Mark Gustafson, Oscar-Winning ‘Pinocchio’ Director, Dies at 64

Mark Gustafson, the accomplished and Oscar-winning stop-motion animator, director and writer, died on Thursday at the age of 64, according to The Oregonian.

Gustafson was best known for his work as co-director on “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” and Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Del Toro posted about Gustafson’s death on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“I admired Mark Gustafson, even before I met him,” del Toro wrote. “A pillar of stop motion animation – a true artist. A compassionate, sensitive and mordantly witty man. A Legend – and a friend that inspired and gave hope to all around him.”

The artist began his career in the 1980s when he served as a writer on CBS’ “The California Raisin Show” and as a claymation animator on both the independent stop-motion fantasy film “The Adventures of Mark Twain” and the Disney dark fantasy movie “Return to Oz.” In the ’90s, he worked on the shorts “Mr. Resistor” and “Bride of Resistor” as well as on the three-season Eddie Murphy and Larry Wilmore stop-motion series “The PJs.”

It wasn’t until the 2000s and beyond that Gustafson’s work became better known to mainstream audiences. In 2009 he served as the animation director for Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” He also served as the head of animation in 2011 on “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” and directed the shorts “Ananda” and “Joe Blow.” In 2022, he co-directed “Pinocchio” alongside del Toro, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature as well as the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film. The film also won five prestigious Annie Awards, including Best Animated Feature.

A cause of death has yet to be reported. Gustafson is survived by his wife, Jennifer.

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