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Phil Tippett

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Phil Tippett
Tippett at a screening of Jurassic Park 3D in 2013
Born (1951-09-27) September 27, 1951 (age 72)
Occupation(s)Director, producer, supervisor

Phil Tippett (born September 27, 1951) is an American film director and visual effects supervisor and producer, who specializes in creature design, stop-motion and computerized character animation.[1][2] Over his career, he has assisted ILM and DreamWorks, and in 1984 formed his own company, Tippett Studio.

His work has appeared in movies such as the original Star Wars trilogy, Jurassic Park, and RoboCop. In 2021, he released his long-gestating stop-motion film Mad God, which was funded through Kickstarter and distributed by Shudder.

Early life[edit]

Tippett was born in Berkeley, California. When he was seven, he saw Ray Harryhausen's special effects classic, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and his life's direction was set.[3] After completing a bachelor's degree in art at the University of California, Irvine, he went to work at the Cascade Pictures animation studio in nearby Los Angeles.


Stop motion[edit]

In 1975, while still working at Cascade Pictures, Tippett and Jon Berg were hired by George Lucas at Industrial Light & Magic to create a stop-motion holographic chess scene for the original Star Wars film.[4] When Star Wars was being released in theatres, in 1977, Joe Dante and Jon Davison approached Tippett to create the fish for Roger Corman's Piranha. It was released in 1978, with a credit.

In 1978, Tippett headed the ILM animation department with Jon Berg for 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, he continued using go motion for Dragonslayer, and received his first Academy Award nomination for it extraordinarily realistic dragon animation. By 1983, Tippett led the famed Lucasfilm creature shop for Return of the Jedi, for which he won his first Oscar in 1984.

In 1984, Tippett Studio was born when Tippett left ILM and set up a studio in his garage to create a 10-minute experimental film, 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!. The next year, in 1986, Dinosaur! earned Tippett Studio its first award, a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects.[5]

In 1986, producer Jon Davison hired Tippett to create the animated robot sequences for RoboCop. The ED-209 stop-motion model was animated by Tippett[6] but designed by Craig Hayes[6] (also known as Craig Davies[7]), who also built the full size models. 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. The project became the start of a long and successful collaboration between Davies and Tippett.

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

Computer generated effects[edit]

In 1991, Tippett 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.[8] Far from being extinct, Tippett evolved as stop-motion animation gave way to computer-generated imagery or CGI. Because of Tippett's background and understanding of animal movement and behavior, Spielberg kept Tippett on to supervise the animation on 50 dinosaur shots for Jurassic Park. Tippett 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.[9]

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"), which is displayed with the tagline "One job, Phil! You had one job!", implying that because he didn't supervise the dinosaurs properly, he was responsible for the on-screen deaths. Mashable interviewed Tippett in April 2014 about this meme, which he called "beyond silly" and "such a waste of time".[10]

In June 2015, after media attention due to his new credit of "Dinosaur Consultant" in Jurassic World and the ensuing deaths in the film, Tippett tweeted: "to be fair, there were a lot of dinosaurs. It was a large job."[11]

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 hordes of teeming arachnids, Verhoeven has credited Tippett 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, Tippett 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 Tippett and Hayes' 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, Tippett 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 film. Tippett achieved this with Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, by partnering with his longtime associates, writer Ed Neumeier and producer Jon Davison, with whom he worked on the original Starship Troopers and Robocop.

Mad God[edit]

In 1990, Tippett began work on an independent animated film, Mad God; but as he became involved in establishing his own studio, he set the project aside. He returned to the project in 2010, but did not have the budget to complete it, so he started a Kickstarter with a goal of $40,000. On June 16, 2012, the project was successfully funded, exceeding the goal and obtaining $124,156.[12]

The film was first screened December 11, 2021 and continued screening through mid-2022.[13] It took 30 years to complete. A year before it was finished, Tippett had a mental breakdown, causing him to be admitted to a psychiatric ward.[14]


