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Director Profile: John Musker


Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Occupation: Writer/Director/Producer

John Musker continues to be one of the guiding forces in the art of animation and one of Disney's greatest treasures. His irreverent wit, strong visual style and unconventional approach to storytelling helped to make "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "Hercules," three of the most distinctive and successful features in Disney history. "Treasure Planet" is his fifth feature film directing credit for the studio.

Like many of the artists who eventually came to work at Disney, Musker knew at an early age that he wanted to become an animator. By the time he was eight, he had already set his sights on the profession.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Musker first began drawing while in grammar school. Inspired by such Disney classics as "Sleeping Beauty" and "Pinocchio" as well as Bob Thomas' animation primer The Art of Animation, he developed a thorough understanding of the animation process. His fascination with comics, cartoons and Mad Magazine further stimulated his desire to draw.

At Loyola Academy, a Jesuit high school in Wilmette, Illinois, Musker became a cartoonist for the school paper. His special brand of caricature, which included outrageous sketches of teachers and school celebrities, quickly caught on. This preoccupation with caricature and cartooning continued throughout his college years at Northwestern University, where he majored in English and drew cartoons for The Daily Northwestern.

Following graduation from college in 1974, Musker put together a portfolio and set out for California to pursue a career as animator. The following year, after an initial rejection by Disney, he enrolled with a partial scholarship at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) to master his craft.

After completing his first year, which included a summer internship at the Disney Studio, he was offered a full-time job as an animator. This time Musker turned it down, opting instead to complete his second year of training.

In 1977 Musker started work at Disney, where his two training tests were enthusiastically received; and he began as assistant animator on "The Small One." He also animated on "The Fox and the Hound" and did story work on "The Black Cauldron."

Musker and Clements joined creative forces in 1983 to write "The Great Mouse Detective" and went on to co-direct the film (along with Burny Mattinson and Dave Michener). This successful collaboration led to a re-teaming on "The Little Mermaid," an award-winning film which helped to revitalize feature animation at Disney and generate an excitement for the genre as a whole. Following that, Musker and Clements joined creative forces once again to produce, write and direct the international blockbuster "Aladdin" (1992). Their fourth joint effort as filmmakers was the 1997 Disney feature, "Hercules," which combined Greek mythology, satire and songs by Alan Menken and David Zippel.

Musker and his wife, Gale, whom he met at Disney, have three children (including twins).

Director Credits

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