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John Alan Lasseter is an American animator, director, producer, screenwriter, and the former chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He was also the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering.

Lasseter's 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. In 1986, he, Jobs, and Ed Catmull founded Pixar Animation Studios. Lasseter 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.


Early years

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. 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.

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. 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.

First years at Disney

On graduation, Lasseter joined The Walt Disney Company, and was promoted quickly up the ranks to a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland in Anaheim. Lasseter later obtained a job as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1979, 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, who 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. 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 M. 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.

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. A few minutes after the meeting, Lasseter 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 some of the staff of Pixar would be involved in the film alongside Lasseter.


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"; "Nobody knew what that was but they didn't question it in budget meetings". 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. It was acquired by Steve Jobs in 1986, and became Pixar. Lasseter oversaw all of Pixar's films and associated projects as executive producer. He also personally 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). 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.

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

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

Back at Disney

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 advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering, where he helps design attractions for Disney's theme parks. He reported 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 would start producing animated shorts to 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 animated through traditional animation, computer animation or a combination of both.

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.

Leave of absence and later departure

In November 2017, Lasseter announced that he was taking a leave of absence for six months. In June 2018, however, it was announced that he would leave both Disney and Pixar by the end of the year, although he would take a consulting role until then.

Other work

Lasseter drew the most widely known versions of the BSD Daemon, a cartoon mascot for the BSD Unix operating system. He owns the "Marie E." steam locomotive, which is an H.K. Porter engine. The "Marie E." was once owned by Ollie Johnston, who was one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men". In May 2007 and again in June 2010, the locomotive visited, and was run by Lasseter at the Pacific Coast Railroad in Santa Margarita, California alongside the original Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad "Retlaw 1" coaches.

Personal life

Lasseter lives in Glen Ellen, California with his wife Nancy, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, whom he met at a computer graphics conference. He has five sons, their ages ranging from 14 to 33 along with a Dachshund named Frank and a cat named Moocher. The Lasseters own a winery located in Glen Ellen, California. On May 2, 2009, Lasseter received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Pepperdine University and gave a commencement address where he encouraged the graduating class of more than 500 students never to let anyone tarnish their dreams.

Feature Film Filmography

Year Film Position Subsidiary
1981 The Fox and the Hound Animator: Tod, Copper, Big Mama, Mr. Digger, and The Bear Walt Disney Animation Studios
1985 The Black Cauldron Animator: Gurgi and Horned King
1987 The Brave Little Toaster Character Designer Walt Disney Pictures
1991 Beauty and the Beast Executive Producer: 3D Version Walt Disney Animation Studios
1992 Porco Rosso Executive Creative Consultant: US Version Studio Ghibli
Aladdin Executive Producer: 3D Version Walt Disney Animation Studios
1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas Touchstone Pictures
1995 Toy Story Director/Story/Modeling and Animation/System Development Pixar
1998 A Bug's Life Director/Story/Voice Actor (Harry the Fly/Singing Grasshopper)
1999 Toy Story 2 Director/Story/Voice Actor (Blue Rock’Em Sock’Em Robot)
2000 Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins Characters
2001 Monsters, Inc. Executive Producer
2002 Spirited Away Executive Producer: US Version Studio Ghibli
2003 Finding Nemo Executive Producer Pixar
2004 The Incredibles
2005 Howl's Moving Castle Executive Producer: US Version Studio Ghibli
2006 Cars Director/Story/Screenplay Pixar
Tales from Earthsea Executive Producer: US Version Studio Ghibli
2007 Meet the Robinsons Executive Producer Walt Disney Animation Studios
Ratatouille Pixar
2008 WALL-E
Tinker Bell Disneytoon Studios
Bolt Walt Disney Animation Studios
2009 Up Executive Producer/Senior Creative Team: Pixar Pixar
Ponyo Executive Producer: US Version Studio Ghibli
Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure Executive Producer Disneytoon Studios
The Princess and the Frog Walt Disney Animation Studios
2010 Toy Story 3 Executive Producer/Story/Senior Creative Team: Pixar Pixar
Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue Executive Producer Disneytoon Studios
Tangled Walt Disney Animation Studios
2011 Cars 2 Director/Story/Screenplay/Voice Actor (John Lassetire) Pixar
Winnie the Pooh Executive Producer Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Muppets Creative Consultant Walt Disney Pictures
2012 Brave Executive Producer Pixar
Tinker Bell: Secret of the Wings Disneytoon Studios
Wreck-It Ralph Walt Disney Animation Studios
2013 Monsters University Pixar
Planes Executive Producer/Story Disneytoon Studios
Frozen Executive Producer Walt Disney Animation Studios
2014 The Pirate Fairy Executive Producer/Story Disneytoon Studios
Planes: Fire & Rescue Executive Producer
Big Hero 6 Walt Disney Animation Studios
2015 Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast Disneytoon Studios
Inside Out Pixar
The Good Dinosaur
2016 Zootopia Walt Disney Animation Studios
Finding Dory Pixar
Moana Walt Disney Animation Studios
2017 Cars 3 Pixar
2018 Incredibles 2
Ralph Breaks the Internet Walt Disney Animation Studios
2019 Toy Story 4 Story Pixar
Frozen II Executive Producer/Story Walt Disney Animation Studios

Animated Shorts Filmography

Year Film Position Company
1983 Mickey's Christmas Carol Creative Consultant Walt Disney Pictures
1984 The Adventures of André and Wally B. Character Design and Animation Models: André/Wally B. Lucasfilm
1986 Luxo Jr. Director/Writer/Producer/Models/Animation Pixar
1987 Red's Dream Director/Writer/Animator
1988 Tin Toy Director/Story/Animator/Modeler
1989 Knick Knack Director/Writer
1997 Geri's Game Executive Producer
2000 For the Birds
2002 Mike's New Car
2003 Boundin'
2005 Jack-Jack Attack
One Man Band
2006 Mater and the Ghostlight Director/Original Story
Lifted Executive Producer
2007 Your Friend the Rat
How to Hook Up Your Home Theater Walt Disney Animation Studios
2008 Presto Pixar
Cars Toons Executive Producer/Director/Story
BURN-E Executive Producer
Glago's Guest Walt Disney Animation Studios
2009 Super Rhino
Partly Cloudy Pixar
Dug's Special Mission
Prep & Landing Walt Disney Animation Studios
2010 Day & Night Pixar
Tick Tock Tale Walt Disney Animation Studios
Prep & Landing: Operation: Secret Santa Walt Disney Animation Studios
2011 La Luna Pixar
The Ballad of Nessie Walt Disney Animation Studios
Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation Pixar
The Pixie Hollow Games Disneytoon Studios
Toy Story Toons: Small Fry Executive Producer/Story Pixar
Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice Executive Producer Walt Disney Animation Studios
2012 Tangled Ever After
Toy Story Toons: Partysaurus Rex Executive Producer/Story Pixar Animation Studios
Paperman Executive Producer Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Legend of Mor'du Pixar
2013 The Blue Umbrella
Party Central
Toy Story of Terror
Get a Horse! Walt Disney Animation Studios
2014 Lava Pixar
Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular Disneytoon Studios
Feast Walt Disney Animation Studios
Toy Story That Time Forgot Pixar Animation Studios
2015 Frozen Fever Walt Disney Animation Studios
Sanjay's Super Team Pixar
Riley's First Date?
2016 Piper
Inner Workings Walt Disney Animation Studios
2017 Lou Pixar
Miss Fritter's Racing Skoool
Olaf's Frozen Adventure Walt Disney Animation Studios
2018 Bao Pixar


  • John Lasseter's favorite film is Dumbo.


External links

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