a bit of a child prodigy with the special effects to work on the 1951 film, as he’d have only been around 5 years old then…

  26. Grand Lunar

    Stan was a great artist in his field.

    I forgot he did “The Thing” until a few days ago, I rewatched the “Making of” feature on my DVD.

    I hope his team can carry on the great work that he managed.
    He really knew his business.

  27. Darth Robo

    Master of animatronics, he was. Have to agree with Joe Meils that his work on Galaxy Quest was pretty impressive (although I thought the film could have been better). The lip-synch on the bad guys in that one were spot-on. Makes me wonder why Lucas didn’t hire him for the new Star Wars films, because while the rest of the effects were great, the animatronics were a bit of a let-down. One of my favourite FX dudes, Stan.

    RIP
    :(

  28. sirjonsnow

    Richard, I think Brando meant Rob Botin worked on the *original* Thing, not that he worked on the ’82 (and IMO better) remake

  29. mitrax

    guys… i don’t mean to be rude but is it that hard to do a google search instead of making random assumptions?

    Edward > The original movie, ‘Thing from another world’ was made in 1951, Stan Winston was born in 1946 (that’s in the title of this post by the way) and was 5 years old at the time…

    sirjonsnow> Rob Bottin was born in 1959 so he didn’t work on the original movie either…!

    richard > a quick search on google confirms what Brando said … Rob Bottin was indeed in the head of the FX team for ‘The thing’ (see http://www.outpost31.com/movie/specialfx.html) , Winston only worked on a part of the dog scene, so it’s inaccurate to credit him as the maker of the FX for the whole movie (he appears under ‘additional make-up effects’ on imdb for the movie, see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084787/fullcredits#cast)

  30. Irishman

    If you read carefully you will find that is what Joe Meils said way up at the top. Bottin was responsible for the bulk of “The Thing”, with Winston doing the dog-kennel part.

  31. Beelzebud

    If you’ve seen The Thing you know it is a movie with many special effects.

    Rob Bottin designed and built a bulk of what you see in that film. Stan Winton and crew were called in to help Bottin with the massive workload which was just too much for 1 man to oversee.

    Winton’s contribution to the movie is the, already mentioned, kennel scene.

    If you buy the DVD of The Thing there is an amazing 2 hour long documentary about the making of the film, and has a great interview with Stan Winston, and even he says something like “I don’t want to take any thing away from Rob, this is HIS movie!”

  32. L Ron Hubbub

    Is he really dead? I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure…

  33. Kol

    I have two kids under the age of twelve who know his name and face. When I broke the news to them, they both reacted as if the magical world of imagination had ceased to exist.

    So, I loaded up his filmography on IMDB so they could get a sense of the movies they’ve seen but didn’t know he was involved with.

    With each one that they recognized, they would issue a screech. Once they saw JP IV, I had to stop and send them out of the room lest my ears begin to bleed.

    My youngest recently received the Jurassic Park box set for his birthday and both children have thoroughly enjoyed the “making of” features so Stan is coincidentally fresh in their minds. Their grief is genuine as is their gratitude.

    To all of us who are feeling the loss, my sincerest condolences and appreciation not only to those close to Stan but also to those who stand in awe of the art he produced.

    Generations of artists are inspired by his work. That is one magnificent legacy.

    Kol

  34. sirjonsnow:
    This is the quote of Brando’s that I was referring to:
    “You were a real dickhead, Stan…”
    Was he hard to work for? A martinette? A PITA/perfectionist? Did he do some sort of, uh, prosthetic Priapus headwear? :snicker:

    I’m not at all confused about which film version of “The Thing” he worked on, really. Edward asked a question about that and it was answered quickly by John :lol:
    Rich

  35. Sanity says: “damn, why do I only keep learning about great people like him after they die?”

    Because most of the real talent in making a movie is behind the camera and known only to fans. The actors they call “talent” are usually a joke and suitable only as fodder for tabloids and they disintegrate in public.

    At least you only have to mourn as a spectator. Consider my situation the past six years I’ve been working on “The Saucer Fleet.” I started writing it in 2002 and the subjects have been shuffling off this mortal coil at a regular pace. Going in chapter order, here’s who’s left us:

    The Day the Earth Stood Still – Robert Wise (director)

    War of the Worlds – Al Nozaki (art director, designer of the war machines) and Les Tremayne (General Mann).

    This Island Earth – Joseph Newman (director)

    Forbidden Planet – Bebe Barron (music, well, “electronic tonalities”) and Les Tremayne again (opening narration).

    Lost in Space – Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith)

    Disneyland Flying Saucer Ride – John Hench, project manager.

    At least Ray Harryhausen (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers) is still with us, as is Roy Thinnes (The Invaders). Hope I can get this out before any more of them depart.

    - Jack

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