While Disney was promoting the Blu-ray and DVD release of Cars 2 on November 1, the day Disney/Pixar animation czar John Lasseter happened to get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was still a happy day and a well-deserved honor. Disney’s Rich Ross and Sean Bailey, Pixar’s Ed Catmull, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, voice talent Owen Wilson, Bonnie Franklin, Patton Oswalt, John Ratzenberger and Don Rickles, as well as composer Randy Newman, all showed support for the guy Emily Mortimer called a “genius.”
That he is–no one has delivered a more consistent body of stellar work on film since Walt Disney himself, from the first Oscar-winning CG short, Tin Toy which Pixar owner Steve Jobs approved, saying “make it great,” and Pixar’s first feature Toy Story to Cars 2. Lasseter got choked up as he thanked his Pixar partner Steve Jobs, who died three weeks ago: “Today I share this star with Steve Jobs; without him Pixar and all these amazing films would not exist.”
(My videos of the event and Lasseter’s bio are below.)
Three of Lasseter’s five sons, his twin sister Joanna and wife Nancy were all on hand, and all repaired to a sunny lunch behind the El Capitan Theater afterward, where folks from Cartoon Brew and others debated whether Steven Spielberg’s performance capture The Adventures of Tintin is eligible in the Oscar animated feature category. The problem: many animators consider animation to be something that is created “one frame at a time,” as one top animator told me.
John Lasseter is a two-time Academy Award®-winning director and creatively oversees all films and associated projects from Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios (celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2011). Lasseter made his feature directorial debut in 1995 with “Toy Story,” the first-ever feature-length computer-animated film and, since then, has gone on to direct “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2” and “Cars.” He returned to the driver’s seat this year, directing “Cars 2.”
His executive-producing credits include “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “WALL•E,” “Bolt” and last year’s critically acclaimed “Up,” the first animated film ever to open the Cannes Film Festival and the recipient of two Academy Awards® for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. Lasseter also served as executive producer for Disney’s Oscar®-nominated films “The Princess and the Frog” and “Tangled” as well as Pixar’s most recent Academy Award-winner for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, “Toy Story 3,” which is based on a story written by Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich.
Lasseter wrote, directed and animated Pixar’s first short films, including “Luxo Jr.,” “Red’s Dream,” “Tin Toy” and “Knick Knack.” “Luxo Jr.” was the first three-dimensional computer-animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award® when it was nominated for Best Animated Short Film in 1986; “Tin Toy” was the first three-dimensional computer-animated film ever to win an Academy Award® when it was named Best Animated Short Film in 1988. Lasseter has executive-produced all of the studio’s subsequent shorts, including “Boundin’,” “One Man Band,” “Lifted,” “Presto,” “Partly Cloudy,” “Day & Night” and the Academy Award®-winning “Geri’s Game” (1997) and “For the Birds” (2000).
Under Lasseter’s supervision, Pixar’s animated feature and short films have earned a multitude of critical accolades and film-industry honors. Lasseter himself received a Special Achievement Oscar® in 1995 for his inspired leadership of the “Toy Story” team. He and the rest of the screenwriting team of “Toy Story” also earned an Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Screenplay, the first time an animated feature had ever been recognized in that category.
In 2009, Lasseter was honored at the 66th Venice International Film Festival with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. The following year, he became the first producer of animated films to receive the Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Motion Pictures. Lasseter’s other recognitions include the 2004 Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery award from the Art Directors Guild, an honorary degree from the American Film Institute, and the 2008 Winsor McCay Award from ASIFA-Hollywood for career achievement and contribution to the art of animation.
Prior to the formation of Pixar in 1986, Lasseter was a member of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm Ltd., where he designed and animated “The Adventures of Andre and Wally B,” the first-ever piece of character-based three-dimensional computer animation, and the computer-generated Stained Glass Knight character in the 1985 Steven Spielberg-produced film “Young Sherlock Holmes.”
Lasseter was part of the inaugural class of the Character Animation program at California Institute of the Arts and received his B.F.A. in film in 1979. Lasseter is the only two-time winner of the Student Academy Award for Animation, for his CalArts student films “Lady and the Lamp” (1979) and “Nitemare” (1980). His very first award came at the age of 5, when he won $15 from the Model Grocery Market in Whittier, Calif., for a crayon drawing of the Headless Horseman.