Docter has been promoted to a new role as creative chief of Walt Disney Animation Studios subsidiary Pixar. He will oversee the divisions’ technical innovations and emotional storytelling while Jennifer Lee moves up to a parallel position at Disney's animation branch. Lee co-wrote and directed Disney’s hit “Frozen,” the highest-grossing animated film of all time.
Their new appointments follow the exit of Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, who served since 2006 as chief creative officer of both Pixar’s and Disney’s animation operations. In November it was announced that he would begin a leave of absence following issues of personal misconduct with colleagues.
After a public apology to workmates who had received “an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form,” Lasseter began what was described as a six-month sabbatical. Earlier this month, however, it was reported that he would be leaving Disney at the end of the year, serving only in a consulting role.
Lasseter oversaw all of Pixar’s crowd-pleasing projects, writing the 1988 Academy Award-winning animated short “Tin Toy.” Under his leadership, Pixar ushered in the first Academy Awards category for best animated feature film in 2002. Pixar productions have dominated that competition, capturing eight nominations and six wins.
That’s a challenging slot to fill, but Bloomington native Docter, 49, has an impeccable track record in what he has called the “messy and organic” process of animation. Announcing his advancement, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn called Docter a “genius creative force” and among ”the most gifted filmmakers and storytellers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.”
When he joined Pixar at age 21 in 1990, he was only the 10th employee the company hired and its third animator. Docter has played a key leadership role for years as one of the founding members of the studio's legendary "brain trust" of creative advisers. A six-time Oscar nominee, he co-wrote “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2” and "Wall-E"; earned Best Animated Feature Oscars for directing 2010’s “Up” and 2016’s “Inside Out,” and was a nominee for his 2001 feature "Monsters Inc." He even does voice work in his own movies.
“I am excited and humbled to be asked to take on this role," he said in a statement about his new job. "It is not something I take lightly; making films at Pixar has been my chronic obsession since I started here 28 years ago.
“I am fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented people on the planet, and together we will keep pushing animation in new directions, using the latest technology to tell stories we hope will surprise and delight audiences around the world.”