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Eileen Moran: A Special Effects Wizard’s Highlights Reel

Eileen Moran started out with ambitions of becoming an actor, like her college classmate John Turturro. But instead, she ended up creating a different sort of magic on the screen.

As a visual effects producer, Moran helped conjure up the magic that made scores of Hollywood films into spectacular viewing experiences, from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the upcoming The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, to Avatar,  Prometheus and the 2005 remake of King Kong.

The New York native, who died at age 60 on Dec. 2 in Wellington, New Zealand, first gained notoriety as a production manager on TV commercials, where she worked with artists and technicians to plan and execute the clever, eye-catching visual illusions that help make one brand of product stand out from another in viewers’ minds. From there, she jumped to Hollywood, going to work for Digital Domain, a special effects company partly owned by director James Cameron, and then, in 2001, to Weta Digital, a visual effects company in New Zealand formed eight years earlier by Peter Jackson and two other directors.

Here are a few of the amazing moments on both the small and big screen that Moran helped make possible: