Ron Thornton, an Emmy-winning visual effects specialist for the Babylon 5 pilot movie whose credits also range from Spaceballs and The Jackal to Buffy The Vampire Slayer and multiple Star Trek series, died Monday after a short illness at him home in Albuquerque. He was 59. His fellow Visual Effects Society veteran Emile Smith confirmed the news on Twitter:
A London native, Thornton’s first Hollywood credits came for the mid-1980s films Critters and Spaceballs, but he would go on to make his name in television. He oversaw model building for the 1987-1988 Saturday morning series Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future before landing a gig as VFX designer for Babylon 5: The Gathering, the 1993 pilot movie for the popular Babylon 5. He shared an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Special Visual Effects for that project and from 1994-1996 would work on the Warner Bros TV-produced series it spawned.
In the mid-’90s, Thornton landed a gig as visual effects producer on Star Trek: Voyager, working on more than 15 episodes through 2001 and scoring an Emmy nom in 1999. He then went on to the same job on follow-up series Star Trek: Enterprise, working on seven episodes of its first season. He also co-created, executive produced and wrote nine episodes of Hypernauts, a sci-fi series that aired Saturday mornings on ABC in 1996. It also gave Thornton his sole directing credit, for the episode “Into The Dark So Deep.”
Thornton would add two more Emmy noms to his résumé: for the 2002 telefilm Superfire and Buffy The Vampire Slayer the following year. His later credits also include TV’s Undercovers and the Nashville pilot and the features Sorority Row and The Crazies.
Survivors include his wife, Lada.