Stanton, Andrew 1966(?)–
Stanton, Andrew 1966(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1966 in Rockport, MA; married, wife's name Julie; children: one son, one daughter. Education: California Institute of the Arts, B.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Office—Pixar Animation Studios, 1200 Park Ave., Emeryville, CA 94608.
CAREER: Screenwriter and movie director. Cartoon animator for Kroyer Films and Mighty Mouse, the New Adventures, c. 1980–90; Pixar Animation Studios, Emeryville, CA, writer, animator, director, and voice artist, 1990–. Voice acting film credits include: (supporting roles) A Bug's Life; (as Evil Emperor Zurg) Toy Story 2; (as Hamm) Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins; and (as Crush) Finding Nemo.
AWARDS, HONORS: Academy Award for best screenplay, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1997, for Toy Story; Academy Award for best animated feature film, nine "Annie" awards, International Animated Film Society, best animated feature citation, Broadcast Film Critics Association, and critics awards from Florida Film Critics and Toronto Film Critics Association, all 2004, all for Finding Nemo.
(With others) Toy Story, Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Productions, 1996.
(With John Lasseter; and codirector with Lasseter) A Bug's Life, Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Productions, 1998.
(With John Lasseter and Peter Docter) Toy Story 2, Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Productions, 1999.
(With others; and executive producer) Monsters, Inc., Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Productions, 2001.
(With Bob Peterson and David Reynolds; and director) Finding Nemo, Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Productions, 2003.
Also director and writer, A Story (animated short film), 1987. Contributor to Exploring the Reef (animated short film), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Andrew Stanton is one of the driving creative forces behind Pixar Animation Studios, a pioneering production company that was the first to create full-length films using computer-generated animation. Stanton's input can be found in many major Pixar productions, from Toy Story to Finding Nemo. Both of these movies won Academy awards, the latter winning best animated film of the year. Since the mid-1990s, Pixar has ranked among the most successful animation studios in Hollywood, having reaped a combined theatrical gross of more than a billion dollars, and Finding Nemo became the all-time box office champion animated film to date on sales of nearly a half million dollars worldwide. More than any other Pixar production, Finding Nemo bears Stanton's imprimatur; he conceived, co-wrote, and directed the film himself.
Stanton received a degree in animation from the California Institute of the Arts and, in the early 1980s, joined the staff of Kroyer Films as an animator. From there he moved to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), where he worked on the animated television series Mighty Mouse, the New Adventures. During those years he wrote and directed his own short film, A Story, and worked with colleague John Lasseter on several other short projects. When Lasseter founded Pixar in 1990 he asked Stanton to join him on the staff.
Pixar's use of computer-generated imagery provides a different viewing experience from traditional hand-drawn animation, and early Pixar movies highlight the technological nuances of computerized animation. While bright and lively, Pixar films also needed compelling characters and action-packed storylines. Here Lassiter and Stanton excelled, creating unique heroes and persuading top-name actors and actresses to provide voice characterization.
Toy Story was the first full-length Pixar production. Co-written by Stanton, the movie introduces viewers to a roomful of beloved toys that come to life when their young owner is not around. The "head toy," a puppet cowboy named Woody, watches in dismay as his status is pre-empted by newcomer Buzz Lightyear, a gadget-driven, delusional superhero who does not realize he is made of plastic. Woody and Buzz must resolve their differences before a nasty neighbor child decides to rip them to pieces. "Toy Story pops off the screen with a vibrancy that's totally unlike traditional handpainted animation," observed David Ansen in Newsweek. Ansen also called the film "a winning animated feature that has something for everyone on the age spectrum." Tom Gliatto in People described Toy Story as "a movie of the first rank—a polished, shiny wonder to behold." Stanton received a screen-writing Academy award for his contributions to the film.
