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‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘Coco’ Director Lee Unkrich Departs Pixar

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Lee Unkrich promoting 'Coco' in Madrid, Spain.

Lee Unkrich promoting Coco in Madrid, Spain.
[Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

As Pixar prepares itself for a new era of leadership, key player Lee Unkrich is bidding farewell to the studio after serving twenty-five great years.

In a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter, the multi-Oscar-winning director informed his Pixar colleagues about his bold decision to depart: “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.” Unkrich also notified his devoted followers on Twitter about his departure:

Throughout his quarter-century career at the Emeryville studio, Unkrich started out as the editor of Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, and would then evolve up the ranks as co-director of Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. In 2010, he reached the top of his game as the sole director of Toy Story 3, the beloved third series entry which became the first animated feature in history to gross $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Not only did it win two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“We Belong Together” by Randy Newman), but it was also nominated for three other Oscars including Best Picture, which is a rarity for animated features.

Toy Story 3

 Toy Story 3 [Disney-Pixar]

His long career at Pixar ended on a high note with his original Día de los Muertos-themed fantasy Coco. The film earned major praise from critics and audiences alike, grossed $807 million worldwide, and was the big winner at the 45th Annie Awards. Coincidentally, Coco also won the same Oscar awards that Toy Story 3 earned with Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Remember Me”).

Coco

Coco
[Disney-Pixar]

Some of Unkrich’s fellow colleagues saluted his contributions to the studio, including Pixar’s new chief creative officer Pete Docter, Pixar president Jim Morris, and Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.

Docter, who directed Monsters, Inc. with Unkrich recalled his input at the studio: “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.”

Morris also praised Unkrich by stating, “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.”

Horn also commented, “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.”

We at Rotoscopers would like to thank Lee Unkrich for his wonderful works at Pixar. We wish him all the best with his family time and future endeavours.

Feel free to tell us in the comments what your what you thought about Lee Unkrich’s contributions to Pixar!

Edited by: Morgan Stradling

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About Karl Smith

Deep down in New Zealand, Karl "Karlamon" Smith is a Kiwi who is passionate in animation, seeing it as an artistic medium that expresses vast creativity and brings unique characters and worlds to life. Whenever an animation-related fact pops up, it will more than likely be cemented in his brain for a long time. Some of his favourite animated movies include Zootopia, Balto, Bolt, Over the Hedge, The Fox and the Hound, the How to Train Your Dragon series, The Iron Giant, and The Prince of Egypt. Prior to contributing to Rotoscopers, Karl has served as a bureaucrat on Ice Age Wiki, and a moderator/site builder/news reporter on Animation Source. Karl is also a Computer Science graduate who is now studying Digital Design in university. That, and with his additional fascination in aviation, he hopes someday to be both an animator and a pilot (if that is even possible).