John Musker (born November 8, 1953) is an American animation director. Along with Ron Clements, he makes up the duo of one of the Disney animation studio’s leading director teams.
Musker was born in Chicago, Illinois, the second oldest of eight children in an Irish Catholic family. His father Robert J. Musker, who worked for over 40 years at Illinois Bell Telephone, died in 2008 at the age of 84, and his mother, Joan T. Musker (née Lally), died in 2011 at the age of 81. Musker first met Ron Clements during the production of The Fox and the Hound in 1981, where he worked as a character animator under Clements and Cliff Nordberg. Musker later worked with Clements again as storyboard artists on the ambitious animated flop The Black Cauldron in 1985. In 1986 he made his directorial debut with Clements and two other collaborators on the feature The Great Mouse Detective.
Together, Musker and Clements wrote and directed The Little Mermaid in 1989, a touching retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen tale. With Oscar-winning songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, the film was a huge success, bringing back critical and commercial clout for feature animation. Later on, the two wrote, directed, and produced Aladdin in 1992, which was an even larger success. They also directed Hercules in 1997, which was not as successful as the previous two films but was still profitable.
Their next directorial collaboration would be the sci-fi Treasure Planet in 2002, which was a critical success, but a box office flop. The film lacked the songs and colorful characters which were crucial to the success of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid although the film was nominated an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
However, after Disney’s acquisition of Pixar in early 2006, the studio has rekindled interest towards 2-D animation thanks to new leaders John Lasseter and Edwin Catmull. A new 2-D animated feature, The Princess and the Frog, was released in 2009, with Musker and Clements directing and Randy Newman handling the music. The film returns to the Broadway-style musical, like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and other successful Disney animated films of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In late 2012, the duo announced that they will be directing a new film in the future, but they have their lips sealed for the title, the plot, and the animation style. In July 2013, it was revealed that the film, titled Moana, would be “a Polynesian tale involving the island folk and the idols made famous the world over,” and that it is planned for 2016.
Musker is married to Gale. They have twins sons, Jackson and Patrick, and daughter, Julia.