Skip to content

Lee Unkrich announces retirement from Pixar Animation

It’s the end of an era at Pixar Animation Studios. After 25 years of working on some of the most beloved animated features ever created, animator and director Lee Unkrich is leaving Pixar. Unkrich announced his departure with a tweet and an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

According to his interview, Unkrich won’t be leaving to make movies at another studio, as often happens in the animation industry. He told THR, “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 has been working at Pixar since the studio was working on the original Toy Story. His director ouvre includes Toy Story 3 and last eyar’s Coco. Both films won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Unkrich also co-directe Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo.

In a letter Unkrich sent to Pixar colleagues, he said, “It is impossible for me to adequately express how epic this twenty-five year journey has been, and how much it has meant to work alongside such fantastic people and phenomenal talents. Many of you are like family to me, and it’s nearly incomprehensible to imagine no longer being here at Pixar with you.”

Sources told THR that the split as amicable.

Pixar Animation Studios is currently being led on the creative side by Pete Docter after changes at the top of the studio that involved the depature of John Lasseter and the retirement of Ed Catumull.

Reaction from Unkrich’s peers at Pixar and Disney was uniformly positive:

“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. “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.”

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

“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,” said Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. “He’ll always be part of the Disney-Pixar family, and we will miss him.”

More praise from Pixar team members: