Animation Elite 2012: John Lasseter

As chief creative officer of Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, Lasseter’s impact can be seen in every toon offering from the two studios. This year, Pixar caused a stir with its first princess movie, “Brave,” with animation world wags wondering if the Mouse House has turned Pixar into another merchandise pipeline for the Disney Store. “Brave” proved them wrong, delivering a princess who rejected her prince in a very un-Disneylike way, and set off on a journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment. Sleeping Beauty she ain’t. “Brave” took in $535 million worldwide.

Another creative triumph came outside the studios, when the 12-acre Cars Land opened in June, re-invigorating Disneyland’s struggling California Adventure theme park. Lasseter was actively involved in the development, from the rides, restaurants, look and merchandise, of Cars Land (he also carries the titles of principal creative adviser, Walt Disney Imagineering), which was based on his 2006 hit “Cars.”

Capping the year was “Wreck-It Ralph,” from Walt Disney Animation Studios, which didn’t sport a traditional princess but is the story of a videogame villian and his mid-life crisis. Not very Disney-like but auds ate it up to the tune of $124 million to date.

Lasseter’s also been recognized over the years for his commitment to nurturing inhouse talent — think Peter Docter (“Up”), Andrew Stanton (“Wall-E”) and Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3″), and now, add “Brave’s” helmer Mark Andrews, a Pixar artist and writer, to the list.

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