Guillermo del Toro Honors Oscar Winner Mark Gustafson, Who Co-Directed “Pinocchio”, After His Death at 64

Mark Gustafson won an Academy Award and a Primetime Emmy, among other accolades, over his four decades in the animation industry

<p>Guillermo del Toro/X</p> Mark Gustafson and Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro/X

Mark Gustafson and Guillermo del Toro

Mark Gustafson, a longtime Hollywood director who won an Academy Award in March 2023 for co-directing Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, has died. He was 64.

Del Toro, 59, announced Gustafson's death in a post he shared on X Friday, stating that Gustafson died Thursday.

In del Toro's post, the filmmaker shared a photo of himself and Gustafson taken on the set of the stop-motion animated Pinocchio film.

"I admired Mark Gustafson, even before I met him. A pillar of stop motion animation- a true artist," he wrote in the post. "A compassionate, sensitive and mordantly witty man. A Legend- and a friend that inspired and gave hope to all around him. He passed away yesterday. Today we honor and miss him."

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio won Best Animated Film at last year's 95th Oscars ceremony. It also won best animated film at the 2023 Golden Globe Awards, among other accolades. In del Toro's social media post announcing Gustafson's death, the filmmaker wrote that Gustafson "leaves behind a Titanic legacy of animation that goes back to the very origins of Claymation and that shaped the career and craft of countless animators."

<p>Kevin Winter/Getty</p> Mark Gustafson on March 10, 2023

Kevin Winter/Getty

Mark Gustafson on March 10, 2023

"They say- 'Never meet your heroes...' I disagree. You cannot be disappointed by someone being human... We all are," del Toro wrote. "Burning the midnight oil during postproduction, or doing daily animation turnovers via Zoom during COVID or being trapped in an elevator in a Cinema in London..."

"I am as glad to have met Mark, the human as I was honored to have met the artist. As I said, I admired him before I met him," del Toro added. "I loved having had the chance to share time and space with him during the highs and the lows. Always and forever."

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Gustafson was a native of Portland, Ore., as The Oregonian noted in an obituary published Friday. He started his career in animation working in claymation for Will Vinton Studios in Portland for the California Raisins brand, as multiple outlets reported. His first film credits came as part of the claymation teams for 1985's The Adventures of Mark Twain and Return to Oz, kicking off a career that lasted more than 30 years.

<p>Michael Buckner/Billboard via Getty</p> Mark Gustafson on Jan. 10, 2023

Michael Buckner/Billboard via Getty

Mark Gustafson on Jan. 10, 2023

Prior to Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, Gustafson worked as the animation director on Wes Anderson's 2009 film Fantastic Mr. Fox. He received four Emmy Award nominations over the course of his career and won at that awards ceremony in 1992 for the television special Claymation Easter, in the outstanding animated program (for programming one hour or less) category.

"It's so good to know that this art form we love so much, stop-motion, is very much alive and well," Gustafson said at the Oscars last year ceremony following Pinocchio's win. He also took a moment to thank his wife, Jennifer, during his short speech.

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