- "The art challenges technology. Technology inspires the art."
- —John Lasseter
John Lasseter is one of the three founding fathers of Pixar Animation Studios.
An animator, director, producer and writer, Lasseter was responsible for most of Pixar's success and oversaw all of the studio's projects. He was the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios until the end of 2018. He was also the Principal Creative Advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering. On June 8, 2018, Lasseter announced he would be stepping down from his roles at both Disney and Pixar on December 31, 2018. Before then, he served as a consultant to the company without an assigned office.
Lasseter's father was a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership, while his mother was an art teacher at Bell Gardens Senior High School. Lasseter graduated from California Institute of the Arts, where he met future colleague Brad Bird. He passed a furniture store and noticed a lamp on a desk in the window display. He told his mother that his idea was to make that lamp come to life. This idea eventually led to the creation of Pixar's Luxo, Jr..
On graduation, Lasseter joined the Walt Disney Company, as a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland in Anaheim. Lasseter later obtained a job as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation. While working on Mickey's Christmas Carol, he was invited by his friends Jerry Rees and Bill Kroyer to see the first lightcycles sequences for an upcoming film entitled Tron, featuring state-of-the-art computer generated imagery. He immediately saw the potential of this new technology and what it could do for animation. Up to that time, the studio had used a multiplane camera to add depth to its animation.
Lasseter realized that computers could be used to make movies with three dimensional backgrounds where traditionally animated characters could interact to add new visually stunning depth that had not been conceived before. After he and Glen Keane had finished the short test film Where the Wild Things Are (a decision chosen based on the fact that Disney had considered producing a feature based on the works of Maurice Sendak), Lasseter and Thomas L. Wilhite decided they wanted to make a whole feature this way. The story they chose was The Brave Little Toaster by Thomas Disch, but in their enthusiasm, they unknowingly stepped on some of their direct superiors' toes by going around them in their effort to get the project into motion. One of them disliked it so much that when Lasseter and Wilhite presented their idea to him, which he at that time was already aware of, he turned it down. A few minutes after the meeting, Lasseter received a phone call telling him that his job had been terminated.
Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group
While putting together a crew for the planned feature, he had made some contacts in the computer industry, among them Alvy Ray Smith and Ed Catmull at Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group. After being fired, Lasseter visited a computer graphics conference at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, where he met and talked to Catmull again. Before the day was over, Lasseter had made a deal to work as an "interface designer" with Catmull and his colleagues on a project that resulted in their first computer animated short: The Adventures of André and Wally B. It became even more revolutionary than Lasseter had visualized before he joined Lucasfilm, since his original idea had been to create only the backgrounds on computers. But in the final short everything was computer animated, including the characters. After this short CGI film, things would continue to grow until the point where they made the first computer animated feature Toy Story.
Lasseter was a founding member of Pixar, where he oversaw all of Pixar's films and associated projects as an executive producer. He also personally directed Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Cars and Cars 2.
He has won two Academy Awards, for Animated Short Film (Tin Toy), as well as a Special Achievement Award (Toy Story). Lasseter has been nominated on four other occasions -- in the category of Animated Feature, for both Cars (2006) and Monsters, Inc. (2001), in the Original Screenplay category for Toy Story (1995) and in the Animated Short category for Luxo, Jr. (1986).
In April 2006, Disney purchased Pixar and Lasseter was named Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. He was also named Principal Creative Advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering, where he will help design attractions for Disney's theme parks. He will report directly to Disney chief Bob Iger, bypassing Disney's studio and theme parks executives. He also received green-light power on films with Roy E. Disney's consent.
In December 2006, he announced that Disney would start producing animated shorts which would begin to be released theatrically once more. This was a decision Lasseter took because he saw this as an excellent way to train and discover new talents in the company, as well as a testing ground for new techniques and ideas. The shorts were in 2D, CGI or a combination of both.
Lasseter is a close friend and admirer of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, and has been executive producer on several of Miyazaki's films for their release in the United States, also overseeing the dubbing of the films for their English language soundtrack.
Lasseter lives in Sonoma, CA with his wife Nancy, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, whom he met at a computer graphics conference. He has five sons, Joey, Bennett, P.J. (Paul James), Sam, and Jackson. They also have a dog named Frank.
- André and Wally B. (1984): character designer, animator, and modeler
- Luxo, Jr. (1986): director, story, animator, modeler, design, and producer
- Red's Dream (1987): director, animator, writer, and modeler
- Tin Toy (1988): director, animator, story, and modeler
- Knick Knack (1989): director, animator, and writer
- Toy Story (1995): director, original story, modeler, animation system development, and voice of Commercial Chorus #1
- A Bug's Life (1998): director, original story, and voice of Bug Zapper Bug #1
- Geri's Game (1998): executive producer
- Toy Story 2 (1999): director, original story, and voice of Blue Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000): based on the characters created by (61 episodes)
- For the Birds (2001): executive producer
- Monsters, Inc. (2001): executive producer
- Mike's New Car (2002): executive producer
- Finding Nemo (2003): executive producer
- Exploring the Reef (2003): executive producer
- Boundin' (2004): executive producer
- The Incredibles (2004): executive producer
- Jack-Jack Attack (2005): executive producer
- One Man Band (2006): executive producer
- Cars (2006): director, original story, and screenplay
- Mater and the Ghostlight (2006): director and original story
- Lifted (2007): executive producer
- Ratatouille (2007): executive producer
- Your Friend the Rat (2007): executive producer
- Presto (2008): executive producer
- WALL•E (2008): senior creative team and executive producer
- BURN-E (2008): executive producer
- Partly Cloudy (2009): executive producer
- Up (2009): senior creative team and executive producer
- Dug's Special Mission (2009): executive producer
- Day & Night (2010): executive producer
- Toy Story 3 (2010): story, senior creative team, and executive producer
- Cars 2 (2011): director, original story, executive producer, and additional voices
- Toy Story Toons (2011-2012): story (2 episodes) and executive producer (3 episodes)
- La Luna (2012): executive producer
- Cars Toons (2010-2017): director (7 episodes), story (13 episodes), writer (1 episode), story artist (3 episodes), and executive producer (9 episodes)
- Brave (2012): senior creative team and executive producer
- The Legend of Mor'du (2012): executive producer
- The Blue Umbrella (2013): executive producer
- Monsters University (2013): senior creative team and executive producer
- Toy Story of Terror! (2013): based on characters created by and executive producer
- Party Central (2014): executive producer
- Lava (2014): executive producer
- Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014): executive producer
- Inside Out (2015): senior creative team and executive producer
- Sanjay's Super Team (2015): executive producer
- Riley's First Date? (2015): executive producer
- The Good Dinosaur (2015): executive producer
- Finding Dory (2016): executive producer
- Piper (2016): executive producer
- Lou (2017): executive producer
- Cars 3 (2017): executive producer
- Coco (2017): executive producer
- Miss Fritter's Racing Skoool (2017): executive producer
- Bao (2018): executive producer
- Incredibles 2 (2018): pixar senior creative team, special thanks, and executive producer
- Toy Story 4 (2019): original story
- In 1994, Lasseter created the BSD Daemon, a cartoon mascot for the BSD Unix operating system.
- John Lasseter owns the "Marie E." steam locomotive, which is an H.K. Porter engine. The "Marie E." was once owned by Ollie Johnston, who was one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men." In May 2007, the locomotive visited, and was run by Lasseter at, the Pacific Coast Railroad in Santa Margarita, CA, in May of 2007, alongside the original Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad "Retlaw 1" coaches.
- Lasseter owns an extensive collection of toys in his office, many of which are from Pixar films such as Toy Story and Cars.
- Al McWhiggin from Toy Story 2 is loosely based on Lasseter himself. Whenever his youngest sons were little, they'd always wanted to go into his office and play with his toy collection. The toys that Lasseter owns are antiques or one of a kind toys. And whenever his sons would want to play with them, he'd freak out and try to get them to leave them alone and get them newer toys to play with.
- He was team captain on his high school swim team.
- Two toys which were owned by Lasseter were a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll which had a pull string, and a G.I. Joe. These two toys inspired Woody and Buzz Lightyear.
- In Toy Story 2, an airline at the Tri-County International Airport is named "LassetAir", a pun on his surname.