December 3, 1965
Rockport, Massachusetts, USA
Animator, Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Voice actor
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A key figure in the development of Pixar Studios, Andrew Stanton was the writer-director of some of the computer animation company's biggest hits, including "Toy Story" (1995), "A Bug's Life" (1998), "Finding Nemo" (2003) and "WALL-E." In the grand tradition of Disney's animation team from the 1930s and such legendary figures as Ray Harryhausen and Don Bluth, Stanton's best films were a near-perfect balance of breathtaking visuals and heart-tugging emotion; the lifelike quality of cowboy toy Woody or the silent, industrious robot WALL-E never overwhelmed their fully rendered hopes and dreams and ambitions. The combination of these elements brought Stanton significant acclaim and considerable awards, but more importantly, it established him as one of the most creative figures in motion pictures - live action and animated - working in 21st century Hollywood.
Born Andrew Christopher Stanton, Jr., in Rockport, MA on Dec. 3, 1965, he received a BFA in character animation from the California Institute of the Arts in 1987 before entering the professional world as an animator with Kroyer Films in the latter part of the decade. After working on a number of animated television series, including the legendary Ralph Bakshi's "Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures" (CBS, 1987-88), he became the second animator at a former computer hardware company turned computer animation company, Pixar Animation Studios. Stanton worked on the studio's first film, "Luxo Jr." (1986), which established the company's logo, a hopping desk lamp. The project, which was subsequently nominated for a Best Animated Short Oscar, helped to establish Pixar as a forward-thinking entity in the increasingly convoluted world of feature animation. With Stanton's help, they would become one of the leading lights in the animation world.
Stanton's first success with Pixar after "Luxo Jr." came as the initial screenwriter for its first feature-length hit, "Toy Story" (1995), which was produced after the company's purchase by Walt Disney Studios. Though the script was eventually rewritten by Joss Whedon and Joel Cohen, among others, he and Pixar chief John Lasseter were responsible for its core story, which addressed universal themes of friendship and unconditional love in a classic Hollywood story of mismatched friends. The combination of mature subject matter - for kid-oriented animation, at least - rip-roaring adventure and sly, smart humor became Stanton's trademark at Pixar, as did his penchant for contributing a vocal cameo to each of his films. Stanton was also responsible for character design on "Toy Story," which won a special Academy Award in 1996; he also shared an Oscar nomination for his script with Lasseter and its many subsequent contributors.
The success of "Toy Story" elevated Stanton to co-director for Pixar's popular follow-up, "A Bug's Life" (1998), which he also co-wrote with Don McEnerny and Bob Shaw. The comedy-drama followed a storyline similar to that of "Toy Story" - another outcast, this time an ant with a knack for useless inventions, must partner with other insect misfits to rescue his colony from a horde of vicious grasshoppers - and performed heroically at the box office. Clearly, Stanton was ready to assume the mantle of solo director for Pixar's next effort, but he remained squarely as co-writer for its next two features, "Toy Story 2" (1999) and "Monsters, Inc" (2001), though he also served as executive producer on the latter. However, Stanton's ranking as a voiceover artist received a boost - he provided the ominous tones for astronaut toy Buzz Lightyear's sworn nemesis, the Evil Emperor Zurg, in "Toy Story 2."
The year 2003 found Stanton firmly in the director's chair with "Finding Nemo," which became one of Pixar's most well-loved pictures to date. A gentle and moving story at its core about a father's search for his missing child, the picture encompassed Stanton's trademark misfit team-up in a gaggle of eccentric fish who aid Nemo in returning to his dad, as well as some of the company's most stunning visuals. In addition to helming the film and co-writing its script, Stanton gave voice to one of the film's most amusing characters, an addled turtle named Crush who helps direct Nemo through the Australian current. A massive success in the summer movie season, "Finding Nemo" brought home an Oscar to Pixar for Best Animated Film, as well the 2004 Annie and a as a host of state and regional critics' awards. In 2008, the feature was named 10th on the American Film Institute's list of best animated films ever made.
After "Nemo," Stanton served as executive producer on Pixar's Oscar-winning "Ratatouille" (2007), as well as the 2003 documentary short "Exploring the Reef," which partnered famed oceanographer Jean-Michael Cousteau with his "Nemo" heroes Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). He also lent his vocal talents to many of the company's feature films, including "The Incredibles" (2004) and "Cars" (2006). But he donned the director's cap again in 2008 for "WALL-E," which was arguably his finest effort to date. At once an epic science fiction film about a small but highly motivated robot whose primary mission - to clean up an abandoned and polluted Earth - transforms into a planet-wide rebirth, "WALL-E" moved critics and audiences worldwide with its sweet-natured and silent hero. It also stood as the benchmark by which all subsequent Pixar projects - and computer animated features as a whole - could be measured, thanks to its stunning visuals which approximated the look and feel of live-action footage to near-perfect degrees. Praised by nearly all major critics and periodicals, it was among the biggest hits of 2008, and reaped mightily at the award shows at the end of that year, including the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, as well as placement on the American Film Institute and National Board of Review's Top 10 motion picture lists.
That same year, Stanton announced his next effort as director with "John Carter of Mars," an adaptation of the popular Jazz Age science fiction novels by "Tarzan" creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. The project had been purchased by Disney in 2007 for Stanton, who announced that he would return to that company as a "loan" to complete the project for a 2012 release. Even as he geared up for "John Carter," Stanton shared producer duties on yet another Pixar smash hit, the exceptionally touching "Up" (2009), a tale of a curmudgeon and a boy scout on a voyage of growth and discovery - aided by thousands and thousands of balloons. He also co-wrote the long-awaited third installment of the franchise that started it all - "Toy Story 3" (2010), reuniting Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang for a harrowing adventure at a daycare center as their beloved owner, Andy, prepares to leave for college. An impressive feat, the animated feature was regarded by many as being possibly the best film in the acclaimed series, earning Stanton and his co-writers Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.