James Capobianco was born in 1969 in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. At the other end of I-80 from where he lives now in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jim grew up watching as much animation as he could and his passion grew in High School after being introduced to the techniques of animation in his graphic arts class. Jim wanted to do a hand drawn animation assignment for the class and his teacher, Mr. Bill Schmaltz, didn’t know anything about drawn animation but was very supportive of this endeavor giving Jim a book about animation. It turned into a big task and eventually ballooned into Jim’s very own animation class spanning his last two years of high school.
Jim went off to CalArts in 1987 to become an animator. It was the largest class of students at that time. His classmates there included Pete Docter and Ash Brannon. Joe Ranft, who was teaching there, really opened the door to Jim to look at other aspects of animation, including a stronger focus on story.
Jim graduated from CalArts in 1991 with a BFA in character animation and applied at Disney and was hired into their story department shortly after graduation. He worked on various films at Disney including The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Fantasia 2000.
In 1997 Jim left Disney to join Pixar. He worked as a story artist on A Bug’s Life and contributed story material to Toy Story 2. He continued to help shape the story of such films as Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo.
In 2001, Jim helped craft the screenplay for Ratatouille and was a constant presence on the production from its earliest days to Brad Bird joining the production after Jan Pinkava’s departure. His hard work was rewarded as Jim received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Jim had an idea while working on Ratatouille to do a humorous, edutainment documentary on the history of rats. He began writing down ideas and when it came time to put together the DVD/Blu-ray features, Jim presented his idea as a “Ward Kimball type” 2D presentation. With the help of Teddy Newton (character design) and Nate Wragg (production design), Your Friend the Rat received a 2008 Annie Award for Best Animated Short.
Jim’s next assignment was the remarkable end credits for Andrew Stanton’s WALL-E. In addition to being fun/creative, they also needed to wrap up the story and show what happens to the characters. It was widely regarded as an artistic and storytelling triumph. He also did some story work on Pete Docter’s 2009 film, Up.
Jim has continued to foster his love of 2D animation with his labor of love Leonardo. This 10 minute hand drawn short has been shown at many film festivals over the past year, most recently the prestigious Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. You can learn much more about Leonardo at the official site and more about Jim at his site Arial Contrivance Workshop.
- Baby’s Bedtime (1989) (animator)
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991) (asst. animator – uncredited)
- The Lion King (1994) (original story)
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) (story artist)
- A Bug’s Life (1998) (story artist)
- Fantasia 2000 (1999) (story artist)
- Toy Story 2 (1999) (additional story material)
- Monsters, Inc. (2001) (story artist)
- Finding Nemo (2003) (story artist)
- Runners High (2006) (additional story supervisor)
- Ratatouille (2007) (additional story supervisor, original screenplay)
- Your Friend the Rat (2007) (writer, director)
- WALL-E (2008) (designer: end titles)
- Ready, Set, Bag! (2008) (animation director, story supervisor)
- Leonardo (2009) (storyboard artist, producer, writer, director)
- Up (2009) (additional story material – uncredited)
- Untitled Lee Unkrich Feature Film (story)
- Art of the Title – June, 2009
- Can Magazine – November, 2007
- Empire – February, 2008
- Toon In – April, 2008 (Audio Interview)
- Your Friend the Rat was also released as a Little Golden Book and Jim heavily involved. The book includes some facts that didn’t make it into the short and some additional lyrics to the song.