Birthdate: August 11, 1962
Birthplace: Palo Alto, California, USA
Rob Minkoff (Robert Ralph Minkoff) is the rare Hollywood director of animated and live-action features in multiple genres. Perhaps most renowned as the co-director of one of Disney’s all-time animated classics, The Lion King (1994), Minkoff has also directed features mixing live-action and computer animation, horror-comedies, Chinese-inspired wuxia action movies, and crime capers. In the recent decade, Minkoff has returned to his origins as a director of animated features.
Recruited by Disney Animation out of the rich talent pool at Cal Arts (founded by Walt Disney himself), Rob Minkoff moved up the ranks of the studio division, serving as an in-between artist (The Black Cauldron in 1985), supervising animator (The Great Mouse Detective in 1986), and character animator (The Brave Little Toaster in 1987, The Little Mermaid in 1989). Minkoff directed two Roger Rabbit shorts in 1989 and 1990, and a Mickey Mouse short in 1992. He nearly snared the director’s chair for what would have been his debut feature, Beauty and the Beast (1991), but Disney refused to hire him for the job when Minkoff requested creative control of the project.
Despite that career hiccup, Rob Minkoff went to animation glory with his next project: the now-classic The Lion King, co-directed with Roger Allers, and co-starring voice actors Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Whoopie Goldberg, and Rowan Atkinson. Including its later 3D-version re-release, The Lion King’s global gross was $968.5 million. It can claim to be the highest-grossing 1994 film, the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated film of all time, and the animated feature with the largest audience in terms of admissions in the past 50 years.
Rob Minkoff left Disney to break out into moviemaking blending animation with live-action, first with Stuart Little (1999), with the voice cast of Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie, and Stuart Little 2 (2002), with vocal actors Michael J. Fox, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, and James Woods. Minkoff turned to full-on live-action filmmaking for the next eight years, with three features in various genres: Disney’s long-awaited feature film take on The Haunted Mansion (2003), with Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Wallace Shawn, and Jennifer Tilly; the wuxia action movie, The Forbidden Kingdom (2008), starring superstars Jackie Chan and Jet Li in their first pairing, and grossing $128 million worldwide; and the IFC Films release, Flypaper (2011), a crime caper starring Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd.
Minkoff returned to feature animation with his version of Jay Ward’s beloved pair, Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014) for DreamWorks Animation, with the voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, and Allison Janney. Working on his next project for several years as producer-director, Minkoff was able to complete Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (long in development at Nickelodeon Movies under the title Blazing Samurai, an animated samurai western take on Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles) for a summer 2022 release, with the voice cast of Michael Cera, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Yeoh, and Ricky Gervais.
Born in Palo Alto, California, Rob Minkoff was raised by parents Tola and Jack Minkoff and attended Palo Alto High School. He studied animation, with a specialty in character animation, at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. Minkoff left Cal Arts in 1983 when he was hired by Disney Animation Studios. Minkoff has been married to Crystal Kung since 2007; the couple has two children, Max and Zoe.
Born Romantic: Rob Minkoff proposed to his future wife Crystal Kung on Valentine’s Day, 2006.
Ancient Roots: Rob Minkoff’s wife Crystal Kung claims to be a 76th -generation descendant of Confucius.
National Treasure: Minkoff’s The Lion King is in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.