Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jim Danforth

-By Arnie Fenner

"Since my primary interest has always been on making films with an emphasis on visual effects rather than effects just for themselves, I usually think first about the arrangement of a sequence—particularly in the case of stop-motion animation sequences—how the shots will be edited, what the tempo is, and so on. But even with matte shots, I tried to interject some of my own philosophy about sequence design—tried but rarely succeeded. It seems to me that having only one spectacular matte shot in a sequence calls attention to itself in an undesirable way and could result in what Al Whitlock referred to as “the JOHNNY TREMAIN problem” —small live-action sets combined with spectacular painted vistas. My view was that it would be better to include one or two matte shots that weren’t spectacular—just enough painting to suggest that, the sets or locations were larger than they actually were. In that way the ‘big’ vista would be less jarring."

— Jim Danforth

The posts about Ray Harryhausen's drawings and masters of matte painting made me start thinking about another film SFX legend, Jim Danforth. So after a little web searching I happened across a lengthy interview which covers all aspects of Mr. Danforth's career as both a stop-motion effects creator and as a matte painter of the first order. Enjoy!


  1. Aaah! Wonderful stuff again Arnie! This is what I grew up with. It wasn't all goblins and trolls. Blond Swedish nymphs (Veronica Vetri, I think....) running away from giant crabs in furry bikinis ( the girl - not the crab.Even the most astute Darwinist would have a job explaining that one) shoulder an equal part of the responsibility for the paths I have taken. Perfect start to a Saturday morning.

  2. Jim Danforth was one of the greatest special effects artists, but is relatively unknown these days. He was and still is a master painter, sculptor, and stop-motion animator. His animation was more fluid and "realistic" than Harryhausen's! He is basically retired now but continues to paint, and has written a fascinating e-book about the old-school special effects days...

    I have an awesome sculpture by Jim, a one-of-a-kind nude harem girl, that I purchased from him in the late eighties. It is one of the most cherished art pieces in my collection! I think that Jim will take commissions these days, if anyone is interested in owning an original Danforth painting.

  3. Where had all the great cheesy narration gone? "A time when the moon was carving its place. . ."
    With that loss we our movies have lost their very souls.