Mark Gustafson, one of the directors of the Academy Award-winning animated film Pinocchio by Guillermo del Toro, passed away at the age of 64 on Thursday. The Oregonian was the first to report the news, and Del Toro honored Gustafson on social media, describing him as a talented and humorous individual who played a crucial role in the world of stop-motion animation.
After a successful career in stop-motion animation, Gustafson teamed up with Del Toro to work on Pinocchio. He began his career in the 1980s by animating The California Raisins and eventually became the animation director for Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009. In addition, he served as the head of animation for A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas in 2011.
Initially, it was planned for Gustafson and illustrator Gris Grimly to co-direct Pinocchio, while Del Toro took on the role of producer. However, Del Toro eventually made the decision to take a more hands-on approach and direct the film himself. With Gustafson’s expertise balancing out Del Toro’s creative ideas, the end result was a success. In fact, the film won the 2023 Oscar for Best Animated Film, along with several other prestigious accolades.
Del Toro expressed his admiration for Mark Gustafson in his tribute, stating that he had admired him even before meeting him. Gustafson was a highly respected figure in the world of stop-motion animation, known for his artistic talent and kind, clever personality. He was not only a legend in his field, but also a source of inspiration and hope for those around him. Sadly, he passed away yesterday, and today we remember and mourn his loss.
His legacy of animation, which can be traced back to the early days of Claymation, has greatly influenced the careers and techniques of many animators. He will be remembered by his friends and colleagues, as well as for his extensive filmography. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Jennifer. Some say, “Never meet your heroes,” but I disagree. Meeting someone who is human can never lead to disappointment. I am grateful to have met Mark, both as an artist and as a person. As I mentioned before, I admired him before I even knew him. I am thankful for the time we spent together, through the good times and the bad. Always and forever, he will be remembered.
Jennifer is the surviving spouse of Gustafson.