Pete Kozachik, a visual effects and stop-motion artist whose work on acclaimed animated films by Tim Burton, Henry Selick and others brought recognition and an Oscar nomination, died Sept. 12 at his California home in the Bay Area following a years-long battle with aphasia and primary progressive aphasia. He was 72.
His death was first announced on Tucson’s NBC affiliate station KVOA. Kozachik attended high school and college in Tucson, and his brother Steve Kozachik is vice mayor of the city.
While best known for his Oscar-nominated work on 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, directed by Selick and produced by Burton, Kozachik launched his career in 1984 on the sci-fi film Dreamscape starring Dennis Quad. In ’86 he was the visual effects camera operator on the notorious Howard the Duck, going on to build a solid roster of credits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Innerspace, Willow, Ghostbusters II, Hudson Hawk and RoboCop3.
Tapped by Selick and Burton to serve as visual effects supervisor and director of photography for The Nightmare Before Christmas, Kozachik joined a team that included Eric Leighton, Ariel Velasco-Shaw and Gordon Baker, all of whom would share in the Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects. The group lost to the fx team from Jurassic Park, but Nightmare would help establish a signature look for Selick and, especially, Burton.
Kozachik would reteam with Selick and Burton on James and the Giant Peach (1996), with Burton on Corpse Bride (2005) and Selick on Coraline (2009).
Other credits include Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), Monkeybone (2001) and Starship Troopers (1997).
In addition to his brother, Kozachik is survived by wife, the scenic artist Katy Moore-Kozachik, and extended family.