Although born in Hollywood John and his twin sister, Johanna were raised in Wittier near Los Angeles. His parents were Jewell Mae (Risley), an art teacher, and Paul Eual Lasseter, a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. His mother’s profession contributed to his interest in animation and particularly the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons which he would watch on television. It was when he was in High School that he realized that he could have a career in animation and he wrote to the Walt Disney Studios but nothing happened then In 1975 the Disney company started an animation course at Calarts – The California Institute of the Arts- and John, with encouragement from his mother, was one of the first to sign up. He and his class mates, who included the future animators and directors Brad Bird, and Tim Burton were taught by some of Disney’s veteran animators such as Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. During his time there John produced two animated shorts – Lady and the Lamp (1979) and Nitemare (1980) – which both won the Student Academy Award for Animation. On graduating in 1979 John was taken on as an animator at the Disney Studios. In 1983, while working on Mickey’s Christmas Carol some friends invited him to see some footage of Tron that they were working on using CGI and he immediately saw the potential of it to enhance animated films. John and a colleague made a short test film and satisfied with the result and full of enthusiasm started work on a feature without consulting their superiors who when they found out about it canceled it and sacked John. Having made contacts in the computer industry he was quickly taken on by Lucasfilm which was bought by Steve Jobs for $5 million with a further $5 million invested as working capital and the company renamed Pixar. John soon convinced Steve that the future lay in computer animation by bringing his desk lamp to life in the short ‘Luxor Jr’ which was shown at a computer graphics conference and got a standing ovation. The first computer animated feature soon followed in the form of ‘Toy Story’ winning John an Oscar for Special Achievement to go with one he got for Animated Short Film – Tin Toy. He’s also had Oscar nominations for Animated Feature – Monster Inc and Cars, Original Screenplay -Toy Story, Animated Short Story – Luxor Jr while the short Knick Knack was selected by Terry Gilliam as one of the best 10 animated films of all time. In 2008, he was honored with the Winsor McCay Award, – the lifetime achievement award for animators. He oversees 3 animation studios – Pixar, Disney Animation and DisneyToon He spent 9 year (2005 – 2014) on the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, only relinquishing his seat due to term limits. He was presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood in November 2011.
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