Conversations with TyRuben Ellingson, Cinema Program Director

TyRuben Ellingson

Can you briefly describe some of the projects you’ve worked on?

As my time in Hollywood was over three decades (and I’ve actually been able to freelance for several unproduced pictures from Richmond), I’ll put forward just a few titles and what my involvement was.

Jurassic Park (1993) –

While at ILM, I was part of the core “digital dinosaur” team charged with doing truly groundbreaking shots for the film. Most of my work was done in support of the VFX production pipeline, which included responsibilities like doing detailed storyboarding based on actual “plate footage”, creating keyframes artwork of what finished shots would ultimately look like, and working up dinosaur skin patterns. Somewhat unexpectedly, I did learn to actually create digital color and texture maps, so some of my skin patterns eventually made their way into the actual film (used in the brontosaurus and several of the gallimimus).

Star Wars: A New Hope (special edition – 1997) –

When George Lucas decided to revisit Star Wars: A New Hope in the spring of 1994, he was inspired by the fact that computer graphics had become sophisticated enough for him to “create” scenes that, though he had envisioned them for the film in the 1970s, proved too technically problematic, time consuming, or expensive to accomplish at that time. After seeing Jurassic Park, George called his longtime collaborator, Visual Effects Supervisor, Dennis Muren, to set up a meeting and talk about what he had in mind. As I had worked with Dennis on Jurassic, he asked me to attend and provide creative support. Though the project was done on the “down low” and in bits and pieces, over the following three years it all came together. Specifically, for new shots in Mos Eisley, I created designs for the “Ranto,” a large dinosaur like creature, the hollow bodied ASP-704 robot, the low riding Swoop Bike and Riders, and a floating imperial droid. Visible only briefly behind Stormtroopers searching for R2D2 and C3PO on the dunes of Tatooine, I also came up with the design for a Heavy Imperial Landing Craft.

Mimic (1997) –

Mimic was Guillermo Del Toro’s first Hollywood picture and, at the invitation of the up and coming director, the project that I left ILM to work on. For this gothic horror movie, I designed the signature creature; a six foot tall hybrid insect that can fold its wings and, in the darkness of nighttime shadows, pass itself off as a man.

From Concept Art — 
— To reality!

Check back as we continue the conversation to learn more about the amazing artists he has worked with, like James Cameron (whom he is pictured with above), Guillermo Del Toro and more!–