Anybody who has started out with Super 8, including millions of people like J.J. Abrams, or did a 3D film like I did with Muppet Vision 3D owe Lenny Lipton a debt of gratitude. He also wrote the lyrics for the song Puff the Magic Dragon. Here is the obituary from The Hollywood Reporter.
After the huge success of the Peter, Paul and Mary hit, he founded StereoGraphics and developed an electro-optical modulator known as ZScreen.
By Carolyn Giardina, Mike Barnes
Lenny Lipton, who wrote the poem that became the Peter, Paul and Mary hit “Puff the Magic Dragon” and developed technology used for today’s digital 3D theatrical projection systems, has died. He was 82.
Lipton died Wednesday of brain cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his son Noah told The Hollywood Reporter.
While studying engineering as a freshman at Cornell University, Lipton, inspired by a 1936 Ogden Nash poem, “The Tale of Custard the Dragon,” wrote a poem in 1959 on a typewriter owned by another physics major at the school, Peter Yarrow.
Yarrow discovered the poem — about a boy named Jackie Paper and his imaginary dragon friend in a land by the sea — in the typewriter and years later used it for the lyrics to “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
Yarrow’s Peter, Paul and Mary recorded the song in 1962. It was released in January 1963 and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 as one of the folk trio’s most enduring hits.
“Pirates and dragons, back then, were common interests in stories for boys,” Lipton told L.A. Weekly in a 2015 interview. “The Puff story is really just a lot like Peter Pan.”
The tune spawned a 1978 animated CBS special and two sequels, 1979’s Puff the Magic Dragon in the Land of the Living Lies and 1982’s Puff and the Incredible Mr. Nobody, with Burgess Meredith voicing the dragon in all three.
A children’s picture book based on the song has sold more than a million copies and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Over the years, Lipton denied that “Puff” was about drugs, a “myth” he said was started by New York newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen.
Yarrow had tracked down Lipton and granted him half the songwriting credit, and royalties allowed him to pursue his interest in filmmaking.
In the Hollywood 3D community, Lipton is known for developing the ZScreen electro-optical modulator — a tool used in digital 3D projection — through his company, StereoGraphics. After StereoGraphics was acquired by RealD in 2005, Lipton continued development of his technology as RealD’s chief technology officer.
Lipton also authored books including 1972’s Independent Filmmaking; 1979’s Lipton on Filmmaking; 1982’s Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema; and 2021’s The Cinema in Flux: The Evolution of Motion Picture Technology From the Magic Lantern to the Digital Era.
Born in Brooklyn on May 18, 1940, Leonard Lipton was 8 when his dad gave him a 16-millimeter projector. “It was a toy, but I really understood how it worked,” he said. “I didn’t take it apart as much as I really understood how it worked, so I made other things like it.”
Comic books and 3D movies in the early 1950s got Lipton interested in the stereographic medium, and in the ’60s, he shot several experimental films, including Let a Thousand Parks Bloom, about People’s Park in Berkeley, California.
He served as a production assistant on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), founded StereoGraphics in 1980 and served as a convergence setter for the 3D film Dogs From Hell (1983).
As of 2015, Lipton held 68 patents and had dozens more pending. “The motion picture industry has made billions of dollars from my [ZScreen] invention, and they would be in the red and not the black if I had not done what I did,” he said.
The Smithsonian Institution honored him in 1996 for StereoGraphics’ invention of CrystalEyes, electronic eyewear for computer graphics and video applications such as molecular modeling, aerial mapping and medical imaging. (NASA selected it to remotely pilot the Mars Rovers, and it was used by Lockheed to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.)
In 2011, the International 3D Society (now the Advanced Imaging Society) presented him with its Century Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Survivors include his wife, Julie, and children, Anna, Noah and Jonah.
His website is here: https://thecinemainflux.com/LennyLipton/