‘Aladdin,’ ‘Coraline’ Character Sculptor, Kent Melton, Dies at 68

Kent Melton, a venerable animation sculptor known for creating clay maquettes of iconic characters in popular movies such as Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan, The Incredibles, and Coraline has left the theater of life. Distinguished for his expertise in clay-sculpting, Melton played a clinch role in the Disney animation renaissance of the 1990s.

Passing of a Clay Sculpting Maestro

Melton passed away at the age of 68 at his home in Stone County, Missouri, succumbing to Lewy body dementia. Regarded as one of the few artists in the industry still comfortable with manual clay sculpting, Melton thankfully left behind a legacy of memorable animated characters. He was instrumental in ushering Laika Studios into becoming a powerhouse of stop-motion animation.

A Render in Stone

Melton’s association with Disney began with Aladdin in 1992, after which he was progressively involved in various other movies such as Thumbelina, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, The Prince of Egypt, Tarzan, The Road to El Dorado, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Pixar’s The Incredibles.

Professionally affiliated with Laika, he created notable characters for Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. His design of the villainous character Archibald Snatcher, the pest exterminator in The Boxtrolls, brought to life by the voice of Ben Kingsley, is worth mentioning.

Decoding the Art of Maquette Sculpting

In a 2015 interview for 417 Magazine, he provided insights into the art of Maquette making- a term that hails way back to the Michelangelo era. He said, “the purpose of the Maquette is to personify to the best of the character in its true essence in a specific moment that is critical to the narrative of the story. From the body language to the expression, every tiny detail is comprised within this 3D representation that goes on to inspire animators to bring the character to life on the screen.”

The Journey of the Man

Melton was born in Springfield, Missouri, second of three sons to an agriculture teacher. Despite spending most of his time on farms and missing art school, Melton had a compulsive inclination toward art from a young age.

Beginning his career carving wood and cutting glass at the Silver Dollar City amusement park in Branson, Missouri, he soon ventured to Los Angeles. There he found a place at Hanna-Barbera as the company’s first staff sculptor. His work spanned from sculpting characters from The Flintstones and The Jetsons, to contributing to the 1988 NBC animated show The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley.

He then assisted Warner Bros. while creating sculptures for the 1989 show Tiny Toons Adventures. Soon after, Disney brought him on board after an executive was impressed by Melton’s work seen at a birthday party.

Guided by Medium and Essence

“I try to interact with the medium as much as possible,” Melton emphasized in his 417 interview. He believed in the process of artistry, relishing the creative conversation he shared with art and the journey it took him on. Even as a kid, he was not one to keep his works, he was more invested in the process of creating art, truly believing that art, in its purest form, is a therapeutic experience.

Wrapping Up

Kent leaves behind his wife, Martha; children Seth, Jordan, and Nellie, who is an artist and animator; and grandchildren Persephone, Toby, Juliet, and Charlie. He has etched his name on the sands of time, leaving a legacy of passionate artistry and creative craftsmanship for future generations. His works will forever remain a testament to his skill, dedication, and ever-lasting influence on animation. To learn more such fascinating tidbits about the world of animation, visit HitPlay.

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