Eli Noyes Dies: Oscar-Nominated Stop-Motion Animator Who Worked On MTV’s ‘Liquid Television’ Was 81

Eli Noyes, the pioneering stop-motion animator who scored an Oscar nom for his short film Clay, or The Origin of Species and worked on the MTV series Liquid Television and HBO’s Braingames among other credits, has died. He was 81.

His death was announced by Ralph Guggenheim, Noyes’ partner at Alligator Planet for more than 20 years. No other details were provided.

More from Deadline

Born on October 18, 1942, Noyes specialized in stop-motion using clay and sand, and an early student film made while he was at Yale university earned him an Academy Award nomination. Clay, or the Origin of Species was an innovative if primitive black-and-white short that traced the rise of life on Earth from its earliest existence. Watch it above.

His next film was Alphabet, which this time used the manipulation of sand as the medium. It won a Special Jury Award at the 1967 Annecy International Animated Film Festival and was used for decades to illustrate letters of the alphabet on PBS’ Sesame Street.

Noyes continued to make short using clay and sand, using the latter for Sandman (1973) and pixelated stop-motion for Peanut Butter & Jelly (1976). That short would air years later on Nickelodeon, for which Noyes was an early contributor.

He and Kit Laybourne founded Noyes & Laybourne Enterprises in 1983, and that year Noyes directed and produced the pilot for Braingames, a mid-’80s HBO series created by Sheila Nevins for which he won a 1983 CableACE Award for Single Program – Innovative Programming Genre. The pair later created a pair of shows for Nickelodeon: Eureeka’s Castle and Gullah Gullah Island.

Noyes and Laybourne formed Colossal Pictures in 1988, and the pair helped develop Liquid Television, MTV’s memorable toon showcase series that aired from 1991-94 and introduced the world to Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-head and Peter Chung’s Aeon Flux. The first season also aired on BBC Two in the UK.

Colossal Pictures also created commercials for such big-name brands as ABC Television, HBO, Xerox and IBM.

Based in Northern California, Noyes later worked on project for Pixar and Disney on programs for Zoog Disney, an animation block that aired on Disney Channel from 1998-2002 He also served as Director of Interactive Design at TV’s Oxygen network from 1999-2001.

The following year, he teamed with Guggenheim to launch Alligator Planet, where they would do animation for the rest of Noyes’ life. They created film, print and media projects including short films and animated segments for documentaries including Oscar nominee The Most Dangerous Man in America (2003).

He is survived by his wife, Augusta Talbot; son Isaac, daughter, Abigail and granddaughter Esme.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.