I have learned, not without some emotion, the disappearance two days sooner, on Sunday the 15th june 2008, of Stan WINSTON, one of the shinest names in special effects, suffering since seven years of a form of bones' cancer.
Quiet father of a family, Stan WINSTON was also one of the most talentful and innovative artist. He lernt the makeup art in Disney's studios, and soon created his own shop. After to have worked for television, being able to do the best with a very modest budget ( the MANIMAL's transformations ), he became a great make-up artist in movies area in the same time than Rick BAKER ( AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, GORILLAS IN THE MIST ), and others like Rob BOTTIN ( THE HOWLING, TOTAL RECALL ), a generation of which the veteran of make-up practice Dick SMITH greets the inventivity. Stan WINSTON could be rather generous to demand for his work the lowest part in THE THING's titles, because he wouldn't take away from Rob BOTTIN, the main creator of the special effects of this masterpiece, too busy to achieve the all tricks needed with his crew.
Stan WINSTON could use very simple and ingenious ways to do, like the puppeteer Jim HENSON, MUPPETT SHOW's creator died very precocely ( who worked with some acrobats on a top of four stilts to play the stunning Landstriders in THE DARK CRYSTAL ), in order to hide the human shape : THE THING's hairless dog was a simple hand puppet, the big drones of INVADERS FROM MARS's remake were animated by a dwarf tied in the opposite on a tall man's shoulders, and ALIENS' Queen was moved by a puppeteer hang in the hair, holding sticks with paws on their edge. Nowdays, these very clever tricks are judged as primitive effects by the proselyts of the new technologies, but they are still among the best and most convincing special effects, because human animators did move them and not a computerizing process.
Like the british Christopher TUCKER ( QUEST OF FIRE and THE ELEPHANT MAN makeups ), who dreamed at first to be an opera singer, Stan WINSTON though makeup artwork would be only a first step before to become an actor, which never came. But his taste for characters and acting was a motivation to do his own movie, a little budget called PUMPINKHEAD.
Unlike other great makeup artists as Rob BOTTIN and Chris WALAS ( THE FLY ), who accepted to do more conventional work ( as hurts in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE for the previous one for example ), because special effects became over-helmed by the computer generated pictures – although less realistic – Stan WINSTON followed his way during years without use CGI monsters, but was still interested to take the best of new technical opportunities, with his animatronics : the dominant media say by ideological fascination for computer animation than JURASSIC PARK's Dinosaurs were virtual ones, but the more impressive or terrific beasts were the full-scale animals with complexe mechanics indeed made by the Winston studios ( the ill Triceratops with its painfull breath and the baby Tyrannosaurus rex of the sequel, animated from below the desk, are so realistic than any Reptiles seen in authentic documentaries ). Stan Winston had rather recently produced five B-movies, to propose some films without disappointing CGI effects like video-games' ones and to do tribute to real monsters movies of the fifties, that were able to create dream even with cheap tricks.
Like the great composer Jerry GOLDSMITH, Stan WINSTON declined to do distinction between «respectable» works and commercial ones, because he argued each project could bring interest if some quality included ( and it's a true fact than even the Quattrocento's paintings were often just some orders by important people to have nicest portrait to serve their own glory of their living ). Cinema, a modern art, brings new Michael-Angelo and others RODIN, and even if the elites don't like artworks of imagination, a perfectionnist like Stan WINSTON was a real inheritor of the brightest artists from the past trying to give feeling of life to their creations.
Unlike Jerry GOLDSMITH, too often forgotten, particularly in France when he disappeared ( but now there is many tributes on You tube and even a french site to honour the maestro ), Stan WINSTON had the satisfaction to obtain a great consecration by the professionnal area, with several Oscars received and with his inscription on the Hollywwood boulevard's Hall of fame.
Stan WINSTON made to dream all people wishing to do a creative job, but in the same time, he put so high the standards of technical achievement than someones who hoped to follow his example could have become a bit discouraged by the perpspective to compete with his creations. Even if the artisanal way was lost when success changed his little studio to a real enterprise, the Winston studios gave opportunities to young makeup artists to prove their quality and be hired on big movies, before to do their own creations, like Alec GILLIS and Tom WOODRUFF ( ALIEN IV, TREMORS).
Few years after Jerry GOLDSMITH, who gave a soul to so many movies, another giant of the movies universe left the scene victim of cancer. It's really a kind of cinema that vanishes with them.
How far seem the eighties, now than two of the greatest names of the imagination world of these years are gone. They have probably not changed the world, but they gave to lot of ours the chance to cope with it more easily. People keeping some ability to dream since the childhood know that they owe to them for it and are probably not ready to forgot them.
( original french text edited the 17th june 2008 )