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‘Aladdin,’ ‘Coraline’ Character Sculptor Was 68  – The Hollywood Reporter read full article at

Kent Melton, the animation sculptor who created maquettes made of clay for iconic characters found in movies including Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan, The Incredibles and Coraline, has died. He was 68.

Melton died Thursday at his home in Stone County, Missouri, of Lewy body dementia, family members told The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the few artists left in the industry who still sculpted in clay, Melton was a key player in the Disney animation renaissance of the 1990s. Later, he helped Laika Studios become a stop-motion powerhouse. Along the way, he was entrusted by animators to bring their two-dimensional drawings into a three-dimensional world.

Melton’s first Disney credit came on Aladdin (1992), followed by work on such other studio films as Thumbelina (1994), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998), The Prince of Egypt (1998), Tarzan (1999), The Road to El Dorado (2000), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) and Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004).

For Laika, he sculpted characters for Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012) and The Boxtrolls (2014), for which he designed the film’s villain, pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher, voiced by Ben Kingsley.

Maquette, he explained in a 2015 interview for 417 Magazine, “is a term that goes way back to the Michelangelo era that means ‘model of something that will transform into a larger scale.’ I’ll sculpt a maquette in a character moment that personifies who they are to the story.

“I have to put body language into the pose to express and sum up who this guy is to the story. I try to capture their likeness and essence of personality and position in the story. From that, they scan what I do and then do all other expressions and poses and repositions on the computer.”

The second of three sons of an agriculture teacher, Melton was born in Springfield, Missouri. He spent a lot of time on farms and never attended art school. “The whole time I was compulsively doing art on my own,” he said. “Anything you do that much, you’re going to get good at it.”

Melton left his job carving wood and cutting glass at the Silver Dollar City amusement park near Branson, Missouri, and headed to Los Angeles, where he landed at Hanna-Barbera as the company’s first staff sculptor.

He sculpted characters from The Flintstones and The Jetsons and worked on the 1988 NBC animated show The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley, based on Martin Short‘s Saturday Night Live character.

He also freelanced for Warner Bros., creating sculptures for the 1989 show Tiny Toons Adventures, before Disney hired him after an executive at the company spotted Melton’s work at a birthday party he was hosting for his son.

For Aladdin, Melton worked on the first computer-animated character ever done in a feature animated film, the Cave of Wonders’ tiger head that talks and moves.

“When I saw it on film, I said, ‘It’s alive! I created this thing!’ It was scanned right off of my sculpture,” he said. “And it was so nice because I was just this kid who grew up on a farm, and here I am sitting in a theater with this giant character that I made happen.”

He also created porcelain-based sculptures — fine works of art — for the Walt Disney Classics Collection.

Survivors include his wife, Martha; children Seth, Jordan and Nellie, an artist and animator; and grandchildren Persephone, Toby, Juliet and Charlie.

“I try to interact with the medium as much as possible,” Melton said in his 417 interview. “Let the clay or paint tell me what it wants and carry on a creative conversation with the art to find out where it takes me. I love the process.

“When I was a kid, I never kept anything. I never cared about the final work; it was just the process that I loved. I love the experience of painting, drawing, sculpting, playing music, carving — anything. That’s what art is; it’s an experience.”

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