Oscar-winning alumnus addresses students at Loyola
On Sept. 11, John Musker was among Loyola Academy's Class of 1971 alumni recognized at halftime of the Ramblers' 37-7 football victory over St. Rita on Hoerster Field.
Three days later, Musker was more in his element. He stood onstage in the high school's theater Sept. 14 addressing Loyola film and visual art students about his 41-year career as an award-winning Disney writer and director.
Musker, who later toured the Loyola Academy Center for the Performing Arts, currently under construction, was nominated for Oscars for "The Princess and the Frog" (2009) and for "Moana" (2016). Overall, he's won 10 awards with 16 nominations, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Attending Loyola Academy from 1967-71, Musker told his audience that watching a high school production of "Guys and Dolls" his freshman year sparked an interest in entertainment.
He composed striking drawings for The Prep student newspaper his junior and senior years at Loyola, he said, and produced editorial cartoons for The Daily Northwestern while studying English in college.
Also inspired by a presentation by famous Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones, Musker sent portfolios to Disney and Marvel. Initially rejected by both, Disney reconsidered and suggested Musker attend the California Institute of the Arts. His character animation classmates included director Brad Bird ("The Incredibles," "Ratatouille," "The Iron Giant") and Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter.
After CalArts, Musker started working with Disney, which lifted him from drawing animation to writing and directing it. Early work came in "The Fox and the Hound," and his first directing effort was on "The Great Mouse Detective," nominated for a 1987 Edgar Allan Poe award.
Musker told the Loyola students that with longtime creative partner Ron Clements, his first script was for "The Little Mermaid" (1989). Musker said it was the last Disney movie with animation done on hand-painted cels, before moving to computer graphics.
Musker said he and Clements wrote "Aladdin" with Robin Williams in mind as the voice actor for the genie role. Collaborators on "Moana" -- prefaced by a three-week research mission in Polynesia -- included Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Taika Waititi ("Jojo Rabbit") and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Musker noted Miranda at the time was working on a hip-hop treatment of the United States' Founding Fathers.
"Good luck with that," Musker said, jokingly, of what became the "Hamilton" phenomenon.
"Enjoy your time at Loyola, and try to soak it all in," Musker told the Loyola students in conclusion.
"Don't be dismayed if your course that you think you're on takes a few zigzags along the way. Mine did, and everyone's does."