Lee Unkrich, director behind Toy Story 3 and Coco, announced Friday he’s exiting Disney-owned Pixar after 25 years with the premiere computer animation studio.
“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 told The Hollywood Reporter.
The departure is reportedly amicable, according to sources.
After twenty-five incredible years, I’ve decided to leave Pixar.
The time has come for new adventures. pic.twitter.com/0KZyHXhs8L— Lee Unkrich (@leeunkrich) January 18, 2019
Unkrich worked as editor on 1995’s Toy Story, Pixar’s first feature-length film and the first-ever fully CG-animated movie, and served as co-director on 1999’s Toy Story 2, 2001’s Monsters, Inc., and 2003’s Finding Nemo.
He would later serve as sole director on 2010’s Toy Story 3, giving Pixar its first billion dollar-plus grosser and Unkrich his first Academy Award after the film won Best Animated Feature. In 2017, Unkrich’s Coco won the studio $807 million worldwide and earned Unkrich another gold for Best Animated Feature, which he shared with longtime Pixar producer Darla K. Anderson.
“The time has come for new adventures,” Unkrich wrote in a tweet.
The filmmaker attached a gif of Bonnie — the little girl who inherited the beloved collection of toys once belonging to the now-grown-up Andy — waving the arm of sheriff doll Woody (Tom Hanks) as she clutches Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), part of the sentimental sendoff that ended Toy Story 3.
“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 Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter, who has long served as a member of the Pixar braintrust before replacing the ousted John Lasseter as the company’s chief creative officer in 2018.
“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.”
Lee also acted in an editing role on 1998’s A Bug’s Life and his own Coco, and served as executive producer on 2013 Monsters, Inc. prequel Monsters University and 2015’s The Good Dinosaur.
“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 Pixar president Jim Morris. “He has been a key player in elevating virtually every one of Pixar’s films.”0comments
Added Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, “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.”
Disney-Pixar next releases Toy Story 4, helmed by first-time feature director Josh Cooley, June 21.