Women's Impact Report: Executive Suite
Vanessa Morrison started her career at Fox as an intern back in 1994. Today, she runs the studio’s animation division, overseeing such projects as “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” and the upcoming “Ice Age” sequel “Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”
“I started in a windowless office that used to be a safe — my own kind of hovel,” she remembers. “And though I worked on many things as a junior executive coming up, I always gravitated to family movies.”
On the live-action side, Morrison developed such hits as “Dr. Dolittle,” “Garfield” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” many of which teetered into animated territory. But it’s her emphasis on story, not technology, that best equips her for the post, which she took over from Chris Meledandri when he left for Universal in early 2007.
As animation prexy, Morrison may not have hatched “Horton” per se, but she did see the film through previews and positioned it for its $150 million-plus domestic run. “Ice Age 3” marks the first project Morrison shepherded from start to finish, working closely with the Blue Sky team to concoct a plot that allows the franchise’s familiar characters to coexist with a group of not-quite-extinct dinosaurs.
The White Plains, N.Y.-based animation studio may be Fox’s primary creative partner, but Morrison also is open to other collaborators. She greenlit the deal for Wes Anderson to helm a stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” making periodic trips to London to check on the production. “Wes brings his own sensibility to these characters, and I think it’s going to be a real surprise,” she says.
Role model: “My father was a theoretical physicist who taught at UC Berkeley, and he was very much a pioneering spirit who was unafraid to look into unusual things, and for that I feel he gave me courage and creativity. My mother was a first-grade teacher who encouraged me to push the boundaries of my imagination.”
Three things in life I can’t do without: “My husband, John Murchison; my mother, who lives with me and helps me out; and my son, Julian.”
What I’m reading now: “I tend to read multiple things at once. I’m reading ‘The Bell Jar’ and just started Junot Diaz’s ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.'”
Fave leisure activity: “Anytime I have I spend with my son and my family.”
Career mantra: “Just to follow your interests and your curiosity.”