John Lasseter

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John Lasseter
Lasseter at the Austin Film Festival on October 22, 2011.
Born John Alan Lasseter
(1957-01-12) January 12, 1957 (age 57)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Alma mater Pepperdine University,
California Institute of the Arts
Occupation Animator
film director
Chief Creative Officer, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios
Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering
Years active 1978–present
Notable work(s) Luxo Jr.
Toy Story
A Bug's Life
Toy Story 2
Spouse(s) Nancy Lasseter (1988–present)[1]
Signature John Lasseter signature.svg

John Alan Lasseter (born January 12, 1957) is an American animator, film director, screenwriter, producer and the chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He is also currently the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering.[2]

Lasseter's first job was with The Walt Disney Company, where he became an animator. Fired from Disney for promoting computer animation, he joined Lucasfilm, where he worked on the then ground breaking use of CGI animation. The Graphics Group of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm was sold to Steve Jobs and became Pixar in 1986. Lasseter oversees all of Pixar's films and associated projects as executive producer. In addition, he directed Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, and Cars 2. Since 2007, he also oversees all of Walt Disney Animation Studios' films and associated projects as executive producer.

He has won two Academy Awards, for Animated Short Film (for Tin Toy), as well as a Special Achievement Award (for Toy Story).[3]

Early years[edit]

Lasseter was born in Hollywood, California. His mother, Jewell Mae (née Risley), was an art teacher at Bell Gardens High School, and his father, Paul Eual Lasseter, was a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership and a Veteran of World War II.[4][5][6] Lasseter 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. As a child, Lasseter would race home from school to watch Chuck Jones cartoons on television. 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 Lasseter 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.[7]

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. Lasseter 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.[8] 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.[9]

First years at Disney[edit]

On graduation, Lasseter joined The Walt Disney Company, and was promoted quickly up the ranks to a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland in Anaheim.[10] Lasseter 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.[11][12]

The first Disney animated feature that Lasseter worked on was The Fox and the Hound, which he worked alongside other animation artists such as Tim Burton, Brad Bird and Henry Selick.[citation needed] In 1980 or 1981, he coincidentally came across some video tapes from one of the then new computer-graphics conferences, who showed some of the very beginnings of computer animation, primarily floating spheres and such, which he experienced as a revelation.[13] 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. Lasseter 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, Lasseter, Keane and Thomas L. Wilhite went on with the project, especially Lasseter who dedicated himself to it, while Keane eventually went on to work with The Great Mouse Detective.[14]

Lasseter 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.[15] A few minutes after the meeting, Lasseter was summoned by Hansen to his office, where he 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 Lasseter's friends, Jerry Rees, and some of the staff of Pixar would be involved in the film alongside Lasseter.


John Lasseter with George Lucas in 2009.

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, Lasseter 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, Lasseter 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";[16] "Nobody knew what that was but they didn't question it in budget meetings".[17] The short turned out to be more revolutionary than Lasseter first had 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.

Due to George Lucas's financially crippling divorce, he was forced to sell off Lucasfilm Computer Graphics, by this time renamed the Pixar Graphics Group. It was acquired by Steve Jobs in 1986. Lasseter oversees all of Pixar's films and associated projects as executive producer. He also directed Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, and Cars 2.

He has won two Academy Awards, for Animated Short Film (Tin Toy), as well as a Special Achievement Award (Toy Story).[3] 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.[18]

Lasseter received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood on November 1, 2011. It is located at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard.[19]

Lasseter was also the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's 2011 Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award.

Back at Disney[edit]

Disney purchased Pixar in April 2006, and Lasseter was named chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He was also named principal creative adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering, where he helps design attractions for Disney's theme parks. Since 2007, he oversees all of Walt Disney Animation Studios' films and associated projects as executive producer. He reports directly to Disney President and CEO Robert Iger, bypassing Disney's studio and theme park executives. He also received green-light power on films with Roy E. Disney's consent.

