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Director Profile: Roger Allers

Occupation: Director

Roger Allers made his feature film directing debut with "The Lion King" following a prolific two-decade career in the medium that included everything from character design and animation to story supervision. He was instrumental in shaping the structure and dialogue for the six Disney animated features previous to "Lion King," serving as official head of story on "Oliver & Company" and "Beauty and the Beast" and contributing to "The Little Mermaid," "The Prince and the Pauper," "The Rescuers Down Under" and "Aladdin" in a senior story capacity.

Born in Rye, New York and raised mainly in Scottsdale, Arizona, Allers became hooked on animation when he saw Disney's classic "Peter Pan" at the impressionable age of five. A few years later he decided he would become a Disney artist and sent off to Disneyland for a do-it-yourself animation kit. In no time at all he was drawing basic poses with Donald Duck and other assorted characters and reading books on the art of animation. In high school he gave up his goal of animation, discouraged by the death of Walt Disney.

At Arizona State University, Allers honed his artistic skills by studying drawing and painting. After receiving his degree in fine arts, he spent the next two years traveling and living in Greece. During that time, he did a lot of drawing, spent some time living in a cave and met his future spouse. In 1973, he and his wife moved to Boston, where he sat in on an animation class at Harvard and renewed his interest in the medium. Armed with a fifteen-second film and his college portfolio, Allers applied for a job with Lisberger Studios, headed by Steven Lisberger, who would go on to direct "Tron" for Disney, and was hired to animate for such diverse programs as "Sesame Street," "The Electric Company," "Make a Wish," intros to the Boston Pops telecasts and various commercials for the local market.

Allers relocated to Los Angeles in 1978 with Lisberger Studios to work on a feature project called "Animalympics." Serving as the director's right-hand man, he provided story work, character design and animation on that film. This was followed by a sixmonth stint as part of the storyboard team creating the innovative Disney live-action fantasy "Tron."

In 1980, Allers and his family moved to Toronto, Canada, where he worked for Nelvana Studios as an animator on a feature called "Rock and Rule." This two-year assignment was followed by a return to Los Angeles, where he provided character design, preliminary animation and story development for the Japanese-produced feature "Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland." Relocating to Japan, Allers lived in Tokyo for two years while serving as one of the animation directors overseeing the Japanese artists.

Returning again to Los Angeles in 1985, Allers heard that Disney was looking for a storyboard person on "Oliver & Company" and immediately applied for the job. Asked to draw some sample character model sheets as a tryout, he worked on a portfolio and was hired shortly thereafter. He eventually was promoted to head of story on the film and worked, in some creative capacity, on every Disney animated feature between "Oliver" and "Lion King."

Following "Oliver," Allers had story assignments on "The Little Mermaid," "The Prince and the Pauper" and "The Rescuers Down Under" before being tapped to head the story team for "Beauty and the Beast." His story talents and sensibilities were called upon again during the formative stages of "Aladdin," which he worked on for six months before commencing his work on "The Lion King."

Allers has worked on numerous projects since "The Lion King," and lent his story expertise to such films as "The Emperor's New Groove," and "Lilo & Stitch." He was nominated for a Tony Award for writing the book for "The Lion King" on Broadway. Most recently, Allers directed an animated short based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl," set to the music of Alexander Borodin.

Director Credits

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