Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘Claydream’ is an inspiring and nuanced documentary.


A modern-day Walt Disney, Will Vinton picked up a ball of clay and saw a world of potential. Known as the “Father of Claymation,” Vinton revolutionized the animation business during the 80s and 90s. But after 30 years of being the unheralded king of clay, Will Vinton’s carefully sculpted American dream came crumbling down.

The documentary Claydream is about the life and legacy of an artist with whom a great deal of GenXers and Millenials are familiar, even if we didn’t know it. Born in 1980, I grew up in front of Saturday morning cartoons and wildly colorful commercials. Will Vinton is responsible for some of my most vivid memories as a child and most definitely for my infatuation with claymation. Because of Claydream, I have a name and face to thank.

Claydream mixes home videos and interviews alongside clips and lastly court depositions. This story is so wild. Vinton created, quite literally, a cinematic movement by experimenting, pushing claymation beyond its original representation. In ’85, The Adventures of Mark Twain made me interested in Twain’s printed stories. But it appears I was the exception. I was also a huge fan of Labyrinth. These are sophisticated, darker, and more complex storylines for a child to ingest. I’m so thankful that Will didn’t get discouraged by its poor reception. Then we may not have had gems like The California Raisins or The Noid.

But Will doesn’t stop there. When Claymation falls out of style, Will Vinton Studios shift their creativity once again. Conflict arises with another entrepreneur. Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, is a villain. There is no other way to look at it. When you witness the behavior from the horse’s mouth, your jaw will drop. It’s unapologetic nepotism. I’m angry for Will Vinton Studios, even as Vinton himself showed little to no outward emotion. Thus proving he’s a better person than I will ever be.

Claydream deserves to be watched on the largest screen possible. The artistry should be out on a pedestal, forever. It’s a story of one man’s dream realized and of one man’s dream stolen. Will Vinton is responsible for inspiring innumerable future creatives. His graciousness is to be emulated. What a brilliant human being.

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.

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