In December 2006, he announced that Disney will start producing animated shorts that will be released theatrically once more. Lasseter said he sees this medium as an excellent way to train and discover new talent in the company as well as a testing ground for new techniques and ideas. The shorts will be in 2D, CGI or a combination of both.[20] Recent shorts have included Paperman (2012) and Get a Horse! (2013).

Lasseter 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.

Other work[edit]

Lasseter drew the most widely known versions of the BSD Daemon, a cartoon mascot for the BSD Unix operating system.[21]

Personal life[edit]

John Lasseter with his wife Nancy Lasseter at the 2006 Annie Awards red carpet at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California.

Lasseter lives in Glen Ellen, California with his wife Nancy, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, whom he met at a computer graphics conference. Nancy majored in computer graphics applications, and worked for a while as a household engineer and a computer graphics engineer at Apple Computer.[22] They married in 1988,[1] and have five sons,[22][23] born between 1979/1980 and 1997.[24]

The Lasseter Family Winery, owned jointly by John Lasseter and his wife Nancy, was first opened in 2000 and began accepting guests by appointment only in 2011.[25] A private, 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad with vintage equipment runs through the winery's Syrah vineyard.

On May 2, 2009, Lasseter received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Pepperdine University.[26] He gave a commencement address where he encouraged the graduating class of more than 500 students never to let anyone tarnish their dreams.

His influences include Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, Frank Capra and Preston Sturges.[27]


Feature films[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1981 The Fox and the Hound inbetweener (uncredited)
1985 Young Sherlock Holmes computer animation: ILM
1987 The Brave Little Toaster story artist
1991 Beauty and the Beast executive producer: 3D version
1992 Porco Rosso executive creative consultant: US version
1995 Toy Story Green alien (on helium) director/story/modeling & animation system development
1998 A Bug's Life Harry the fly director/story
1999 Toy Story 2 Blue Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot director/story
2000 Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins characters
2001 Monsters, Inc. executive producer
2002 Spirited Away executive producer: US version
2003 Finding Nemo executive producer
2004 The Incredibles executive producer
2005 Howl's Moving Castle executive producer: US version
2006 Cars director/story/screenplay
Tales from Earthsea executive producer: US[28]
2007 Meet the Robinsons executive producer
Ratatouille executive producer
2008 WALL-E executive producer
Tinker Bell executive producer
Bolt executive producer
2009 Up executive producer/senior creative team: Pixar
Ponyo executive producer: US, Director: English Dub
Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure executive producer
The Princess and the Frog executive producer
2010 Toy Story 3 story/executive producer/senior creative team: Pixar
Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue executive producer
Tangled executive producer
2011 Cars 2 John Lassetire director/story/characters
Winnie the Pooh executive producer
The Muppets creative consultant[29]
2012 Secret of the Wings executive producer
Brave executive producer
Wreck-It Ralph executive producer
2013 Planes story/executive producer
Monsters University executive producer
Frozen executive producer
2014 The Pirate Fairy story/executive producer
Planes: Fire & Rescue executive producer
Big Hero 6 executive producer
2015 Legend of the NeverBeast executive producer
Inside Out executive producer
The Good Dinosaur executive producer
2016 Zootopia (working title) executive producer
Finding Dory executive producer

Short films[edit]

Year Title Notes
1983 Mickey's Christmas Carol creative talent
1984 The Adventures of André and Wally B. character design and animation, models: André/Wally B.
1986 Luxo Jr. writer, director, producer, models, animation
1987 Red's Dream writer, director, animator
1988 Tin Toy story, director, animator, modeler
1989 Knick Knack writer, director
1997 Geri's Game executive producer
2000 For the Birds executive producer
2002 Mike's New Car executive producer
2003 Boundin' executive producer
2005 Jack-Jack Attack executive producer
One Man Band executive producer
2006 Mater and the Ghostlight original story, director
Lifted executive producer
2007 How to Hook Up Your Home Theater executive producer
Your Friend the Rat executive producer
2008 Presto executive producer
Glago's Guest executive producer
BURN-E executive producer
Cars Toons director
2009 Super Rhino executive producer
Partly Cloudy executive producer
Dug's Special Mission executive producer
Prep & Landing executive producer
2010 Day & Night executive producer
Prep & Landing: Operation: Secret Santa executive producer
2011 Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice[30] executive producer
La Luna executive producer
The Ballad of Nessie executive producer
Pixie Hollow Games executive producer
2012 Tangled Ever After executive producer
Paperman executive producer
2013 The Blue Umbrella executive producer
Party Central executive producer
Get a Horse! executive producer

