Harrison Ellenshaw joined Walt Disney Studios as a matte artist, moonlighted to render a number of paintings for Star Wars, and then oversaw the matte department on The Empire Strikes Back at George Lucas' premier effects facility Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). Later, upon his return to Disney in 1989 for Dick Tracy, Harrison headed Disney Studios' own highly regarded effects facility: Buena Vista Visual Effects (BVVE). He has been nominated for an Academy Award® along with his father, Peter Ellenshaw, for special visual effects work on The Black Hole.
But American born Harrison Ellenshaw was initially reluctant to follow in the illustrious footsteps of his famous Academy Award® winning (for Mary Poppins) father. In fact, with a degree in psychology from Whittier College and following a stint as an officer in the Navy, Ellenshaw was preparing himself for a career in corporate administration when his father suggested taking a temporary position in the matte department at Walt Disney Studios.
Under the mentorship of another Oscar® winning artist, Alan Maley, Ellenshaw soon began to establish himself as a respected matte artist. He then struck out on his own doing effects work on Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth. That led to a very fortuitous assignment… Star Wars. After contributing to the most famous science fiction movie ever made, Ellenshaw returned to Disney to collaborate with his father on The Black Hole, a film known more for its production design and special effects than for its story.
Ellenshaw's star was fast rising as he rejoined Lucasfilm in Northern California to contribute to George Lucas' highly anticipated sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Then, again returning to Disney, Harrison was supervising the re-editing and new effects for a revamped suspense film starring Bette Davis, The Watcher in the Woods, when he was approached by the producers of another highly speculative science fiction film. That film was Tron and Ellenshaw was one of the key creative forces behind what has become a landmark use of the then revolutionary digital technology computer-generated imagery (CGI) used to create a highly visual world inside a computer.
Other notable projects followed: a 3-D theme park film by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, Captain Eo; the effects laden Superman IV and the blockbuster film Ghost. Harrison also found time to direct an independent feature length comedy, Dead Silence. The film received positive reviews and was a standout hit on the festival circuit. Another benchmark film followed. This time it was a movie known for visually stunning cityscapes, Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. As a result of Ellenshaw's successful work on this film, Disney asked him to head up a new effects facility independently based on the Burbank studio lot. During its six year tenure, Buena Vista Visual Effects became highly regarded throughout the industry contributing to over 40 films including work for outside studios: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, MGM and Sony. Notable examples of BVVE films were: Dave, Honey I Blew Up the Kid, The Santa Clause, James and the Giant Peach, The Phantom, Mortal Kombat, Escape from LA and The Pelican Brief. Harrison also supervised the first all digital restoration of a feature length film, Disney's classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In tandem to his film work, Harrison has also been able to concentrate on a fine art career, producing one man shows for galleries in New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. In 2002, he began collaborating with his father creating a number of spectacular Disney giclées.
Today he continues to create his own fine art paintings of unique cityscapes, the landscapes of Australia and New Zealand, the American Southwest, as well as scenes from England, France and Japan.
Presently he and his Paris based cousin, artist/historian Susan Day are working on the biography of their grandfather, filmmaker and effects legend W. Percy Day, O.B.E. to be published this year.
Harrison is a 38 year member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), a 45 year member of the Art Directors Guild (ADG) and a founding board member of the Visual Effects Society (VES).