So long, partner.
Lee Unkrich, the Oscar-winning director behind Toy Story 3 and Coco, is leaving Pixar Animation Studios. His last day with the legendary studio is February 15, 2019.
The move marks an end of an era as Unkrich has been at the California-based studio for 25 years, joining the company when it was making its debut feature, Toy Story, where he served an editor. He then went on to co-direct some of the company’s early classics — Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo — before making his directorial debut with the billion dollar-grossing Toy Story 3.
Insiders say the departure is amicable, with Unkrich leaving on a high note: Toy Story 3 raked in a billion dollars at the global box office while his second feature, Coco made over $807 million worldwide. Both films won the best animated feature Academy Award at their respective Oscar ceremonies. He is said not to have started on any new projects.
Unkrich’s departure comes during a time of change at Pixar and in the animation industry in general. His mentor, Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, left his posts at both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios after allegations of workplace misconduct surfaced, and has now joined Skydance Animation.
Unkrich’s Pixar colleagues however, had nothing but praise when speaking about him:
“Lee arrived at Pixar as we were crafting Toy Story, and he’s had a profound effect on all Pixar films since. He literally taught us rookie filmmakers about staging, composition and cutting,” said Pete Docter, who directed Monsters, Inc. and became Pixar’s chief creative officer after Lasseter’s exit. “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.”
Pixar President Jim Morris also chimed in with his own statement:
“If you look at the sweep of contemporary cinema, it would be difficult to find someone more brilliant in the filmmaking arts than Lee Unkrich,” said Morris. “He has been a key player in elevating virtually every one of Pixar’s films.”
Finally, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Alan Horn, had this to say on the matter:
“Lee has left an indelible mark on the world of film, and we are so grateful for the passion and talent he has brought to each movie he has worked on. He’ll always be part of the Disney-Pixar family, and we will miss him.”