A pioneer of modern animation, notably the computer-generated animation that dominated the mid- to late '90s, John Lasseter started out doing traditional hand-drawn work. His passion for animation began in high school and, after writing an exuberant letter to Disney Studios, he started studying art and drawing on his own. Shortly after graduation, Lasseter became the second student to be accepted into Disney's new animation program at the California Institute of the Arts. In the summers, he worked as an apprentice at the Disney Studios. While in school, he created two short films, Lady and the Lamp and Nitemare, both of which won Student Academy Awards. Shortly after graduation, Lasseter was hired by the Disney feature animation department and he spent the next five years there, working on such features as The Fox and the Hound (1981) and the short Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983).
In 1982, Lasseter received his first exposure to computer animation during the production of Disney's Tron. Intrigued by the possibilities of the radical new medium, he and colleague Glen Keane made a very short film combining simple computer animation with hand-drawn characters based on Maurice Sendak's children's classic Where the Wild Things Are.