Bob Winquist, a former director of the character animation program at California Institute of the Arts who greatly influenced a number of animators now working in Hollywood, has died. He was 85.
Winquist died Sept. 10 of complications related to old age at an assisted-living facility in Simi Valley, said his niece, Joyce Snyder.
He was the kind of inspirational teacher that movies are made about, said his former students, who went on to make films that reflected lessons learned in his Valencia classroom between 1983 and 1991.
Ralph Eggleston, who won an Academy Award in 2001 for his animated short "For the Birds," credits Winquist with pushing students to think more broadly about what they could accomplish.
"When Bob came in, animators primarily left the school and became animators. Suddenly, they started becoming art directors and storyboard artists. He made us think of ourselves as filmmakers, not just animators," Eggleston told The Times.
The dapper Winquist might stroll into class, announce the lesson by saying "develop the character of the letter 'A' " and then walk out, leaving the young animators to puzzle out the assignment.
Pete Docter, a former student who wrote the story for the film "WALL-E" (2008) and directed "Monsters Inc." (2001), considers Winquist "a seminal person in my development as an artist and a person."
"He had a gentle and inviting way -- you felt intrigued. It was like he was saying, 'You go discover it yourself,' and it made things stick," Docter said.
A world-class raconteur, Winquist often captivated his classes with hard-to-verify recollections that often placed him Zelig-like at memorable moments in Hollywood history. Witnessing the burning of "The Gone With the Wind" set, designing a suit for Elvis Presley, "baby-sitting" Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Some Like It Hot" -- these were all first-person stories that could be woven into a lecture.
"In the end, it didn't really matter if he were there because his amazing stories made me think . . . I can go out and do anything," Docter said.