Elvis Jones, the co-founder of Autonomous FX, died on June 2, 2017, in Costa Rica. He was 42; the cause of death was complications due to liver failure.
Elvis Floyd John Oliver Thomas Jones was born June 22, 1975 in Kansas City, Mo. He graduated from Raytown Senior High School, Raytown, Mo. in 1993 and he went on to study the art of special make-up effects and graduate from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
“When Elvis Jones was in grade school,” said sister Rebecca Kraxner, “the teacher had told the students to bring a decorated Valentine’s Day box to school the next day for their class party, to exchange Valentines during the class party. So mom and I walked in the door from the store with a very excited Elvis! He had taken our home phone apart and several of his toys and built a robot type box that would take the Valentine from you and put it in the box itself! I knew at that very moment he would do great things!”
It was at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where Elvis would meet his best friend and roommate Tim Phoenix.
“Elvis was a brother to me,” said Phoenix. “My best friend for over 20 years. We were roommates for 13 years, longer than many marriages. We never fought and we grew together over the years. We inspired each other in different ways of life. We just clicked. Elvis was the most sturdy artist I’ve ever met. He could do anything. I’m still in denial of his passing. All the memories of him just keep flooding in. I just want my buddy back. I’ll see you in Valhalla brother Elvis!”
Elvis Jones worked with such well-known artists as Ve Neill, Tony Gardner, Douglas White and Vincent Guastini. He made his mark while working as the key mechanic and sculptor on the feature film Jeepers Creepers for Brian Penikas’ shop Almost Human, and went on to become the effects designer for Jeepers Creepers II and III. Elvis’ work has graced such feature films as Stigmata, Dogma, There’s Something About Mary, Maggie; Me, Myself and Irene; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Shallow Hal, Terminator: Salvation and The Maze Runner. He also worked on many television productions such as NCIS: New Orleans, Underground, Heartland, Buffy, Angel, Power Rangers in Space and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. Elvis was recently nominated for the Make-up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Awards for his work on the television miniseries Roots.
Said Gardner of Alterian Effects, “Elvis was involved in a wide variety of projects at Alterian, from Daft Punk’s original helmets to Gwyneth Paltrow’s silicone arms and legs for her Shallow Hal fat suit, and his skill set and attitude made him an important part of the teams for these shows and everything else going on. He was sort of a fountain of knowledge, with an awesome sense of humor and willing to take on anything and think outside the box. He was a sharp wit. He always had some sort of comment that would make you smile too. He was such a kid at heart—hard to think that he’s gone and left the party first.”
Added Orlando-based make-up effects artist Michael Burnett, “I first met Elvis in the late ‘90s when I hired him as a make-up artist for Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. He had just graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and it was one of his first professional jobs. His talent and energy told me right away he would do well in the effects industry and he was a fun guy to be around. I wish we had stayed in touch better over the years but at least on Facebook I could keep up with what he was doing and see his latest creations. RIP Elvis, you were taken too early.”
In 2005 Elvis partnered with fellow make-up artist Jason Collins to form Autonomous FX, Inc. with a shop in Los Angeles and a shop in New Orleans.
“Elvis Jones and I became friends in 2001 while working over at Almost Human,” said Collins, owner and CEO of Autonomous FX, Inc. “We were working on shows like Angel and Buffy in a converted office building downtown when it was still an awful place. We spent a lot of late nights fiber-glassing creature suits with open windows and fans.
“We were in our late 20s and all we knew was how to hustle. We became close friends as I took over the studio supervision at Almost Human for the next few years. He took over the chief mechanic duties and others while there. A lot of late nights, a lot of jokes, a lot of on-location time and lot of bar time after the job was done cemented our friendship and work ethic. When Autonomous FX, Inc. was first starting we spent a lot of time in my garage, then graduated to a 1000-square-feet building in downtown near USC. We had a couple of small films building creature suits. It wasn’t pretty but it was home.
“The next year we graduated to a bigger space in Van Nuys as work started picking up a little. It was a hustle but that was OK. Hustle was all we knew. Late nights and trial by fire. In late 2010 we got a call about the possibility of keying some of the make-up effects for a film called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. We had worked with the production supervisor on a small low budget film a few years earlier and he was angling for Autonomous to get the job. We had been thinking about setting up some shop space in Louisiana for some time as the tax incentives were kicking in. This was the perfect opportunity to go down and look for some space. We landed the job and some shop space and Autonomous FX South, Inc. was born. Elvis was down to relocate as he loved the city. It didn’t take long to assimilate into the local film community down there as everyone loved Elvis. What’s not to love? He had charisma, a big personality and great work ethic.
“Soon Autonomous FX South, Inc. was handling most of the work flow down there as we worked well with local- and distant-hire department heads as well as the local line producers. Elvis was home in New Orleans. It was in his blood. He loved that city and that city loved him. I’ve never met a man with a stronger work ethic than Elvis. His talent and confidence made you feel safe when you felt unsure about something. It was more than dependability. It was character. A lot of late night conversations about love, life, goals and dreams. I don’t think we always liked each other. Though we really knew and understood one another. We respected one another. There was a familial complexity to our relationship at times. We always showed up for each other and that made us family. His passing has hit all of us hard and fast. What I do know as true from balls-to-bones is that this world is less without him in it. He was a good soul, artistic and kind-natured. He had a lot more to give in a big way. I will miss my friend. I will mourn my friend. I will know that my life was changed by my friend. Thank you for being you Elvis Jones. I hope you know how much you were loved and respected by everyone in this community of make-up artists we call friends and home.”
Elvis was a very good friend of this writer and his loss has affected me greatly, which is why I sought to write this memorial to honor him and his contributions to our industry. I first met Elvis in 1998. We worked together for Michael Burnett’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. Elvis was a very likable person, he was incredibly talented and fun to work with. Regardless of the crazy hours we worked, Elvis always maintained a certain levity that made the event fun, no matter how chaotic things might get. I knew right away that I had made a lifelong friend with a man that was destined for great things in our industry. I later worked with Elvis on Power Rangers Lost Galaxy and Power Rangers in Space where we created mutant and alien prosthetic make-ups for the show.
Whenever I worked a show with Elvis it was always a fun event. His creativity was an inspiration; I always looked up to Elvis. In my opinion, his greatest contribution to our industry was to show us all how to behave among other artists and remind us why we got into this art in the first place; to have fun doing what we love. That’s what he taught me. We truly lost a great man, and the industry won’t be quite the same without him.
Elvis is survived by his three brothers David Joe Kraxner, Vernon Kraxner and Bobby Jones; two sisters Debbie Kraxner and Rebecca Kraxner; and his mother Janeth (Susie) Stevens.