Stephen A. Buckley

Birth: Stephen Buckley was born in Utica, New York on December 28, 1960.

Animation Department, Actor, Visual Effects, Character Animator, Senior Character Animator, Writer, Director

Bio SummaryEarly Life/Family
Stephen Buckley was the youngest of six children. Growing up was “LEGENDARY and extremely eventful,” in his family. He had parents who taught by example and devoted their life to the raising of a daughter with Cerebral Palsy; who is now nearly seventy. Buckley cites his handicapped sister as an inspiration, and her life taught their entire household that life was precious, delicate, and beautiful.

Buckley has a wife and three children, who live in Malibu, CA. He supports his family by doing freelance character animation in Vancouver, BC.

Education/Training: As a kid Stephen Buckley would sculpt clay dinosaurs at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute. “And looking at them on the shelf, I wanted them to move.” When he saw Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion Cyclops in “The Voyage of Sinbad,” he decided that he wanted to become an animator.

Buckley’s training consists of self taught trial and error, as well as on the job experience. His first film was a four-minute college thesis about the last dinosaur, “The Only” (1986), created while he attended Orange Coast College in Newport Beach. He filmed it on a 16mm camera over summer, which he borrowed from his cinema instructor (Brian Lewis). From there, Lewis recommended him to continue his studies at San Francisco state.

When he found out that there was a new “Gumby and Pokey” series being filmed, he sent his VHS to Art Clokey (who Buckley dubbed “The Clokester”), who hired him on the spot. He animated five days a week for four years on the television series as well as the movie. Eventually he got to write some episodes and was chosen as the new voice of Gumby.

Career Outline:
Senior Character Animator: Sony Pictures Imageworks; April 2006 – March 2009

-Spiderman 3
-I am Legend
Senior Character Animator / Actor: Weta Digital; November 1999 – April 2005
-Peter Jackson's- King Kong
-Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King
-Lord of the Rings- The Two Towers
-Lord of the Rings- The Fellowship of the Ring
Senior Character Animator: Walt Disney Feature Animation; October 1996 – May 1999
-Walt Disney's Dinosaur
Animator: Skellington Productions, San Francisco Ca; September 1993 – May 1996
-Tim Burton's, The Nightmare Before Christmas
-Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach
Animator / Commercials: Colossal Pictures San Francisco; March 1990 – March 1993
-Hershey's Kisses w / Almonds Bowling
-Hershey's Kisses w / Almonds Tap Dancing
-Hershey's Kisses w / Almonds Shark
-NYNEX Marbles
-McDonald's animated Burger of the month
-Frosted Cheerios commercial Voice of Gumby
Animator / writer and voice of Gumby: Premavision; October 1987 – March 1991
-The Gumby Series
-The Gumby Movie
-Gumby Dharma directed by Robina Marchesi : featured as self and voice of Gumby

Comments On Style:Influences:
Buckley cites his family, Edward Hopper, and Ray Harryhausen as influences that have stayed with him throughout his life.

Stephen Buckley is a warm, enthusiastic, and good-humored guy. Anecdotes:

Stephen Buckley not only animated behind the scenes for Peter Jackson’s King Kong, but he also had the opportunity to be a star in front of the camera. He expressed how the classic version was always a favorite of his growing up, and jumped at the idea of finding a way to be in the film. He had a friend help cut him into the original film, which he sent to the director’s office as a proposal. He eventually landed the role of the cab driver, seen in the climactic last part of the blockbuster film. Stephen Buckley spoke about how nervous he was when it was time to film the scene, so much that he forgot his lines. Luckily, actor Adrien Brody helped him to remember it. “I was so goddamn scared the whole time. It wasn’t really even acting, it was just natural--I was petrified!”

Stephen Buckley tributes his two Tourney wins, “one at Disney in doubles...and the other solo at the peak of Sony,” to growing a tough mind as the youngest of his brothers and facing against a “Pong master” at Disney. “He made me the player I am today.” While facing against his friends at Weta, he ripped off all of the rubber on his paddle until it was hard wood, which “took the spin away from the spin doctors.” Buckley also says that “a lot of business can be done on the pong table, like the golf course.”

