Douglas Trumbull, VFX Visionary, Dead at 79

Douglas Trumbull Photo: Andy Cross/Denver Post via Getty Images

After the Oscar nominations were announced this morning, news broke that the Academy had lost one of its brightest stars: three-time Oscar-nominated VFX artist Douglas Trumbull. After a two-year battle with cancer, a stroke, and a brain tumor, Trumbull died Monday evening at 79. His death was announced on Facebook by his daughter Amy Trumbull. “He was an absolute genius and a wizard and his contributions to the film and special effects industry will live on for decades and beyond,” she wrote. “My sister Andromeda and I got to see him on Saturday and tell him that we love him and we got to tell him to enjoy and embrace his journey into the Great Beyond.”

Trumbull caught Stanley Kubrick’s attention as a young artist working on the short film To the Moon and Beyond for the 1964 World’s Fair. In 1968, the filmmakers engineered the epic Stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was praised for its use of slit-scan photography to simulate traveling through new dimensions. Later in his career, Trumbull forayed into directing with the science-fiction films Silent Running and Brainstorm, which starred Natalie Wood. Trumbull continued the VFX legacy of his father, Donald Trumbull (The Wizard of Oz), by earning credits on pictures including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek, Blade Runner, and The Tree of Life. 

Trumbull’s contributions to the science-fiction genre were memorialized in 2010 when he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. His scientific innovations, ranging from high-frame-rate technology to organic effects created through fluid dynamics, continue to inspire generations of filmmakers.

Douglas Trumbull, VFX Visionary, Dead at 79