Lee Unkrich was born August 8, 1967 in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Growing up, he loved watching movies, which led to his fascination with making them. As a teenager, Unkrich spent a number of years acting with the Cleveland Playhouse Youth Theater. After graduating from Chagrin Falls High School in 1985, Lee headed to the west coast to attend the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
While attending school at USC, Unkrich created several award-winning short films. During his last semester, Avid made a deal with USC to open up an editing lab and conduct training sessions on campus. Lee participated in the very first class and was totally hooked. He was both passionate and adept using the AVID editing machine and knew what he wanted to do in the movie business.
After graduation in 1991, Unkrich worked for several years in television as an editor and director. He started as an assistant editor on Renegade and Silk Stalkings (the first two episodic television series to be edited on the Avid). After just one season, he was promoted to editor of Silk Stalkings. From there, Lee worked on a few TV movies before receiving a fateful call from Pixar.
In 1994, Lee received a phone from Pixar’s Bob Gordon, who asked if he would be interested in working on an animated movie. As a huge fan of John Lasseter, once he learned that the studio was Pixar, Lee was on a plane and helped edit Toy Story.
Lee continued in his editing role on A Bug’s Life before taking the co-director’s chair (along with editing duties) on Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. The role of co-director is very important, as they are involved with all of the creative decisions of the film. They are the right hand man of the director and must be there to guide and support the vision of the director.
This was followed by additional editing duties on Cars and Ratatouille. Lee was given the honor of carrying on the franchise, and is the director of the much-anticipated Toy Story 3. The film was released in theaters on June 18, 2010 and went on to become the first animated film to earn more than $1 billion dollars at the worldwide box office.
Toy Story 3 earned five Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing, Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song). It won for both Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.
Lee is currently working on his next feature film at Pixar. It’s currently untitled, but delves into the vibrant holiday of Día de los Muertos and will be produced by Darla K. Anderson.
- Prison Stories: Women on the Inside (1991) (TV) (production assistant)
- Silk Stalkings (1991) (TV Series) (assistant editor, editor, director)
- Renegade (1993) (TV Series) (assistant editor)
- Betrayed by Love (1994) (TV) (assistant editor)
- Separated by Murder (1995) (TV) (editor)
- Toy Story (1995) (editor)
- A Bug’s Life (1998) (editor)
- Toy Story 2 (1999) (co-director, editor, additional story material)
- Monsters, Inc. (2001) (co-director, additional editor)
- Finding Nemo (2003) (co-director, supervising editor)
- Cars (2006) (additional editor)
- Ratatouille (2006) (additional editor)
- Toy Story 3 (2010) (director)
- Untitled Día de los Muertos (TBA) (director)
- Lee’s favorite film is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. He’s also a big fan of Blue Velvet and Punch-Drunk Love.
- He provided additional voice work on A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo.
- Lee and his wife, Laura have three children (Hannah, Alice and Max).
- Unkrich is active with Twitter. You can follow him here.
- Animated World Network – June, 2010
- BBC – May, 2003
- Den of Geek – July, 2010
- Editors Guild Newsletter – January, 1999
- Eliseharris.com – December, 2001
- Empire Magazine – October, 2012
- Future Movies – October 26, 2003
- In Focus – May, 2003
- Scifi.com – May, 2003
- Telegraph – July, 2010
- Urban Cinefile – August 28, 2003