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b O'Connor, Stuart (February 12, 2009). "How to tell a great toy story". The Guardian. Retrieved May 11, 2013. "I was doing a lot of amateur 3D photography – in 1988, when I got married to my wife Nancy, we took 3D wedding pictures." 
  2. ^ Grover, Ronald (March 10, 2006). "The Happiest Place on Earth – Again". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b IMDb. "John Lasseter – Awards". 
  4. ^ Baillie, Russell (June 3, 2006). "John Lasseter king of Toon town". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ "John Lasseter Addresses Graduating Class at Seaver College Commencement Ceremony". Pepperdine University. April 2009. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Jewell Risley Lasseter". The Whittier Daily News. November 1, 2005. Retrieved December 15, 2009. 
  7. ^ McCracken, Harry (1990). "Luxo Sr. – An Interview with John Lasseter". Animato. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ Garrahan, Matthew (January 17, 2009). "Lunch with the FT: John Lasseter". Financial Times. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Pixar Filmmaker John Lasseter To Receive "Contribution To Cinematic Imagery Award" From Art Directors Guild". Pixar. January 12, 2004. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  10. ^ "John Lasseter does AM Radio, too?". The Blue Parrot's perch. February 2, 2007. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  11. ^ Lyons, Mike (November 1998). "Toon Story: John Lasseter's Animated Life". Animation World Magazine. Retrieved October 13, 2010. 
  12. ^ Lazarus, David (January 25, 2006). "A deal bound to happen". Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  13. ^ Schlender, Brent (May 17, 2006). "Pixar's magic man". CNN Money. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  14. ^ Ghez, Didier (May 2, 1997). "Interview with Glen Keane". The Ultimate Disney Books Network. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  15. ^ Hill, Jim (November 28, 2007). ""To Infinity and Beyond!" is an entertaining look back at Pixar's first two decades". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  16. ^ M. Buckley, A. Pixar: The Company and Its Founders. Google Books. p. 27. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  17. ^ Day, Aubrey (June 3, 2009). "Interview: John Lasseter". Total Film. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  18. ^ Gilliam, Terry (April 27, 2001). "Terry Gilliam Picks the Ten Best Animated Films of All Time". The Guardian. 
  19. ^ Sperling, Nicole (November 1, 2011). "John Lasseter receives star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  20. ^ Solomon, Charles (December 3, 2006). "Disney tries out new talent in an old form, the cartoon short – Business – International Herald Tribune". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  21. ^ "The BSD Daemon". FreeBSD. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Trustees of Sonoma Academy 2011-12". Sonoma Academy. Retrieved December 25, 2013. 
  23. ^ "VIDEO: ‘A Day in the Life of John Lasseter’ Read more: VIDEO: ‘A Day in the Life of John Lasseter’". Stitch Kingdom. July 12, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  24. ^ Swartz, Jon (November 23, 1998). "Pixar's Lasseter -- This Generation's Walt Disney". SFGate. Retrieved December 25, 2013. "Lasseter says he depends heavily on his and wife Nancy's "own test audience" of five sons -- ages 16 months to 18." 
  25. ^ Boone, Virginie (September 26, 2011). "Lasseter winery coming into its own". The Press Democrat. Retrieved October 7, 2011. 
  26. ^ "John Lasseter Addresses Graduating Class at Seaver College Commencement Ceremony". Pepperdine University. April 2009. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  27. ^ Goodman, Stephanie (November 1, 2011). "'Pixar’s John Lasseter Answers Your Questions'". Arts Beat. Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  28. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (October 14, 2010). "Tales From Earthsea -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  29. ^ Kit, Borys (October 14, 2010). "Disney Picks Pixar Brains for Muppets Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 

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