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Phil Tippett

Phil Tippett
Tippett (left) with Dennis Muren at a screening of Jurassic Park 3D in 2013.
Born 1951 (age 64–65)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Occupation director, producer

Phil Tippett (born 1951) is an American movie director and a visual effects supervisor and producer, who specializes in creature design and character animation.[1][2]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Stop motion 2.1
    • Computer generated effects 2.2
  • Selected filmography 3
    • Visual effects 3.1
    • Director 3.2
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Tippett was born in Berkeley, California. When he was seven, Phil saw Ray Harryhausen's special effects classic, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and his life's direction was set.[3] Phil completed a bachelor's degree in art at the University of California, Irvine, and went to work at the animation studio Cascade Pictures in Los Angeles.


Stop motion

Phil Tippett is here moving a Monoclonius model, in order to obtain a single frame shot for his go motion animated short Prehistoric Beast. Tippett started his own company, the Tippett Studio, with this short in 1984.

In 1975, while still working at Cascade Pictures, Phil Tippett and Jon Berg were hired by Industrial Light & Magic to create a stop motion miniature chess scene for the first Star Wars film.[4] When Star Wars was being released on theatres, in 1977, Tippett was approached by Joe Dante and Jon Davison to create the fish for Roger Corman's Piranha (released in 1978, although Tippett was not credited in the film).[5] That year, 1978, Phil headed the ILM animation department with Jon Berg for Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (released in 1980). For this film, Tippett co-developed the animation technique called go motion to animate the sinister AT-AT Imperial Walkers and the hybrid alien tauntauns. In 1981 Tippett continued using go motion for Dragonslayer, and received his first Academy Award nomination for the extraordinarily realistic dragon animation. By 1983, Tippett led the famed Lucasfilm creature shop for Return of the Jedi for which he was awarded his first Oscar in 1984.

In 1984 Tippett Studio was born when Phil left ILM and set up a studio in his garage to create a 10-minute experimental film called Prehistoric Beast. The realism of the dinosaurs it depicted and the film's reflection of contemporary scientific theory led to the 1985 CBS animated documentary Dinosaur! Tippett Studio won its first award, an Emmy for Special Visual Effects, for the animated dinosaur sequences.

In 1986 producer Jon Davison hired Tippett to create the animated robot sequences for RoboCop. The ED-209 stop motion model was designed by Craig Davies,[6] who also built the full size models, and animated by Tippett.[6] As one of the setpieces of the movie, the ED-209's look and animated sequences were under the close supervision of director Paul Verhoeven, who sometimes acted out the robot's movements himself. ED 209 was voiced by producer Jon Davison. This project became the start of a long and successful collaboration between Davies and Tippet.

He also modeled the Dark Overlord creatures seen in Howard the Duck.

Computer generated effects

In 1991, Phil was hired to create the dinosaur effects for the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jurassic Park using his go motion technique made famous in the film Dragonslayer. However, Dennis Muren and his CGI team at Industrial Light & Magic created animated test footage of a T-Rex that Spielberg loved.

When Tippett was told that Jurassic Park dinosaurs would be computer-generated, he was shocked, exclaiming "I've just become extinct" (a line Spielberg borrows and uses in the movie).[7] Far from being extinct, Tippett evolved as stop motion animation gave way to Computer-generated imagery or CGI, and because of Phil's background and understanding of animal movement and behavior, Spielberg kept Tippett on to supervise the animation on 50 dinosaur shots for Jurassic Park. Phil supervised both the Tippett Studio and ILM animators, resulting in realistic digital dinosaurs that breathe, flex, twitch and react. His effort earned him a second Oscar. Work done on Jurassic Park resulted in the development by Tippett Studio's Craig Hayes of the DID (Digital Input Device) which was pivotal in the transition from stop motion to computer generated animation in bringing creatures to life. Tippett is also the subject of a humorous internet meme regarding his credit in the film (Dinosaur Supervisor) with the tagline "You had one Job Phil". Mashable interviewed him on April 30, 2014 [8] about this meme where he appeared none too happy.

In 1995, Tippett Studio was hired to create the giant, hostile alien arachnids in Paul Verhoeven's adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's classic science fiction novel Starship Troopers. Tippett marshaled a team of 100 animators, model makers, computer artists and technicians and expanded his all-CGI facility. Because of the intensity of his involvement, and his ability to pre-visualize the hoards of teeming arachnids, Verhoeven has credited Phil with co-directing the large-scale battle sequences for the film. The excellence of this work resulted in Tippett's sixth nomination in 1997 for an Academy Award.

During 1997–98, Phil supervised animation and effects for Universal's Virus and Disney's My Favorite Martian. In 1998–99 he and Craig Hayes co-supervised the visual effects on Jan De Bont's, The Haunting, for DreamWorks. Under Phil and Craig's lead, Tippett Studio created over 100 complex effects shots that expressed the horrific character of the house and the spirits that live there.

In 2000, Phil joined director Ivan Reitman as the visual effects supervisor on the DreamWorks science fiction comedy, Evolution. In just under a year, Tippett Studio designed, realized and animated over 17 extraterrestrial creatures in 175 shots.

Throughout 2001 and into 2002, Tippett changed direction to focus on developing and directing his own movie. Tippett achieved this with Starship Troopers 2, by partnering with his longtime associates, writer Ed Neumeier and producer Jon Davison, with whom he worked on the original Starship Troopers and Robocop.

In 1990, Tippett began work on an independent project entitled Mad God but during the rise of his studio, the project was dropped. in 2010 though, Mad God was brought back up but Tippett did not have the budget for the film. He started a Kickstarter page to make the funds with the needed budget goal of $40,000. On June 16, 2012, the project was successfully funded after exceeding the goal and making $124,156. The first chapter is expected in Dec 2013, with the project ending when Tippett dies (according to the page).[9] The website for the film is online and shows information on the project.[10]

Selected filmography

Visual effects



  1. ^ New York Times
  2. ^ "Phil Tippett Biography". Retrieved October 10, 2005. 
  3. ^ Phil Tippett: Hands-On Effects at the Wayback Machine (archived June 6, 2008),
  4. ^ Phil Tippett bio, in the Tippett Studio official web site
  5. ^ Phil Tippett special effects filmography, IMDB
  6. ^ a b Duncan, Jody (February 1991). "Clash of the Robotitans".  
  7. ^ 2Shay, Don and Duncan, Jody. Ballantine Books 1993 "The Making of Jurassic Park" Softcover page 53, first paragraph
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ 's official public release: Friday, December 16th, 2011MutantLand, on the website Ain't It Cool News

External links

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