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Pixar Animation Studios has been a heavy hitter in Hollywood ever since Toy Story was released in 1995, and Lee Unkrich is one of the main individuals that's been instrumental to the studio's success, particularly as a director. However, all things must come to an end, and today, Unkrich announced that after 25 years, he's departing from Pixar. Unkrich announced the news with the following post:
If that was all we had to work with regarding Lee Unkrich's departure from Pixar, obviously there would be a lot of questions about why he's leaving. However, in a statement provided to THR, Unkrich elaborated that rather than moving to a competing studio, he's retiring from the filmmaking realm altogether. In his words:
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.
It was also reported that Lee Unkrich's split from Pixar was "amicable," and that he had not started on any new projects.
This marks another shakeup in Pixar's leadership in recent years. Back in November 2017, the former chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, took an extended leave of absence following reports of him engaging in sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior, and by the following July, he announced he would leave Disney at the end of the year. Lasseter has since been hired to be the head of Skydance Animation. Ed Catmull, one of Pixar's co-founders, also announced last fall that he's retiring from Disney/Pixar, though he'll stay as a consultant until July.
Lee Unkrich joined Pixar in 1994, and he served as an editor on Toy Story. Unkrich continued his editing duties on numerous Pixar movies in the decades to follow, but he made the jump to directing when he co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. He finally made his solo directing debut on Toy Story 3, which made over $1 billion worldwide and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, among its numerous other accolades.
After executive producing Monsters University and The Good Dinosaur, Lee Unkrich returned to the director's chair for Coco, which also won the Best Animated Feature Oscar and made over $807 million worldwide. Toy Story 4 will be Unkrich's final Pixar credit, as he had a hand in developing the story. There's always the chance Unkrich might change his mind years down the line and somehow contribute to a Pixar project, but for now, his time with the studio is over.
Toy Story 4 will be released in theaters on June 21. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates Pixar's upcoming cinematic offerings, and don't forget to look through our 2019 release schedule to learn what other movies are coming out this year.