Oral Histories

Interview of John Muto

Production designer with expertise in animation and visual effects who worked on River's Edge, Home Alone, and Species. Professor of production design at California State University, Long Beach.
The Crafts in Hollywood: Production Design
COVID-19 Pandemic
Film and Television
Biographical Note:
Production designer with expertise in animation and visual effects who worked on River's Edge, Home Alone, and Species. Professor of production design at California State University, Long Beach.
Collings, Jane
Muto, John
Persons Present:
Muto and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Sessions one to three: Muto's home in Los Angeles. Because of the necessity of restricting personal contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, the fourth session was conducted by phone.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, principal editor and interviewer, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; Ph.D., Critical Studies in Film and Television, UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Muto was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.Some months after the oral history interview was completed, the UCLA Center for Oral History Research recontacted Muto to invite him to participate in another interview session documenting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the film and television industry. The final session thus focuses primarily on the personal, professional, and industry-wide effects of the pandemic.
5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series of interviews was undertaken in collaboration with the Art Directors Guild. Its aim is to document the lives and work of Guild members and staff who have made a significant contribution to film and television history. Interviews capture the work of title artists, set designers, art directors, production designers, and many other categories. The contribution of labor unions in shaping the conditions of the work is also addressed.
Early life--Attends University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Berkeley--Upon graduation does poster design and performance with Anna Halprin’s San Francisco dancers’ workshop--A job painting animation cels--Works with the Oingo Boingo troupe--Work on the film Forbidden Zone--Hired at New World Pictures doing visual effects for Chuck Comisky--New World Pictures--Does storyboards for Galaxy of Terror for James Cameron--Moves to Private Stock Effects, a company founded by Chuck Comisky--Finds the experience of working on film in Canada unsatisfactory--Mentored by Chuck Comisky--Works on Night of the Comet as production designer.
Does production design for River’s Edge--Found working for Private Stock Effects to be an invaluable learning opportunity--The significant contribution of the production designer to a film--Harold Michelson--Designs forced perspective set for Flowers in the Attic--Production designer for Night of the Comet--Begins work on Home Alone--Gene Allen--More on Home Alone.
Works on Species with Roger Donaldson--H. R. Giger--Muto’s approach to teaching production design--The work for Terminator T2: 3-D--the Art Directors Film Society film series.
Learns about virus from news sources--Establishes household routines--Production design classes taught recently--Concerns about safely ramping up film production--Socializes outdoors--Mask compliance in neighborhood--Concerns about upcoming presidential election--Support for Black Lives Matter movement--Counts on a vaccine in the future.