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Director Profile: Kirk Wise

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Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Occupation: Director
Birthplace: California

Kirk Wise has directed a trio of animated features for Disney -- "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996), and this year's "Atlantis: The Lost Empire." His extensive background in story development and animation prepared him well for his role as director, while his previous acting experiences allowed him to work closely with the voice talents in bringing their characters to life.

Born in San Francisco, Wise grew up in and around the Bay Area, principally in Palo Alto. He earned his first paycheck for drawing at the age of seven when his mother submitted his rendering of a garbage truck and garbage man to the San Francisco Chronicle's "Junior Art Champion" contest. His submission not only impressed the judges at the paper, who declared his entry a winner, but also won praise from the Sanitation Department, who sent him a letter of commendation and a check for the free advertising. Wise recalls thinking, "Wow, there's something to this," and knew from then on the career path he wanted to take.

In fifth grade, Wise took a Community Center course in animation and made his own primitive super-8 films using cutouts and clay figures. This hobby of making films continued throughout junior high school and high school. When his dad told him about CalArts and their special programs in animation, he immediately checked it out and applied for admission. He was accepted and spent the next four years learning his craft. As a student, he earned a living drawing caricatures ("the ones with big heads and tiny bodies") at Universal Studios and Magic Mountain. In his senior year at the college, he was hired by Disney to do freelance animation for the "Sport Goofy in Soccermania" television special.

Following graduation, Wise contributed animation and storyboarding to "The Brave Little Toaster" and "Family Dog," an animated segment for Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories" anthology series. Back at Disney, he animated on "The Great Mouse Detective" and "Oliver & Company" before discovering that his real interests were in the area of story and character development. He went on to work as a storyman on "Oilspot and Lipstick," "Mickey at the Oscars(R)," "The Prince and the Pauper," "The Rescuers Down Under" and "Cranium Command." For the latter, he co-directed the four-minute animated pre-show (with Gary Trousdale) and provided the voice of the "Hypothalamus" character.

After completing "Beauty and the Beast," Wise served as executive producer for Disney's live-action comedy-adventure, "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey," for which he supervised the writing and recording of the animal's dialogue and was involved in casting the voice talents.

Director Credits

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Interview: 'Beauty and the Beast' Director Kirk Wise By Ross Anthony (February 2002)