Pixar creative head Lee Unkrich set to leave animation studio
Deadline has brought word that Lee Unkrich, one of the most innovative creative minds behind powerhouse animation studio Pixar, is leaving the company after an impressive 25-year run that saw him win two Oscars for the studio.
Unkrich, who has been in the film and television industry for almost 30 years, began his career with Pixar in 1995 as an editor on the debut entry of the hit family animated franchise Toy Story, and continued his editorial work for the studio on A Bug’s Life before moving up to co-director and additional story writer on the hit Toy Story 2 in 1998, further serving as a co-director and creative story mind on future Pixar hits Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. He would go on to make his directorial debut with 2010’s Toy Story 3, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature while also earning a nomination for Best Picture, a rare feat for the animation genre.
The 51-year-old director/animator/editor announced his departure to Pixar staff in person on Saturday while also having announced it to the world on Twitter the same day in a manner just as heartbreaking as his directorial debut.
Unkrich most recently directed and contributed to the story for the 2017 animated adventure Coco, for which he won his second Oscar for Best Animated Feature with Pixar, and helped contribute to the story for the upcoming fourth entry into the Toy Story franchise, which is set to hit theaters on June 21.
“I’m not leaving to make films at another studio; instead, I look forward to spending much-needed time with my family and pursuing interests that have long been back-burnered,” he said in a statement.
With his exit, Pixar is undergoing a major change in creative transitions, with Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter being asked to leave the animation studio in June over sexual misconduct allegations and co-founder Ed Catmull announcing his retirement in October while remaining as a creative consultant until July.
“Lee arrived at Pixar as we were crafting ‘Toy Story,’ and he’s had a profound effect on all Pixar films since,” Pete Docter, now chief creative officer for Pixar, said. “He literally taught us rookie filmmakers about staging, composition, and cutting. His artistry and expert craftsmanship as an editor and co-director became a major reason for the high quality of our filmmaking, and as Lee went on to direct, his ability to find the deep humor and emotion enabled him to create some of the strongest films we’ve made. He will be sorely missed — but we are enormously grateful for his tireless dedication to quality, and his ability to touch the hearts of audiences around the world.”
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)