PROFILE: Peter Sohn
Continuing our profiles for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we look at Pixar story artist and director Peter Sohn.
Sohn was born in 1977 in the Bronx, New York to Korean immigrants. He went to the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, California before starting his career in animation.
He started at Pixar in 2003 as a storyboard and production artist on Finding Nemo. He has also worked as an artist on an assortment of Pixar films, including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3 and the short One Man Band.
He got his directorial debut in 2009 on the short Partly Cloudy which he has writing credit on. His break as a director for a feature film came in 2015 with The Good Dinosaur.
Aside from his job on the creative side, he has voiced several characters for Pixar, including Emile from Ratatouille who he reprised in the short Your Friend The Rat and Scott "Squishy" Squibbles in Monsters University who he reprised in the short Party Central. He also provided voices for Russell in the short George & A.J., Recycle Ben in the short Toy Story Toons: Small Fry, Transitron in the ABC special Toy Story of Terror!, and Forrest Woodbush in The Good Dinosaur.
Sohn also served as inspiration for the cherubic Russell the Wilderness Explorer in Up. Telling NPR, he said, "I did a lot of the scratch voice for Russell in the early production of that film, and I was in early development with them doing storyboards and I remember that there are these sessions when you're sitting around a table and you are coming up with ideas [and] a lot of artists will draw each other all the time and caricature each other. We would call [it] 'jacking each other' - where you would flip a drawing at someone and your nose is huge or something. They kept drawing me like a giant thumb with a hat and these kind of little Asian eyes, and somehow that shape kept recurring until it became Russell, this Asian American kid. I got to tell you, I'm so proud that there's this Asian American kid in an animated movie."
Sohn continues to work at Pixar having recently been given some credit for the SparkShorts Purl and Kitbull. We look forward to seeing what other projects he works on.