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Published on Jul 6, 2010
Filmforum: Albert Whitlock - Der Zauberer von Hollywood (German language - 1986)
Albert J. Whitlock (September 15, 1915 -- October 26, 1999) was an British-born motion picture matte artist best known for his work with Disney and Universal Studios.
His film career began as a page at Gaumont Studios in London in 1929, before going on to build sets and work as a grip. Trained as a sign painter, he began a life-long association with Alfred Hitchcock, completing all of the signs for The 39 Steps and then assisting in the miniature effects for The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Whitlock began working as a matte artist during World War II. Recruited by Walt Disney, who was an admirer of his work, he would relocate to the U.S. in the early 1950s.
At Disney, where the head of the Matte Department was fellow-Londoner and near-exact contemporary Peter Ellenshaw, he successfully mastered the impressionistic approach to matte painting that he would become known for. He remained with the studio for seven years, helping with the design of Disneyland as well as film work, before moving to Universal in 1961. There he served as the head of their matte department, continuing his long collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock and many other directors, until retiring from the company in 1985.
His crowning achievement was the creation of over 70 individual matte paintings for the 1974 disaster film, Earthquake, which earned him an Academy Award. He won the Oscar again the following year for The Hindenburg, in which he re-created the great airship and its final voyage. Universal loaned out Whitlock and his team for some notable visual effects work on films including Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, the David Lynch version of Dune, Mame, The Learning Tree and Bound for Glory.