Year Organisation Work Category/award Notes Result Ref.
1998 70th Academy Awards Starship Troopers Best Visual Effects with Scott E. Anderson, Alec Gillis and John Richardson Nominated
1997 69th Academy Awards Dragonheart with Scott Squires, James Straus and Kit West Nominated
1993 66th Academy Awards Jurassic Park with Dennis Muren, Stan Winston and Michael Lantieri Won [15]
47th BAFTAs Best Special Visual Effects Won [16]
1988 61st Academy Awards Willow Best Visual Effects with Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren and Ken Ralston Nominated
42nd BAFTAs RoboCop Best Special Visual Effects with Rob Bottin, Peter Kuran, and Rocco Gioffre Nominated
15th Saturn Awards Best Special Effects Won
1986 38th Primetime Emmy Awards Dinosaur! Outstanding Special Visual Effects Won [17]
1984 56th Academy Awards Return of the Jedi Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects with Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren and Ken Ralston Won [15]
1982 54th Academy Awards Dragonslayer Best Visual Effects with Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston and Brian Johnson Nominated
2022 The Ray Harryhausen Awards Phil Tippett Harryhausen Hall of Fame 2022 Won [18]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Animation Visual effects Consultant Director Notes
1977 The Crater Lake Monster No No No No Miniatures building (uncredited)
Star Wars Yes No No No Stop-motion
1978 Piranha No Yes No No Creature design
Creature animation
Model construction (uncredited)
1980 The Empire Strikes Back Yes No No No Go-motion
1981 Dragonslayer Yes No No No
1983 Return of the Jedi No No No No Makeup design
1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom No No Yes No Effects creative consultant
Prehistoric Beast Yes No No Yes Short film; go-motion
1985 Dinosaur! Yes No No No Documentary film; go-motion
1986 Howard the Duck Yes No No No Go-motion supervisor: ILM visual effects unit
1987 RoboCop Yes No No No ED-209 go-motion shots
1988 Willow Yes No No No Two-headed dragon go-motion sequence
1989 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids No Yes No No Creature design
1990 RoboCop 2 Yes No No No Go-motion animation
1993 Jurassic Park No Yes No No Dinosaur supervisor
Coneheads Yes No No No Creature animation
1996 Dragonheart No Yes No No Dragon design
1997 Starship Troopers No Yes No No Creature visuals
2001 Evolution No Yes No No Visual effects supervisor
2004 Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation No No No Yes Television film for Encore Action
2008 The Spiderwick Chronicles Yes No No No Animation supervisor
2009 The Twilight Saga: New Moon No Yes No No Visual effects supervisor
2010 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse No Yes No No
2011 MutantLand[19] Yes Yes Yes Yes Short film; also writer
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 No Yes No No Visual effects supervisor
2012 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 No No Yes No
2015 Jurassic World No No Yes No Dinosaur consultant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Yes No No No Millennium Falcon chess scene supervisor
2018 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom No No Yes No Dinosaur consultant
2020 Prop Culture No No No No Disney+; guest star as himself, episode "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"
2021 Mad God Yes Yes Yes Yes Also writer
Production design
Special effects
Character design
Additional editing
TBA Sentinel Yes Yes Yes Yes


  1. ^ New York Times
  2. ^ "Phil Tippett Biography". Archived from the original on February 26, 2006. Retrieved October 10, 2005.
  3. ^ "Phil Tippett: Hands-On Effects". Archived from the original on June 6, 2008. Retrieved 2013-08-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), StarWars.com
  4. ^ Phil Tippett bio Archived 2013-08-08 at the Wayback Machine, in the Tippett Studio official website
  5. ^ "Outstanding Special Visual Effects". 38th Primetime Emmy Awards – September 21, 1986. Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b Duncan, Jody (February 1991). "Clash of the Robotitans". Cinefex. Archived from the original on August 29, 2000. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  7. ^ Craig Hayes' description page in the IMDB website (section "Personal Details": Alternate Names: Craig Davies)
  8. ^ 2Shay, Don and Duncan, Jody. Ballantine Books 1993 "The Making of Jurassic Park" Softcover page 53, first paragraph
  9. ^ By Matt Robertson2014-04-30 16:00:27 UTC (2014-04-30). "Jurassic Park's 'Dinosaur Supervisor' Responds to Meme". Mashable.com. Retrieved 2016-12-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ By Matt Robertson2014-04-30 16:00:27 UTC (2014-04-30). "Jurassic Park's 'Dinosaur Supervisor' Responds to Meme". Mashable.com. Retrieved 2016-12-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "The Dinosaur Supervisor In "Jurassic Park" Has The Sassiest Response To His Critics". Buzzfeed. 10 June 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Phil Tippett's "MAD GOD" by Mad God Productions — Kickstarter". Kickstarter.com. 2012-05-18. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
  13. ^ "Phil Tippett's MAD GOD". Madgodmovie.com. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
  14. ^ Wilson, Josh (5 November 2021). "Phil Tippett: 24 Frames Per Second". The Fabulist Words & Art. The Fabulist. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  15. ^ a b Chris McGowan (December 13, 2018). "Phil Tippett: Following His Imagination to the Stars and Beyond". VFX Voice. Retrieved 2022-01-15.
  16. ^ "Film - Achievement in Special Visual Effects in 1994". BAFTA Awards. Retrieved 2022-01-15.
  17. ^ "Outstanding Special Visual Effects". 38th Primetime Emmy Awards. Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. September 21, 1986. Retrieved 2022-01-15.
  18. ^ "Harryhausen Award Winners 2022". harryhausenawards.com. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  19. ^ MutantLand's official public release: Friday, December 16th, 2011 Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, on the website Ain't It Cool News

External links[edit]