Disney has announced that Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, will retire from his dual role at the end of the year. The 73-year-old industry veteran will continue in an advisory role at the studios until July 2019.
“Never in my wildest imagination could I have conceived of the path or the extraordinary people I have worked with over all of these years – the twists and turns, the ups and downs, along with exhilarating passion, talent, and dedication that have led to something extraordinary, something that has an enduring impact in the world,” says Catmull.
He continues: “From the request of George Lucas to bring technology to the film industry, to the vision of Steve Jobs, and the extraordinary freedom provided by [Disney executives] Bob Iger, Alan Horn, and Alan Bergman, we continue to dream of stories and ways of making those stories that always surprise. I have the mixed emotions that come with stepping away from a group of people I love, but also with the utmost pride and pleasure that we now have at both Pixar and Disney Animation the most dedicated and imaginative leaders I have worked with.”
Disney chairman and CEO, Bob Iger says: “Ed Catmull’s impact on the entertainment industry is immeasurable. A pioneer of the intersection of creativity and technology, Ed expanded the possibilities for storytellers along with the expectations of audiences. We’re profoundly grateful for his innumerable contributions, ranging from his pivotal, groundbreaking work at Lucasfilm and Pixar to the exceptional leadership he brought to Pixar and Walt Disney Animation over the last 12 years, and we wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement.”
Catmull got his start in the industry in 1979 when he joined Lucasfilm’s computer division. Less than a decade later, in 1986, he would found Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter. Since debuting the first ever feature-length computer animated film, in 1995’s Toy Story, they have released a further 19 Pixar films and taken home 15 Academy Awards.
As one of the architects behind Pixar’s industry standard software RenderMan, Catmull has been awarded five Scientific & Technical Awards by the Academy. In 2014 he authored the book Creativity Inc., alongside Amy Wallace.
Despite his immeasurable contributions to the animation and VFX industry, Catmull leaves behind a controversial career as a businessman. After allegations of wage suppression a class-action lawsuit by disgruntled workers led to a settlement of $100 million from The Walt Disney Company in 2015.
There is also the departure of former chief creative officer John Lasseter after allegations of misconduct and harassment, Catmull has not commented on the matter, despite reports that management were aware of inappropriate behaviour.
The final films to be made under Catmull’s watch will include Ralph Breaks the Internet, Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2. Disney has not named a successor, but has stated that Pixar president Jim Morris and Disney Animation president Andrew Millstein will continue to oversee their respective studios.