Timothy O. Johnson
Born August 27, 1961 in Chicago, Illinois, Tim Johnson was fascinated by drawing and animation from an early age, and while pursuing his bachelor's degree in English Literature from Northwestern University, saw an opportunity to produce a pair of animated short films. When these efforts won collegiate technical awards, Johnson decided to pursue animation as a career, and freelanced on various television commercials in Chicago. He was then hired by Post Effects to oversee their computer animation systems - one of the first in the country - in 1986. From there, he transitioned to the computer animation company Pacific Data Images (PDI), where he formed the Character Animation Group with the intent of building a crew of artists and technicians in order to produce an animated feature film. From 1990 to 1995, the group produced a slew of well-regarded short animated projects, including the Emmy-winning "Last Halloween" (CBS, 1991) with Hanna-Barbera, and a 3D short, "Homer3," for "The Simpsons'" (Fox, 1989- ) "Treehouse of Horror VI" Halloween special in 1995. That same year, PDI struck a movie deal with DreamWorks SKG, which had purchased a 40% share in the company. Based on the strength of his initial story concepts, Johnson was named director for "Antz" (1998), the company's first feature film effort, which featured the voices of Woody Allen, Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone. Though a box office hit, the picture was undermined by the release of Pixar's "A Bug's Life" (1998) as well as bad blood between Pixar chief John Lasseter and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who publicly accused each other of borrowing elements from each other's production. After contributing ideas to DreamWorks' massive hit "Shrek" (2001), Johnson's next directorial effort, "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" (2003), was a dismal failure, despite the presence of Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the voice-over cast, and prompted DreamWorks Animation to abandon any future projects that would rely on traditional animation methods instead of computer generated animation. Johnson rebounded in 2006 with "Over the Hedge," a feature film adaptation of the popular United Media comic strip about a band of animals contending with suburban sprawl. Featuring a voice-over cast that included Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell and Wanda Sykes, the picture was a substantial hit and earned two Annie Awards for Best Character Design and Best Storyboarding. Johnson then stepped into the producer's chair for "How to Train Your Dragon" (2010), based on the popular young adult fantasy series by Cressida Cowell. The adventure-drama, about a young Viking boy (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who ends his peoples' fear of dragons by befriending one of the creatures, was a huge box office hit as well as an Academy Award nominee for both Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. Though it lost in both categories, "Dragon" won ten Annie Awards and tied with James Cameron's "Avatar" (2010) for Most Creative 3D Film of the Year at the Venice Film Festival. After helming the "Kung Fu Panda Holiday" special for NBC in 2010, Johnson resumed his directorial career with "Home" (2015), an adaptation of Adam Rex's children's book The True Meaning of Smekday (2007) with Steve Martin, Jim Parsons and Rihanna among its vocal cast.