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Director Profile: Robert Minkoff


2002 Columbia Pictures Inc. All rights reserved.

Occupation: Director

Rob Minkoff has emerged as one of the most sought-after directors working in Hollywood today, having helmed the highly successful fantasy, "Stuart Little" and its recent sequel, "Stuart Little 2." He began his association with Disney in 1983 following a three-year stint at CalArts studying character animation. As director of "The Lion King" he brought his extensive background in animation, design, story development and direction to the project.

Born and raised in Palo Alto, California, Minkoff exhibited an early affinity for drawing as well as a keen appreciation for animation. Repeated viewings of the family's 8mm film collection, which included excerpts from Walt Disney's "Sleeping Beauty," added to his fascination and allowed him to view the action one frame at a time. As a teenager, while babysitting for friends, he discovered Christopher Finch's landmark book, The Art of Walt Disney, and immediately began learning all he could about animation. By coincidence, the children he was sitting for (Jenny and Emily Shapiro) were Finch's nieces and were mentioned in the book's dedication. "My whole dream of working for Disney was wrapped up in that book," recalls Minkoff. "The whole notion that you could make things come to life really amazed me." Minkoff was finally able to return the favor when he collaborated with Finch on his book for Hyperion, The Art of The Lion King.

Minkoff has been actively involved in theater since the age of ten and his numerous stage appearances include productions for the Palo Alto Children's Theater, Theater Works and his high school dramatic group. He was also featured in his high school's madrigal group, which performed at several important gatherings including the candlelight vigil for Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk where they sang back-up for Joan Baez. By this time, the thought of becoming an animator was already firmly implanted in his mind. Following graduation, the decision to attend CalArts in Valencia and pursue his dream seemed an obvious one.

During the summer of 1982, Minkoff served an internship at Disney and had a chance to train with one of the studio's legendary "nine old men," Eric Larson. The following year, he was hired by feature animation and worked with Larson on a personal animation test before moving on to his first assignment as an inbetweener on "The Black Cauldron." Following that, he was selected to design characters for "The Great Mouse Detective" including the title character, Basil. Moving quickly through the ranks, he became an animator and was promoted to supervising animator during the course of that film.

Following "Great Mouse Detective" Minkoff devoted his talents to developing and writing a variety of animated features, including a song for "Oliver & Company" ("Good Company," co-written with Ron Rocha) and an early treatment of "Beauty and the Beast." He also contributed to the character design and experimental animation of Ursula in "The Little Mermaid."

Minkoff made his directing debut with the Roger Rabbit short "Tummy Trouble" in 1989, and went on to direct the second short "Roller Coaster Rabbit" the following year. He co-produced the third short "Trail Mix-Up" in 1993. For his next assignment, he delved into the world of live-action filmmaking by helming "Mickey's Audition," a fiveminute film for the Disney-MGM Studios combining animation and live-action and featuring cameos by Mel Brooks, Angela Lansbury and Roy E. Disney (making his acting debut playing legendary uncle Walt). He spent the next year preparing to direct a feature-length sequel to "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and, when that was delayed, began his assignment codirecting "The Lion King" on April Fool's Day, 1992.

Following "The Lion King," Minkoff directed the immensely successful live action/CGI family films "Stuart Little" (1999) and "Stuart Little 2" (2002) for Columbia Pictures. Minkoff is currently in preproduction on "The Haunted Mansion," starring Eddie Murphy, which will hit theaters in time for Halloween 2003.

Aside from the strong influences of Disney greats like Eric Larson, Minkoff credits his association with Warner Bros. animation legend Chuck Jones for a great deal of inspiration. "I met Chuck during my first year at CalArts and he became a mentor to me," recalls the director. "I had always been a big fan of his and having the opportunity to learn from him has really meant a great deal to me, professionally as well as personally."

Director Credits

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