Unkrich further clarified his plans to The Hollywood Reporter by explaining that he wasn’t leaving to work elsewhere. “I’m not leaving to make films at another studio,” he told the publication. “Instead, I look forward to spending much-needed time with my family and pursuing interests that have long been back-burnered.”
Unkrich, who started out as an editor on the original Toy Story, also co-directed the films Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo, before moving on to direct his own projects. Unkrich was also one of the five original members of the studio’s legendary “braintrust”; the other initial participants were John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Joe Ranft.
Docter, who replaced Lasseter last year as Pixar’s chief creative officer, said in a statement:
“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. He will be sorely missed — but we are enormously grateful for his tireless dedication to quality, and his ability to touch the hearts of audiences around the world.”
Brad Bird weighed in on Twitter, writing, “Thanks for all of it, Lee.”
Dan Scanlon, director of Monsters University and the upcoming Onward added on Twitter, “It was an absolute honor to learn from Lee Unkrich over the last 17 years. He is truly a master in his field.”
Unkrich’s departure follows on the heels of the retirement of Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull, who left the studio at the end of last year, and the resignation of John Lasseter, following extensive accusations of sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behavior toward studio employees. Darla K. Anderson, Unkrich’s producer on Coco and Toy Story 3 and a 25-year veteran of the studio herself, left Pixar last March, just days after winning the Oscar for Coco.