Alternate names: Buck Buckley, Stephen Buckley

When asked to describe his day: “A typical day for me is a lot of animation. As we animate 6 days a week. Up [at] dawn, take a bike ride to the sea, collect some sea glass and crab shells. Then I pedal home, shower, eat and go into work from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Animating "Deadpool" for Marvel at present will then roll onto Disney's, "Beauty and the Beast in early 2016. Then home, make some delish dish for dinner, and continue writing my screenplay and finishing my short film Milkshake for the short film festival circuit in 16. Back to bed, repeat. Pretty standard really.”

Stephen Buckley enjoys the film-making, storytelling, acting and character development that goes into the animation process. “’s incredibly satisfying seeing your animation up there holding all those millions of eyeballs for however long your scene or sequence is.” Every October he gets cherished responses from people who saw the Nightmare before Christmas. He also says that “...women love Maleficent, and when I tell them I worked on it they light up. So that always feels tremendous.”

Stephen Buckley has enjoyed aspects from each of the projects he’s worked on, and described The Nightmare Before Christmas as the most difficult, but “full of incredible art with the best artists.” He “loved the sweetness of James and the Giant Peach,” and adored animating King Kong, Gollum, and Smeagol while working at Weta Digital in New Zealand. However, the project that he’s found to be the most fulfilling to work on is his upcoming live-action short film, Milkshake.

Milkshake is 15 minute comedic film that Stephen Buckley wrote, directed, and starred in. He found it to be an exciting challenge to tackle live action, and the short “means the world” to him. The story is based on the experience he had when he received his driver’s license as a teenager in the seventies. It’s dedicated to his parents and, following his wife’s advice, Buckley even cast himself in the role of his father. Playing his dad was also a healing process, “as he passed during the filming.” The film is set to premiere in summer 2016 at the short film circuit in New York, and Stephen Buckley looks forward to his brothers’ and sisters’ responses.


Visual Effects:
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001); Senior animator: Weta Digital
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002); Senior animator: Weta Digital
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003); Senior animator: Weta Digital
King Kong (2005); Senior animator: Weta Digital
Spiderman 3 (2007); Senior character animator: SPI
I am Legend (2007); Senior character animator
Hancock (2008); character animator: SPI
G-force (2009); Senior character animator: SPI
The Smurfs (2011); Previsualization artist

Animation Department:
Gumby Adventures (TV Series) (animator, 1988)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (animator, 1993)
Bump in the Night (TV Series) (animator - 1 episode, 1994)
The Bowl of the Squishy Prince/All You Need Is Glove (animator)
Gumby: The Movie (animator, 1995)
James and the Giant Peach (animator, 1996)
Dinosaur (animator, 2000)
Jack the Giant Slayer (animator, 2013)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (animator: Digital Domain, 2014)
Maleficent (animator: Digital Domain 2014)
Beauty and the Beast (2016)
Deadpool (2016)

King Kong (2005); Cab Driver
Milkshake (2016); Father Self:
Weta Digital (Video Documentary Short) (2004)
Gumby Dharma (2006)

Milkshake (2016)

Milkshake (2016)

1997 Ping Pong partners Champions, Walt Disney Feature Animation
2005 Peoples choice award for best animated commercial (animation director)
Toyota Hilux truck campaign, Wellington New Zealand. Saatchi & Saatchi
2007 Ping Pong singles champion , Sony Pictures Imagework's

Related Links:
“Stephen Buckley.” Malibu Talent Group. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.
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“On Set Report: Milkshake.” Geoffrey Gould. 2009,2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2015.

Bibliographic References:
“Stephen A. Buckley.” Internet Movie Database. Amazon Co. 1999-2015. Web. 27
Sept. 2015.
“Stephen Buckley.” LinkedIn. LinkedIn Co. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2015

Burgess, Clare. “Weta Digital: 20 Years of Imagination.” pg. 111. “My Story: Follow That Ape.”
Print. Wet Ltd. Harper Collins Publishing. New York, 2014.
Buckley, Stephen. (2015, October 7). Email Interview.

Contributors To This Listing:
Adesegun Adeyeye

Animators Hall of Fame