Ed Catmull, acting president of both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, announced that he will step down from his position at the end of 2018. He will stay on as an adviser through July 2019.
Catmull was recruited by George Lucas to head Lucasfilm’s fledgling Computer Graphics Division in 1979, where he was responsible for ground-breaking computer animation in films including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Young Sherlock Holmes, as well as the short film The Adventures of André and Wally B., the first-ever computer animated short. He co-founded Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter when it was spun off from Lucasfilm in 1986. Catmull is the last founder still working for the studio, following Lasseter’s departure after sexual harassment allegations. (He remains on as a consultant until the end of the year.) Catmull joined Walt Disney Animation Studios as part of Pixar’s acquisition by Disney in 2006. He’s won five academy awards for technical achievement, including the Gordon E. Sawyer Award in 2009.
Catmull announced his retirement in a statement, saying:
“Never in my wildest imagination could I have conceived of the path or the extraordinary people I have worked with over all of these years – the twists and turns, the ups and downs, along with exhilarating passion, talent, and dedication that have led to something extraordinary, something that has an enduring impact in the world. From the request of George Lucas to bring technology to the film industry, to the vision of Steve Jobs, and the extraordinary freedom provided by Bob Iger, Alan Horn, and Alan Bergman, we continue to dream of stories and ways of making those stories that always surprise. I have the mixed emotions that come with stepping away from a group of people I love, but also with the utmost pride and pleasure that we now have at both Pixar and Disney Animation the most dedicated and imaginative leaders I have worked with.”
In terms of leadership, Pixar president Jim Morris and Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein continue to run their respective studios, reporting directly to Walt Disney Studios president Alan Bergman, while creative chiefs Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee will report to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.
Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger lauded Catmull in a statement, saying “Ed Catmull’s impact on the entertainment industry is immeasurable. A pioneer of the intersection of creativity and technology, Ed expanded the possibilities for storytellers along with the expectations of audiences. We’re profoundly grateful for his innumerable contributions, ranging from his pivotal, groundbreaking work at Lucasfilm and Pixar to the exceptional leadership he brought to Pixar and Walt Disney Animation over the last 12 years, and we wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement.”