Will Vinton, a legend in the development of commercial stop motion animation in the United States, died yesterday at the age of 70. The cause of death was multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, which he had battled for over a decade.

Vinton started making clay animation films in the 1970s, and won the Academy Award for his 1974 film Closed Mondays, that he co-directed with Bob Gardiner. He established Will Vinton Productions Portland, Oregon in the late 1970s.  The studio employed and trained hundreds of stop motion artists throughout the 1980s and ’90s.  In 2002, the studio reformed as Laika under the direction of Travis Knight, the four-time Oscar-nominated studio responsible for films like Coraline, The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings.

Click here to learn more about Will Vinton’s extraordinary career.