Babylon 5 CG pioneer Ron Thornton is in critical condition

Hailing frequencies open… Forums Science Fiction Sci-Fi On The Screen Babylon 5 CG pioneer Ron Thornton is in critical condition

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    He built physical models for classic Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 (he and Andy Lazell hand-built the fourth season’s hero ship, Scorpio), and he dragged American TV out of the model/miniature FX paradigm with Captain Power and Babylon 5. And he’s not doing too well. [LINK]

    Ron Thornton is one of the fathers of CGI animation for television and an Emmy-winning visual effects artist and supervisor. Beyond that, however, he is one amazing human being who is a delight to work with or just to know. He loves life, lives it with energy and wry wit, and with an incredible appreciation of friends.

    Ron has been ill for some time, and is now in the hospital in critical condition. He and his wife, Lada, need help with medical bills and expenses that are piling up.

    I’m setting up this fund for them, so that I and his many, many friends and colleagues can help them at this time of need. Lada and Ron will be deeply grateful for any assistance, and so will I. I love Ron and Lada. I think everyone who truly knows them must.

    Please help, if you can.

    For those who may be coming here who don’t know Ron, here’s an introduction to him from Terry Naas:

    “Do you remember the pioneering science fiction TV show Babylon 5?

    This is the man who made it happen.

    At a time when spectacular computer generated worlds were reserved for big budget cinematic extravaganzas, Ron Thornton brought the power of CGI to television.

    He learned his trade in the pre-computer age, and delighted you with amazing imagery in classic episodes of Doctor Who and Blake’s 7.

    He was among the first who saw what computer graphics could bring to television, and he broke new ground when he created the unimaginable (at the time) effects of Babylon 5.

    If you enjoy the visual experience of science fiction on television, whether you know it or not, Ron Thornton is part of your history.

    If you knew him personally… even if you never saw one of his shows… you’d also know that he is an amazing human being. He’s a delight to have a conversation with. He loves life, and he lives it with an exuberant energy and a dry British wit, always looking out for others as he makes his way through the world.

    He’s also a mean gourmet cook…”


    Alas, he is a mean gourmet cook no longer. [LINK]

    Ron Thornton, an Emmy-winning visual effects designer, supervisor and producer who worked on such shows as Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Voyager, has died. He was 59.

    Thornton, often credited with bringing the power of CGI to television visual effects, died Monday at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., after a short battle with liver disease, his friend, veteran VFX supervisor Emile Smith, told The Hollywood Reporter.

    Thornton received his Emmy for the 1993 telefilm Babylon 5: The Gathering (the pilot for the series) and also was nominated for his work on episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and on the 2002 telefilm Superfire.

    In 1991, the London native was working with innovative rock star and multimedia artist Todd Rundgren on a computer-animated short film when he was approached by the producers of the space opera Babylon 5, then in development.

    His collaboration with Rundgren led Thornton to suggest using computers for the effects on the show. He created a one-minute video of proposed effects for the series, and that was instrumental in Babylon 5 selling to Warner Bros. Television in July 1992. The series aired from 1994-’98 on the Prime Time Entertainment Network and TNT.

    Thornton formed Foundation Imaging to continue creating the visuals for Babylon 5 and served for four years as the series’ special effects designer. He went on to supervise the CG visual effects for such Star Trek shows as Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise.

    His recent work included effects work on the 2012 pilot for ABC’s Nashville and producing the web series Talking Tom and Friends in Vienna.

    In 1987, Thornton began to experiment with consumer-level computer hardware to create 3D computer graphics for pre-visualizing FX shots.

    Smith pointed out that Thornton, whom he considered his mentor, “pioneered the movement away from the expensive, mainframe-based CGI solutions to more affordable desktop hardware and software, offering legions of self-taught and hobbyist artists the chance to progress into professional animation and visual effects. Many were mentored by Thornton himself.”

    Thornton, who studied at West Kent College, began his entertainment career at the BBC, where he created props and miniatures for the sci-fi shows Dr. Who and Blakes 7. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1984 and went on to work on films including Real Genius (1985), Commando (1985), Critters (1986), Spaceballs (1987) and Robot Jox (1989).

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