Vike Profile: From Campanile cartoonist to Disney film director

Amy Lin, Editor-in-Chief

Palo Alto High School junior Rob Minkoff poses for his picture in Paly’s 1979 yearbook. Photo: Madrono Yearbook, 1979

Few graduate from high school knowing what path they want to take in life, and even fewer find fame and success on that path. Robert Minkoff is one of the few.

In addition to drawing cartoons for The Campanile, Minkoff — Palo Alto High School Class of 1980 — was actively involved in many of Paly’s performing arts programs, including theater and choir. Minkoff’s sights had already been set on animation before he moved on to college.

While studying character animation at the California Institute of the Arts, Minkoff interned at Walt Disney Animation studios with Eric Larson, one of Disney’s core animators. From there, he worked as an animator, character designer, and director on many Disney projects, including “The Black Cauldron,” “The Little Mermaid,” and several Roger Rabbit short films.

Minkoff is best known for co-directing “The Lion King,” the ninth-highest grossing animated film of all time, with Roger Allers in 1994. In addition to taking in $968.5 million at the box office, the movie has been referenced and immortalized by meme and pop culture, most evidently with the release of Barack Obama’s birth video in 2011.

Since then, he has directed a plethora of movies including the family comedy “Stuart Little;” “The Forbidden Kingdom,” starring esteemed Chinese actors Jackie Chen and Jet Li; and DreamWorks Animations’ “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.” According to an article by The Hollywood Reporter, Minkoff is currently working on “Chinese Odyssey,” an animated fantasy adventure film funded by several Chinese media companies.