In 1978, Phil headed the ILM animation department with Jon Berg for Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (released in 1980). For this film, Tippett co-developed the animation technique called go motion to animate the sinister AT-AT Imperial Walkers and the hybrid alientauntauns. In 1981 Tippett continued using go motion for Dragonslayer, and received his first Academy Award nomination for the extraordinarily realistic dragon animation. By 1983, Tippett led the famed Lucasfilm creature shop for Return of the Jedi for which he was awarded his firstOscar in 1984.
In 1984 Tippett Studio was born when Phil left ILM and set up a studio in his garage to create a 10-minute experimental film called Prehistoric Beast. The realism of the dinosaurs it depicted and the film's reflection of contemporary scientific theory led to the 1985 CBS animated documentary Dinosaur! Tippett Studio won its first award, an Emmy for Special Visual Effects, for the animated dinosaur sequences.
In 1986 producer Jon Davison hired Tippett to create the animated robot sequences for RoboCop. The ED-209 stop motion model was designed by Craig Davies, who also built the full size models, and animated by Tippett. As one of the setpieces of the movie, the ED-209’s look and animated sequences were under the close supervision of director Paul Verhoeven, who sometimes acted out the robot's movements himself. ED 209 was voiced by producer Jon Davison. This project became the start of a long and successful collaboration between Davies and Tippet.He also modeled the Dark Overlord creatures seen in Howard the Duck.