• Jan 12, 1957
    (b.) - ?

Bio/Description

An American animator, film director and the chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He is also currently the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. His first job was with The Walt Disney Company, where he became an animator. Next, he joined Lucasfilm, where he worked on the then-groundbreaking use of CGI animation. After the Graphics Group of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm was sold to Steve Jobs and became Pixar in 1986, he oversaw all of Pixar's films and associated projects as executive producer and he directed Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, and Cars 2. He has won two Academy Awards, for Animated Short Film (for Tin Toy), as well as a Special Achievement Award (for Toy Story). He was born in Hollywood, California. His mother was an art teacher at Bell Gardens High School, and his father was a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. He grew up in Whittier, California. His mother's profession contributed to his growing preoccupation with animation. He often drew cartoons during church services at the Church of Christ his family attended. While in high school, he read The Art of Animation by Bob Thomas. The book covered the history of Disney animation and the making of a book about Sleeping Beauty, which made him realize he wanted to do animation himself. When he saw Disney's 1963 film The Sword in the Stone, he finally made the decision that he should become an animator. His education began at Pepperdine University. It was the alma mater of both his parents and his siblings. However, he heard of a new program at California Institute of the Arts and decided to leave Pepperdine to follow his dream of becoming an animator. His mother further encouraged him to take up a career in animation, and in 1975 he enrolled as the second student in a new animation course at the California Institute of the Arts. He was taught by three members of Disney's "Nine Old Men" team of veteran animators – Eric Larson, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston – his classmates included Brad Bird, John Musker, Henry Selick and Tim Burton. During his time there, he produced two animated shorts; Lady and the Lamp (1979) and Nitemare (1980), which both won the student Academy Award for Animation. On graduation, he joined The Walt Disney Company, and was promoted quickly up the ranks to a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland in Anaheim. He later obtained a job as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation, but felt something was missing; after 101 Dalmatians, which in his opinion was the film where Disney had reached its highest plateau, the studio had lost momentum and was criticized for often repeating itself without adding any new ideas or innovations. In 1980 or 1981, he coincidentally came across some video tapes from one of the (then new) computer graphics conferences, which showed some of the very beginnings of computer animation, primarily floating spheres and such, which he experienced as a revelation. But it wasn't until shortly after, when he was invited by his friends Jerry Rees and Bill Kroyer, while working on Mickey's Christmas Carol, to come and see the first lightcycle sequences for an upcoming film entitled Tron, featuring (then) state-of-the-art computer generated imagery, that he really saw the huge potential of this new technology in animation. Up to that time, the studio had used a multiplane camera to add depth to its animation. He realized that computers could be used to make films with three dimensional backgrounds where traditionally animated characters could interact to add a new, visually stunning depth that had not been conceived before. Later, he and Glen Keane talked about how great it would be to make an animated feature where the background was computer animated, and then showed Keane the book The Brave Little Toaster by Thomas Disch, which he thought would be a good candidate for the film. Keane agreed, but first they decided to do a short test film to see how it worked out, and chose Where the Wild Things Are, a decision based on the fact that Disney had considered producing a feature based on the works of Maurice Sendak. Satisfied with the result, He, along with Keane and Thomas L. Wilhite went on with the project. He dedicated himself to it; while Keane eventually went on to work with The Great Mouse Detective. He and his colleagues unknowingly stepped on some of their direct superiors' toes by circumventing them in their enthusiasm to get the project into motion, during a pitch meeting for the film to two of them, animation administrator Ed Hansen, and head of Disney studios, Ron W. Miller. The project was cancelled, due to lack of perceived cost benefits for the mix of traditional and computer animation. A few minutes after the meeting, he was summoned by Hansen to his office, where John was told that his employment in the Walt Disney Studios had been terminated. The Brave Little Toaster would later become a 2D animated feature film directed by one of John's friends, Jerry Rees, and he, along with some of the staff of Pixar would be involved in the film. While putting together a crew for the planned feature, he had made some contacts in the computer industry, among them Alvy Ray Smith and Ed Catmull at Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group. After being fired from Disney, he visited a computer graphics conference at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, where he met and talked to Catmull again. Before the day was over, he had made a deal to work with Catmull and his colleagues on a project that resulted in their first computer animated short: The Adventures of André and Wally B. Because Catmull was not allowed to hire animators, he was given the title "Interface Designer"; "Nobody knew what that was but they didn’t question it in budget meetings". The short turned out to be more revolutionary than he had first visualized before he joined Lucasfilm. His original idea had been to create only the backgrounds on computers, but in the final short everything was computer animated, including the characters. After this short CGI film, things would continue to grow until it became Toy Story, the first ever computer-animated feature film. He is a close friend and admirer of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, and has been executive producer on several of Miyazaki's films for their release in the United States, also overseeing the dubbing of the films for their English language soundtrack. The gentle forest spirit Totoro from Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro makes an appearance as a plush toy in Toy Story 3. He drew the most widely known versions of the BSD Daemon, a cartoon mascot for the BSD Unix operating system. On May 2, 2009, he received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Pepperdine University. He gave a commencement address where he encouraged the graduating class of more than 500 students never to let anyone tarnish their dreams. He has won two Academy Awards, for Animated Short Film (Tin Toy), as well as a Special Achievement Award (Toy Story). Lasseter has been nominated on four other occasions – in the category of Animated Feature, for both Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Cars (2006), in the Original Screenplay category for Toy Story (1995) and in the Animated Short category for Luxo, Jr. (1986), while the short Knick Knack (1989) was selected by Terry Gilliam as one of the ten best animated films of all time. He was also the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's 2011 Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award.
  • Date of Birth:

    Jan 12, 1957
  • Gender:

    Male
  • Noted For:

    Pioneer in the use of CGI animation; and one of the three founding fathers of Pixar Animation Studios
  • Category of Achievement:

  • More Info: