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Lee Unkrich says goodbye after 25 years

Pixar is undergoing a lot of changes – many of them positive, others a bit more bittersweet. Lee Unkrich’s departure from the studio after 25 years of brilliant and inspiring storytelling falls into the second category.

Deborah Coleman, Pixar

He first announced the news on twitter, linking to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, and following up with another tweet where he said “the time has come for new adventures.”

Of course, this news comes as a shock. Unkrich did not specify if he’s retiring from filmmaking, but he did inform the Reporter that he’s going to pursue some neglected interests and spend more time with his family.

“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’s last directorial effort was the monumentally successful Coco. It was just his second after helming 2010’s equally impressive Toy Story 3. He’s been at the studio since the very beginning, with Pete Docter praising him for his undeniable prowess.

“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. 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.”

Before codirecting Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo, he was an editor on the films. Pixar president Jim Morris also credited Unkrich’s ability to make the films even better. “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. He has been a key player in elevating virtually every one of Pixar’s films.”

Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, echoed Morris and Docter:

“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.”

While we are a bit sad over this news, we’re also happy that Lee is prioritizing his family. We truly believe he’s leaving the studio in more than capable hands, and that this new generation of storytellers will still be impacted by his years of dedication and keen storytelling gifts.

Update 1/19: Read Lee Unkrich’s parting letter below.

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