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[Tribeca ’21] ‘Claydream’ review: The man who was almost the next Walt Disney

Art versus business.

Claydream is a reminder of younger days. There was a times when commercials were filled with creatures like the Noid and signing snacks like the California Raisins. The documentary looks at the career of Will Vinton, the “Father of Claymation”. It is a story of an award-winning rise and a sudden fall. 

Filmmaker Marq Evans has effectively created a cautionary tale. The film is about boundless creativity clashing with a lack of business prowess. It is a tale that is as old is time and it always sad to hear. In this case, Vinton is overshadowed by two powerful forces: Nike and Disney. 

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Disney makes sense. They were not the media giant that are today and were going through a decline. Still, they were a major name in animated works. Claydream documents Vinton’s many successes and how he was unable to financially capitalize on them. It is interesting to see a story in which the huge studio conglomerate is not painted as the villain.

[Tribeca '21] 'Claydream' review: The man who was almost the next Walt Disney

The Nike connection is a little more surprising. Vinton sold 15% of his company to Nike head Phil Knight. Before long, Vinton was out of a job. He took it well and though he never became the next Walt Disney, Claydream makes a strong argument that he is just as important to animation. 

Things can be pretty erratic at times. Claydream has a pacing issue due to trying to squeeze so much information in. The glimpses into Vinton’s professional life are certainly interesting, but this does not leave much room for more personal aspects. Still, it is an interesting look at the life of an artist.

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