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The Wild, Animated Adventures of Steve “Spaz” Williams

November 22, 2010

Steve “Spaz” WilliamsAnimator and director extraordinaire, Steve Williams, had this piece of advice to offer Sheridan animation students recently: Ditch Facebook and learn to build engines. “My life changed when I discovered the vice grip in 1973. I pulled apart everything to find out how it worked.” Examining the mechanics behind things allows you to develop new ways of building and creating, explained Steve, who spoke to animation students at Sheridan on November 12. 

Steve used his fascination with how things work to help create groundbreaking animation and special effects for Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). Among his credits are The Mask, Jurassic Park (which received an Academy Award nomination), Terminator 2 and Spawn. After the success of Terminator 2, Steve was dubbed Dr. Frankenstein by Time Magazine for his efforts creating new life forms. 

After graduating from Classical Animation in 1984, Steve worked his way from Alias Research in Toronto to ILM in California. In 1997, he became co-owner of Hoytyboy Pictures, a production company that has created and directed over 200 commercials for clients such as Blockbuster (Carl and Ray), Capital One, Toyota and McDonalds. He made his directorial debut in 2006 with Disney’s The Wild. 

One of the biggest changes Steve has seen in over 15 years working in the field is an over-reliance on all the bells and whistles. “The trouble with animation today is that we’ve forgotten the basics,” says Steve, maintaining that technology will not save a bad story or animation. “Every animator at Pixar can still draw. Good animation is driven by the craft not by the tools.” 

And a bit of rebellion doesn’t hurt, either. Despite being told he couldn’t possibly build a Tyrannosaurus Rex for the film Jurassic Park, Steve began secretly working on one anyway. The result, of course, brought animation to a new level, with Steve’s dinosaur-building methods becoming the template for virtually every creature on film since. 

He is proud to be part of Canada’s dream team of animators who have made their mark on the special effects field worldwide, at studios large and small. “All the most innovative films have been created by Canadians,” says Steve.

His parting message to budding animators in a world where, according to Steve, films are designed by committee rather than artists: “Stay true to what you believe in and don’t worry about the reward.”

Steve “Spaz” Williams
Steve “Spaz” Williams

Steve “Spaz” Williams

Photos: Aldines Zapparoli 

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