After 25 Years, Director Lee Unkrich (‘Toy Story 3,’ ‘Coco’) Is Leaving Pixar

Jan 18, 2019

Lee Unkrich, the Oscar-winning director behind ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘Coco,’ is leaving Pixar Animation Studios.

Unkrich has been at the Emeryville, California-based studio for 25 years. He joined the company when it was making its inaugural feature. That film was ‘Toy Story,’ on which he served as editor. His work after involves co-directing some of the company’s early (now classic) films. Those films include ‘Toy Story 2,’ ‘Monsters Inc.’ and ‘Finding Nemo.’ He did all that before taking the reins solo with the billion dollar grossing ‘Toy Story 3.’ Late 2017 was when his recent, and sophomore, solo outing released: ‘Coco.’

The filmmaker informed Pixar employees on Friday of his decision. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter:

“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.”

The departure is amicable, with Unkrich leaving on a high note. Coco made over $807 million worldwide and won the best animated feature Academy Award at the 2018 Oscar ceremonies. Unkrich has no new projects in the works.

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 Pixar and Walt Disney Animation under a cloud of workplace misconduct. Lasseter resurfaced at Skydance Animation.

Unkrich’s Pixar colleagues gave lots of praise:

Pete Docter (Monsters Inc,’ ‘Up,’ ‘Inside Out’) gave a statement:

“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. 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.”

Further, Pixar president Jim Morris gave a comment:

“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. He has been a key player in elevating virtually every one of Pixar’s films.”

Finally, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn’s statement:

“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.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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