Pete Kozachik, the Oscar-nominated visual effects artist who contributed his expertise in stop-motion to films such as The nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Big Peach, Corpse bride And Coraline, has passed away. He was 72.
Kozachik died peacefully Tuesday in a hospice at his Northern California home from complications of primary progressive aphasia, a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease, his wife Katy Moore-Kozachik said. The Hollywood Reporter.
Kozachik also operated a stop-motion camera Ghostbusters II (1989) and was director of miniature photography Spaceship Troopers (1997) and as a visual effects cinematographer Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002).
At Industrial Light & Magic he worked on films, among other things Howard the Duck (1986), Star Trek IV: The Journey Home (1986), Inner space (1987) and Willow (1988) before rejoining Phil Tippett, who was a regular collaborator with the RoboCop sequels released in 1990 and ’93.
Kozachik was director of photography for director Henry Selick The nightmare Before Christmas (1993), James and the Big Peach (1996) — both produced by Tim Burton — and Coraline (2009) and for Burton and co-director Mike Johnson Corpse bride (2005).
He shared his Oscar nomination for Nightmare‘s best visual effects with Eric Leighton, Ariel Velasco-Shaw and Gordon Baker.
Peter Alan Kozachik grew up in Michigan and started making his own stop-motion films in sixth grade after seeing a photo of VFX legend Ray Harryhausen next to the Cyclops and Dragon puppets he made for Sinbad’s 7th voyage (1958) and “realized that those numbers weren’t as big as I thought they were, so it was something I thought I could do,” he said. remembered in a 2011 interview.
After moving to Tucson and graduating from Catalina High School and then the University of Arizona in 1969, he worked for a year as a high school teacher, directed shows for local TV station KZAZ and made cartoons and industrial films before heading to Hollywood.
Beginning in 1979, he worked for several years at Coast Special Effects in North Hollywood, after which he moved to the Bay Area to handle camera work for feature films at ILM.
Kozachik also did commercials with the Pillsbury Doughboy, Scrubbing Bubbles, Mr. Clean and other characters; was an advanced diver and underwater photographer; and built his own aircraft engine.
Besides his wife of 21 years, a stage artist, she also worked on Corpse bride And Coraline – survivors include his younger brother, Steve, vice mayor of Tucson, Arizona; sister-in-law Ann; and niece Kimberly.
Despite his illness — he was diagnosed with aphasia a decade ago, which robs a person of his or her ability to communicate — Kozachik was credited in 2021 for Tippett’s animated horror fantasy Crazy god and published his memoirs, Stories from the Pumpkin King’s cameramana title referring to the Jack Skellington character (Chris Sarandon) in Nightmare.
Burton wrote in a foreword to the book: “Watching him at work was like seeing a giant hovering over a quiet village or a mad scientist in his laboratory, bringing inanimate objects to life; finding ways, both high-tech and low-tech, to solve problems; and subtly, tactically bringing the miniature sets to life. Pete’s unique style gives you insight into this special world and the craziness, excitement, depression, humor, anger, loneliness and creativity of it all.”