Tony Mines, a founding father of modern Lego animation, has died at the age of 44 after a months-long battle with melanoma cancer.
Mines passed away peacefully on Saturday July 9, one day after his 44th birthday, in Florence Nightingale Hospice in Aylesbury, U.K., his sister Gill Mines told Cartoon Brew.
“Although we knew his cancer was incurable, it’s still heartbreaking for us all to lose him so young,” said Gill.
Mines was born on July 8, 1978, in Leighton Buzzard. Although Gill pointed out that he was technically from “the posh side” of Linslade. Mines was a Barnfield College graduate who later studied animation at Newport University, South Wales.
He was diagnosed with melanoma cancer on January 1, 2022, which was later confirmed incurable in February. His body didn’t respond well to treatment, and he received the terminal diagnosis in April. Mines spent his final months living with his sister and brother-in-law, who cared for him to the end.
“Tony was a creative genius from a very young age, a mesmerizing imagination, and had the most wicked sense of humor and infectious laugh,” Gill said of her big brother. “He was also kind, loving, and thoughtful. Tony was very pragmatic about his cancer diagnosis and spent his last few months with friends and family, whilst doing the thing he loved most, drawing and animating.”
Spite Your Face Productions, the company name of British animators and filmmakers Tony Mines and Tim Drage, was a pioneer in the Lego filmmaking movement of the early 21st century. Films such as ONE: A Space Odyssey and All of the Dead quickly quickly went “viral” before the term even existed. Stop-motion films featuring Lego and other brick toys had been around for decades, but the work done by Mines and his collaborators was groundbreaking and foundational for the Lego films, both official and fan-made, that can be found all across the internet today.
“Bottom line, no Tony Mines, no Ninjago, no Lego Batman, no Lego movies… no kids animating Lego on their iphones,” veteran writer David Freedman told Cartoon Brew.
By the early 2000s, Mines and Drage’s work was so popular that the pair became the go-to animators when The Lego Group wanted to commission promotional brickfilms. The company’s most popular Lego films include Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock, The Han Solo Affair, Monty Python and the Holy Grail in LEGO, and Scary Thriller; which was included on a dvd in two Lego Studios Lego sets.
For the past two decades, the company produced a diverse portfolio of commercial, independent, and service work, much of which is available to stream on the Spite Your Face website.
In the early days of Cartoon Brew, Mines was a regular contributor to the comments sections on our posts. In 2006, he taught us how to make our animation “not rubbish” in a blog post that still holds up today.
After learning of Mines’ passing, several of his closest friends, colleagues, and his sister Gill reached out to share their memories of the man.
Friend and Spite Your Face Productions co-director Tim Drage:
I’ll always treasure my years of friendship with Tony, from our hyper-creative early days of DIY animation, film, and music in Wales, to the excitement of creating our official Lego films, to all sorts of travels and fun times in London, Japan, Berlin, and elsewhere. It’s such a tragedy to lose such a great friend, perfect animation collaborator, insightful pop-culture satirist, and hilarious noise band front man. He was still drawing and creating till the end and was proud to look back and see the impact our work had on the brickfilm community.
Veteran animation writer David Freedman:
Tony was a complete original in this biz (in this world) and a refreshingly cynical comedic voice. Specific to animation, he pretty much single handedly created a subgenre of Lego animation. It may be hard to believe but before Tony, nobody had ever animated in Lego. And after Tony, EVERYONE did. He was a great filmmaker, exceptionally funny, passionate about his politics and both interesting and interested in other people.
Colleague Paula Varjack:
I worked with Tony Mines in the early aughts on a quirky animation series called Dork Hunters from outer space – he did character design. By the time we met he had already established himself as a talented animator making brilliantly wacky animations for Lego (well before any of the Lego films were made) He had a wicked sense of humor and cracking taste in music. He will be missed.
Former Disney manager and Mines’ friend Baljeet Rai:
I remember him unapologetically calling truth to power before that became a phrase. He was bullshit-intolerant and had courage, brass balls, which one can only hope he donated to science.
If you knew Tony, or just enjoyed his work, we encourage you to comment below.
Pictured at top: “All of the Dead,” “Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail in LEGO,” “ONE: A Space Odyssey,” and Tony Mines dressed to the nines.