Chris Buck is an animator, writer, and director who studied character animation at CalArts and later went to work at Disney. He worked as an animator on several films, including The Fox and the Hound, Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, and Pocahontas. He also worked at Hyperion Pictures, helping to develop several films there and also taught at CalArts for a few years. After Pocahontas, Buck would finally get a chance to direct a feature-length animated film. For this final entry of Animation Corner (which brings the total number of animated films to my goal of 100 for this year), I’ll be looking back at all three of the films directed by Chris Buck: the Oscar-winning Tarzan, the Oscar-nominated Surf’s Up, and the soon-to-be Oscar-nominated (perhaps winning?) Frozen.
Co-directed by Buck and Kevin Lima, 1999’s Tarzan centers on a man (who was raised by apes in the African jungle) who one day encounters a group of humans, one of whom plots to capture the apes who raised him. Featuring the voices of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, Lance Henriksen, Brian Blessed, Nigel Hawthorne, Rosie O’Donnell, Wayne Knight, and Alex D. Linz, this critically acclaimed film (based on the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs) grossed $171 million domestically on a $130 million budget (it made another $277 million internationally for a worldwide total of $448 million). The animators created a new technique called Deep Canvas, which allows CGI backgrounds to look like traditional paintings (the creators of the technique would later receive a Technical Achievement Academy Award in 2003). Among the film’s other accolades are 11 Annie Award nods (including one win), one Saturn Award nod, two Grammy Award nods (including one win), and Best Original Song wins from the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
Co-written and directed by Buck and Ash Brannon, 2007’s Surf’s Up centers on a young penguin who competes at the annual Penguin World Surfing Championship. Featuring the voices of Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, James Woods, Jon Heder, Mario Cantone, Diedrich Bader, and Brian Posehn, this critically acclaimed computer-animated mockumentary grossed almost $59 million domestically on a $100 million budget (it added another $90 million internationally for a worldwide total of $149 million). The production’s layout department set up a special motion-capture camera system on an old Sony video camera to give the illusion that the movie was actually being made with a real hand-held video camera in order to give the film a documentary feel. Among the film’s accolades are 10 Annie Award nods (including two wins), four Visual Effects Society Award nods, and Best Animated Feature nods from the Saturn Awards and the Academy Awards.
Co-directed by Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013’s Frozen centers on a princess who sets off with a thrill-seeking mountain man, his pet reindeer, and a magically-brought-to-life snowman to find her estranged sister, whose icy powers trapped the kingdom in an eternal winter. Featuring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciaran Hinds, and Maurice LaMarche, this critically acclaimed film (loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen) has grossed (as of this writing) $210 million domestically on a $150 million budget (it has grossed over $152 million internationally so far for a worldwide total of $363 million). Among the film’s accolades (so far) are 10 Annie Award nods, a few Best Animated Feature nods (from the Boston Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, San Diego Film Critics Circle, Toronto Film Critics Association, and the Golden Globes), and several Best Animated Feature wins (from the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, Austin Film Critics Association, Florida Film Critics Circle, Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, Houston Film Critics Society, Las Vegas Film Critics Society, Indiana Film Critics Association, and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle).