Ron Thornton, visual effects artist, dies

Ron ThorntonInfluential British-born visual effects artist Ron Thornton, one of the pioneer proponents of computer generated animation for television whose work stretches from classic BBC sci-fi through Babylon 5 and the Star Trek franchise, dies after a lengthy illness. Having crafted impressive miniature model sequences for such BBC series as Doctor Who (Resurrection Of The Daleks), The Tripods, and Blake’s 7 (for which he built the final season‘s “hero” spacecraft, Scorpio), Thornton emigrated to the United States in 1984, where he built and filmed miniatures for such films as Spaceballs and Critters, and the TV series Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future, which introduced him to CGI. In the 1990s, with fellow UK ex-pat Paul Beigle-Bryant, he formed Foundation Imaging, a visual effects firm working entirely within the computer animation realm, and this brought him into contact with a proposed science fiction series called Babylon 5, whose producers Thornton pitched on the idea of doing all FX work digitally, eschewing any model photography at all. Foundation, and Thornton, crafted the look of Babylon 5 through the end of the show’s third season, at which point Foundation was cut loose, but immediately found work transitioning Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from models and miniatures to CGI. (On a minor technicality – a model he built for a 1980s movie was rented and redressed for use in the episode Booby Trap – Thornton worked on all of the post-1960s Star Trek series from The Next Generation through Enterprise.) Foundation’s FX work on Babylon 5’s pilot won an Emmy Award, while its work on the Voyager episode Timeless netted a nomination in the same category.