Pixar followed Toy Story with A Bug's Life. Here Stanton contributes to a tale revolving around a besieged colony of ants and the one daring insect who tries to save his hard-working world. Flik likes to tinker with inventions, and he is tired of his colony's fatalism as it toils to feed lazy but menacing grasshoppers. After a final grasshopper threat, Flik ventures to the big city to find aggressive insects who will help him defend his colony. As Stuart Klawans maintained in Nation, "Far from being a soulless exercise in technogreed, A Bug's Life jigs along cheerily, celebrating not only Flik's ingenuity but also such … virtues as eccentricity, urban disorder and the revolt of workers against alienated labor." In the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Stack called the film "one of the great movies—a triumph of storytelling and character development, and a whole new ballgame for computer animation…. It all adds up to a terrific entertainment for kids that doesn't talk down to adults either."
A contributor to the Washington Times described Toy Story 2 as "a worthy sequel to [the] original." In this film Woody and Buzz venture farther into the real world, where their separate adventures lead to a fast-paced rescue not only of Woody—destined for a toy museum"—but also of a cowgirl doll named Jessie, once marketed as Woody's partner. The film makes the subtle point that in this era of collectible playthings, a toy still would rather be loved by a child. "The final beauty of 'Toy Story 2' is that it lacks self-consciousness," noted Patrick Butters in the Washington Times. "The plot and characters move with such realism that we note the wizardry in awe based on satisfaction, not distraction." In Newsweek, David Ansen commented: "Sequels, by definition, are shamelessly commercial enterprises, but when the level of invention is this high you can only be grateful to John Lasseter and his gifted company for giving it their creative awe." In addition to serving as a co-writer for Toy Story 2, Stanton provided the vocal score for the villain, Evil Emperor Zurg.
Stanton co-produced Monsters, Inc. and once again shared screenwriting credits. In this comedy, the city of Monstropolis is populated by scary monsters who depend upon children's screams to activate their power grid. Sulley, a monster particularly adept at wringing terror from youngsters, finds his mindset challenged when a cooing human toddler named Boo follows him back to Monstropolis, calling the monster "Kitty." According to Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly, "Everything from Pixar Animation Studios … looks really, really terrific…. And yes, indeed, Monsters, Inc. has got that swing, that zippity, multilevel awareness of kids'-eye sensibilities and adult-pitched humor." In Newsweek, Ansen appreciated the "fiendishly clever premise" of the film and found the whole project "smart, inventive, and executed with state-of-the-art finesse."
Stanton is most closely associated with Pixar's 2003 blockbuster hit Finding Nemo. The story—ten years in the making—began as an all-too-human moment in Stanton's life. Walking through a park with his young son, he found himself issuing orders and warnings, anxious for his son's safety. The forces of imagination molded the incident into an underwater tale in which an overprotective fish father searches for his missing, yet resourceful, son. The underwater setting for Finding Nemo, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and surrounding seas, gave the Pixar animation team a whole new creative challenge. Stanton supplied the story of clown fish Nemo, his father, Marlin, and a memory-challenged blue tang fish named Dory.
On the first day of fish school, Nemo—the only surviving child in his family—takes a dare and swims away from the protection of the reef. Within moments he finds himself struggling in a net, destined for an aquarium in a dentist's office in Sydney. Marlin, though high-strung and easily frightened, sets off in search of his son, befriended by Dory. On the way, Marlin hitches a ride on the back of a turtle named Crush—whose voice was supplied by Stanton.
Upon its release in 2003, Finding Nemo surpassed all other animated features in total box-office receipts, and it also earned Stanton an Academy award for best animated feature film. Denver Post critic Lisa Kennedy called the movie "an exquisitely touching saga," adding: "It's an environmental science lesson, with subtle and none-too-subtle digs at our role in making life an increasingly fragile proposition…. And it is a comedy with impeccable timing." In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan declared that the success of Finding Nemo, following in the wake of the other Pixar films, rendered the studio "the most reliable creative force in Hollywood." Turan concluded that the movie "erupts with sea creatures that showcase Stanton and company's gift for character and peerless eye for skewering contemporary culture."
The first five Pixar features were released through Walt Disney Productions. Pixar became an independent production company in 2004, the same year Stanton won an Academy award for Finding Nemo. Pixar is located in northern California, and that isolation from Hollywood, in Stanton's view, enriches the company's projects. "I don't even know any other screenwriters," Stanton told an In Focus interviewer. "It's kind of weird being up here in the Bay Area, sort of isolated, with just these guys, doing what we do. I think it has probably a direct correlation to being able to make successful original stories—we're not jaded and daunted by the whole system because we're just not part of it. I don't even think like that."
