Editor’s Note: This is part one of a series about the film effects career of Colin Campbell.

You may not know Colin Campbell, but you should be familiar with his work.
At the risk of sounding cliche, 90s kids certainly would. Campbell has worked as a digital compositer of “Babe,” “The Nutty Professor,”  the 1998 “Godzilla” film and “Men in Black 2,” to name a few. More recently, his work is on display in Avengers: Infinity War. A lifelong love for movies and monsters sparked a career that’s spanned decades. But to hear Campbell tell it, the story began with dinosaurs.
 Born in 1962, Campbell grew up, like a lot of kids, fascinated with dinosaurs and dreaming of digging them up for a living. As he got older, he grew to love the monster movies broadcast on TV on Saturday afternoons. Channel 11 would play everything from classic Universal monster films like “Frankenstein” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” to the humorous “Abbott and Costello” crossovers featuring the characters.
“That’s about all there was,” Campbell said. “We only had like three or five channels at that time in Ardmore. The ones that showed the monster movies were coming out of Dallas.”
Giant monster movies featuring Godzilla and his contemporaries, not to mention the odd 50-foot insect, were another favorite. They fascinated Campbell, but even as a child he could tell he was looking at actors in rubber suits, not the real deal.
His favorites by far were the ones that incorporated stop-motion animation, like One Million Years B.C. and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. While there was clearly some kind of sleight-at-hand at play, something about the creatures in them looked more alive and convincing than the rubber suits.  
“I didn’t know it at the time, but they were pretty much all created by the same person, Ray Harryhausen,” he said.
Before DVD special features or the Internet, one of the few ways to find more information about movies was to read magazines like Famous Monsters, which Campbell did obsessively. One issue featured a photo of Harryhausen holding a model dinosaur from One Million Years B.C. in a magazine. The 50-foot creature that had loomed above the historically-implausible cave people in the film was only about a foot long.
“I just couldn’t wrap my head around it,” Campbell said. “I knew it was the same dinosaur, but how could this be? It kind of stuck with me.”
He started collecting as much information about filmmaking and special effects as he could. In the mid-70s in Ardmore, that meant reading magazines and poring over Harryhausen’s Film Fantasy Scrapbook, originally published in 1972.
“It had very little technical detail, but that was like a bible to me,” Campbell said.
A few years later, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad came to theaters and the magazine featured Harryhausen again, along with an in-depth explanation of stop-motion animation.  
“We all knew, because of Disney, how his cartoons and animated movies were done,” Campbell said. “And reading that process, I thought ‘Oh, it’s just like a cartoon, only with three-dimensional models!’ How ingenious! Something clicked in my head and instead of wanting to dig up dinosaurs, I made a left hand turn and I thought ‘Here’s a way to bring dinosaurs back to life.’”
As his interests turned toward filmmaking, he got his first up-close look at what the process entailed. Part of the 1973 film Dillinger, which was filmed in and around Ardmore, was shot in a house on Mount Washington Street. Every day, his bus route took him past the house.  
“There was all the lighting, equipment, incomprehensible gear sitting out in the front yard,” Campbell said. “All this stuff you needed to make a movie, but what did this stuff do? That was another big mystery that needed to be solved.”
An issue of the sci-fi magazine Star Log ran a feature about the television show Land of the Lost. The article explained how the puppets were made and operated, giving Campbell an even better look behind the curtain. He carried the magazine with him to school every day, never leaving home without it.
 “Little did I know I’d meet and become friends with the guy on the cover,” Campbell said. “Harry Walton was one of the animators on the show, and I met him much later in the mid-90s.”
Ardmore High School’s library had a single book on the history of film effects. Campbell admitted the book is still in his possession.
“I’d hate to think what the fine would be,” he said, laughing.  
After graduating high school, he attended Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas where he majored in film. After college, he took a job doing A/V work at hotels in San Antonio.
“It took me about two years to realize that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were not going to find me in the back room under the Marriott hotel,” Campbell said.  
He saved roughly $5,000, packed everything he had into his car and moved to Los Angeles. His parents were supportive, if a little unsure. He slept on a friend’s living room floor for the first month before he settled into a small apartment and found a job doing the same A/V work he’d done in San Antonio in a hotel near Universal Studios. By sheer coincidence, his supervisor was a writer for some of the magazines Campbell grew up reading in Ardmore.
“He saw me coming in everyday, self-teaching with all of this literature, and he knew I was focused on this,” Campbell said.
His supervisor’s wife had just become a producer at a small animation house, Klasky/Csupo, which would go on to create shows like Rugrats and Aaa!!! Real Monsters for Nickelodeon throughout the 90s and early 2000s. In 1987, he recommended Campbell for a personal assistant position. Campbell drove, ran errands and helped with animated productions for $8 an hour.  
“We worked on animated bumpers that would go before and after commercial breaks on the old Tracy Ullman show,” Campbell said. “These eventually became The Simpsons, because people responded more positively to the animation than the TV show they were watching.”
During a lull in production, one of the producers recommended him for a night camera operator position on the 1989 film The Abyss, the first feature film he worked on. It wasn’t effects work, but it was a step away from animation and in the right direction. From there, he worked as an effects camera operator on Hook, Alien, Death Becomes Her and The Meteor Man.
 But in 1993, a single film changed the industry almost overnight. Jurassic Park’s state-of-the-art computer effects were such a hit that the visual effects Campbell grew up studying were suddenly considered behind the times. The dinosaurs had come back to life, but in a bittersweet twist, practical effects were deemed extinct.