To say that John Lasseter has had a long and storied career is, at this point, probably a bit of an understatement.
Even before he assumed his current position as the head of Skydance Animation, he became famous for his work at Pixar Animation Studios – a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. In his early days, he worked at Lucasfilm and helped pioneer the groundbreaking use of CGI animation in films. All told, projects that he has worked on have grossed more than $19 billion at the United States box office – making him unquestionably one of the most successful filmmakers in history.
Of course, all of this begs the question, which of his projects are best? When ranking the top films and shorts made by John Lasseter, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
While arguably the best film that John Lasseter was involved in was one that he didn’t direct, his presence can be felt all over the production of “Toy Story 3.” Written by the great Michael Arndt, “Toy Story 3” is a masterclass in the economy of storytelling. Everything builds to an ending that feels like it’s something out of an Oscar-winning drama, not a movie about sentient toys that is ostensibly made for children. It also features excellent vocal performances, most notably by the late Ned Beatty.
“Ratatouille” is another exceptional John Lasseter project – one that is set in Paris that follows a rat named Remy who has always longed to become a chef. By the time of the film’s release in 2007, Lasseter and his colleagues at Pixar had already cemented their reputation for exceptional animation, and that is on display here. The film was executive produced by John Lasseter and written and directed by Brad Bird.
3. ‘Light & Heavy’
“Light & Heavy” is notable for being an early Pixar short directed by John Lasseter – one that was created for the children’s program “Sesame Street” in the early 1990s. Coming in at just under a minute, it’s an undeniably impressive display of the technology at the time – and one that would set Pixar on the path to greatness that they would eventually follow.
4. ‘Toy Story 2’
If you had to make a list of John Lasseter’s greatest achievements, creating the “Toy Story” franchise would undoubtedly be right at the top. It’s a series of films that has spawned not only sequels but also endless merchandising, theme park rides, and more. “Toy Story 2” ranks on this list because it was a clear evolution from the first one. The human characters looked better than they did in the original, in which they were typically left off-screen. The story is more dynamic, and it introduces more characters. It’s an example of a filmmaker who takes the lessons he learns and applies them forward to create a better product, which is always what John Lasseter and Pixar have been all about.
5. ‘Toy Story’
Finally, we arrive at the original “Toy Story” – a movie that won John Lasseter a “Special Achievement” Academy Award upon its release in 1995. Computer animation had existed before then, but “Toy Story” showed what was possible – both in terms of storytelling and in regard to connecting to the characters depicted.
All told, when you consider what John Lasseter has been able to accomplish in his career up to this point, it’s truly exciting to think about what he and the team at Skydance Animation have in store for us all.