(written from a Production point of view)
Walter "Walt" Conti (born 14 April 1959; age 61) is a special and visual effects technician who worked for Industrial Light & Magic as designer and project supervisor for the two mechanical whales George and Gracie. Conti is known for his specialty in creating animatronic creatures for work in the water and made his first job working on Star Trek IV where he created the first swimming robotors, the two whales. Since Star Trek IV, Conti worked close to marine mammal expert Pieter Folkens.
Conti earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering with Honors and a MS in Mechanical Engineering & Design from the Stanford University. Beside ILM he also worked for the company "David Kelley Design" before he founded his own company in Mountain View, Silicon Valley, California.  
Conti continued to work for ILM as modelshop project chief for the 1987 comedy Innerspace, which featured Trek actors Robert Picardo, Wendy Schaal, and Henry Gibson. In 1989 his company "Walt Conti Productions" provided the radio controlled miniatures for James Cameron's science fiction thriller The Abyss on which Conti himself served as visual effects supervisor.
The following years Conti and his renamed company "Edge Innovations" worked as effects supervisor for mechanical whales, sharks, and dolphins on projects such as the science fiction series seaQuest DSV (1993-1996, starring Stephanie Beacham, Marco Sanchez, Rosalind Allen, and Frank Welker who provided the dolphin sounds), the family drama Free Willy (1993) and its sequels Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home (1995) and Free Willy 3: The Rescue (1997), the adventure movie Flipper (1996), the comedy Zeus and Roxanne (1997), Renny Harlin's horror thriller Deep Blue Sea (1999), the comedy sequel Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), the comedy Failure to Launch (2006), and the television series CSI: New York and CSI: Miami.
Other projects he provided animatronic effects for include the western Maverick (1994), Ridley Scott's drama White Squall (1996), the horror film Anaconda (1997), Robert Zemeckis' drama Cast Away (2000), and the adventure The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).
Conti was also interviewed for the Movie Magic documentary Mechanical Sea Creatures: Aqua Animatronics in 1995 and for several making of specials for films such as Deep Blue Sea (1999) and The Perfect Storm (2000). In 2001 he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects for Wolfgang Petersen's action drama The Perfect Storm (2000). The same year he won a BAFTA Film Award for Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects for The Perfect Storm.