In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Stanton said he "fell in love with animation" because he could always draw. He said he cannot rule out writing and directing a live-action film, but that he is "very comfortable" at Pixar. He added: "I'm not excited to go out into the nasty, evil world of live-action filmmaking and deal with all of the pitfalls that seem to be out there; the more I learn about it, the more I'm amazed a movie gets made—let alone a good one."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Daily Variety, December 18, 2003, Andrew Stanton, "Toon Tales: 'Nemo' Co-Scribe Shares His Rules for Screenwriting," p. A14.
Denver Post, May 30, 2003, Lisa Kennedy, "Summer Treasure 'Nemo' a Beautiful, Epic Adventure Tale," p. F1.
Entertainment Weekly, November 9, 2001, Lisa Schwarzbaum, "Beastly Business: The Things That Go Bump in the Night Suffer from Fright in the Animated Charmer Monsters, Inc.," p. 82; April 25, 2003, review of Finding Nemo, p. 40.
Film Journal International, May, 2003, Kevin Lally, "Catching Nemo: Andrew Stanton Guides Pixar Undersea Adventure," p. 10; June, 2003, Shirley Sealy, review of Finding Nemo, p. 43.
Hollywood Reporter, March 24, 2004, Sheigh Crabtree, "Andrew Stanton: Animation Director of the Year," p. S20.
Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2003, Kenneth Turan, "Hook, Line, and Sinker," p. E1; March 1, 2004, Susan King, "Captain 'Nemo' Navigates around the 'Triplets,' p. E12.
Nation, December 21, 1998, Stuart Klawans, review of A Bug's Life, p. 34.
New Statesman, March 29, 1996, Lizzie Francke, review of Toy Story, p. 28.
Newsweek, November 27, 1995, David Ansen, review of Toy Story, p. 89; November 29, 1999, David Ansen, "Further Proof: Toys: Woody and Buzz Lightyear's Excellent Adventure," p. 94; November 5, 2001, David Ansen, "Scare the Heck out of 'Shrek'?" p. 65; June 2, 2003, David Ansen, "Freeing Nemo: A Whale of a Tale," p. 44.
New Yorker, June 9, 2003, Anthony Lane, "Fishy Business," p. 108.
People, November 27, 1995, Tom Gliatto, review of Toy Story, p. 19.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 22, 1998, Peter Stack, "It's a Small World: 'A Bug's Life' Creators Crawled through Grass for Insect Inspiration," p. 40; November 25, 1998, Peter Stack, "'Bug' Has Legs: Cute Insect Adventure a Visual Delight," p. D1; April 23, 1999, Peter Stack, "'Bug' Takes on Life of Its Own," p. C18.
Time, November 27, 1995, Richard Corliss, review of Toy Story, p. 96; November 12, 2001, Richard Corliss, "Scaring up a New Winner: Pixar Holds Its Own with the Lovely Monsters, Inc.," p. 95.
U.S. News and World Report, November 27, 1995, Betsy Streisand, "Two Guys Every Kid Will Soon Know," p. 26.
Variety, May 26, 2003, Todd McCarthy, "Colorful 'Nemo' Makes a Splash," p. 25.
Wall Street Journal, November 27, 1998, Joe Morgenstern, "Raid!: 'A Bug's Life' Totally Crushes 'Antz' in Cartoon Masterpiece," p. W1.
Washington Times, November 24, 1999, Patrick Butters, "Delightful 'Toy Story 2' a Worthy Sequel to Original," p. 5; November 2, 2001, Gary Arnold, "Boo Gives 'Monsters' Perfect Jolt," p. 5.
In Focus Online, http://www.infocusmag.com/ (May, 2003), Mike Russell, "The Pixar Players."
Screentalk Online, http://www.screentalk.biz/ (February 28, 2005), Karen Gordon, "Something Fishy Is Happening at Pixar."