Phil Tippett

Phil Tippett (born 1951) is a movie director and an award-winning visual-effects supervisor and producer, who specializes in creature design and character animation. Although uncredited, Tippett portrayed the character of Myo in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.[1]

Early careerEdit

Tippett was born in Berkeley, California. At the age of seven, Phil saw Ray Harryhausen's special-effects classic The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and his life's direction was set. Phil completed a Bachelor's degree in Art at the University of California, Irvine, and went to work at the animation studio Cascade Pictures in Los Angeles.

In 1978, Phil headed the Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) animation department with Jon Berg for Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. Tippett used stop motion to animate the sinister Imperial walkers and the hybrid alien tauntaun. In 1981, Tippett co-developed the animation technique called go motion for Dragonslayer (which co-starred Ian McDiarmid), and received his first Academy Award nomination for the extraordinarily realistic dragon animation. By 1983, Tippett led the famed Lucasfilm creature shop for Return of the Jedi, for which he was awarded his first Oscar in 1984.

In 1983, Tippett Studio was born when Phil left ILM and set up a studio in his garage to create a 10-minute experimental film called 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! Tippett Studio won its first award, an Emmy for Special Visual Effects, for the animated dinosaur sequences.

In 1985 producer Jon Davison hired Tippett to create the animated robot sequences for RoboCop. Craig Hayes was simultaneously hired to design and build the ED-209 robot. This project became the start of a long and successful collaboration between Phil and Craig.

Later careerEdit

In 1991, because of Phil's background and understanding of dinosaur movement and behavior, Steven Spielberg selected Tippett to supervise animation on 50 dinosaur shots for Jurassic Park. As animation director for the film, Phil supervised both the Tippett Studio and ILM animators. The resulting realistic portraits of dinosaurs that breathe, flex, twitch and react earned a second Oscar for Phil. 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.


Phil Tippett with a tauntaun model

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 Phil with co-directing the large-scale battle sequences for Starship Troopers. The excellence of this work resulted in Tippett's sixth nomination in 1997 for an Academy Award.

During 1997–98, Phil 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 Phil and Craig's 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, Phil joined director Ivan Reitman as the Visual Effects Supervisor on the Dreamworks sci-fi 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, Phil refocused his goals on developing and directing his own movie. Phil realized that dream with Starship Troopers 2 by partnering with his longtime associates, writer Ed Neumeier and producer Jon Davison, with whom he worked on the original Starship Troopers and RoboCop.

As Phil's career transitions from visual-effects supervisor to motion-picture director, Phil still mentors and advises the artists and craftsmen who create the unique visual effects that define Tippett Studio.

In 2006, Tippett wrote the afterword for the Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop reference book.


An Ewok in Marvel's Star Wars comics is named Tippet, probably as an homage to Phil Tippett.


Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Mandell, Paul. 1978. "Rick Baker, Doug Beswick, Laine Liska—2nd Unit Makeup Cantina." Cinefantastique Double Issue Vol6No4/Vol7No1: p66–71.

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