Readers, hello and welcome back again for our second entry at the recently revived “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog–our thirty-seventh post in total! Last time out, we returned to the story of Pat Boone and his relationship to Churches of Christ, the first time we’ve gone back to an earlier subject to add new details or reevaluate our prior conclusions. Today, we’ll move from the world of music to the world of movies as we look at the possible connections between Churches of Christ and two individuals who have played key roles at Pixar over the years: Andrew Stanton (1965-) and John Lasseter (1957-).
Before we get to that, though, a quick reminder about my forthcoming book, Visions of Restoration: The History of Churches of Christ. VoR is scheduled for publication with Cypress Publications/Heritage Christian University Press on September 12 and will retail for $12.99, making it an affordable purchase for individual or congregational use. Alternately, if you need to wallpaper your house or keep the fireplace going, well… just use your best judgment. VoR can be preordered now at http://www.hcu.edu/product/visions-of-restoration-the-history-of-churches-of-christ-by-john-young/.
With that taken care of, let’s refocus on the topic at hand. I was originally inspired to write an entry on Andrew Stanton after seeing a relevant post on a Facebook group a few months ago. Although I didn’t know the person posting, he mentioned having worshipped with Stanton’s parents at the Brookline Church of Christ back in the 1960s. Stanton, of course, has written, directed, and provided voice acting for some of Pixar’s greatest successes, including the Toy Story series and Wall-E, and he has won multiple Oscars for his efforts.
However, I have been unable to find any other links between the Pixar producer and Churches of Christ in particular. I did locate a 2008 Christianity Today interview in which Stanton spoke about the impact of his Christian faith on his art, but he did not go into detail about the specifics of his beliefs. (1) I don’t have any reason to doubt the initial Facebook post that sparked this entry, but I don’t have any confirmation for it, either.
In the process of researching Andrew Stanton’s possible connections to Churches of Christ, however, I found that another prominent Pixar figure, John Lasseter, does indeed have strong ties to the fellowship. Lasseter, like Stanton, has worn many hats at the studio, serving at different times as director, executive producer, and animator. (It’s important to mention here that Lasseter was effectively forced out of the studio in late 2017/early 2018 after a number of instances of sexual misconduct came to light.)
Information about Lasseter’s ties to the fellowship proved much easier to come by than did Stanton’s. In an October 2008 profile in the Hollywood Reporter, Lasseter acknowledged having spent a great deal of time in Churches of Christ as a child, if not necessarily having paid a great deal of attention:
“We would go to the Church of Christ all the time,” he recalls. “But I don’t remember a sermon, because we’d get there and she’d hand me a pad and pen, just to keep me quiet. And I’d sit there and just draw the whole time. ‘It’s God’s way,’ my mother would say.” (2)
(“John Lasseter at the Austin Film Festival in October 2011” by Vanessa Lua is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)
Additionally, Lasseter received an honorary doctorate from Pepperdine University in 2009 (3) and delivered the commencement address at the school that same year. (4)
That will do it for this two-for-one entry today, I believe. Stay tuned throughout August for our next two (unusually violent) entries, which will focus on former professional wrestler John Layfield and current UFC fighter Holly Holm, respectively. See you then!
(1) Mark Moring, “The Little Robot That Could,” Christianity Today, June 24, 2008, accessed July 11, 2019, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/juneweb-only/andrewstanton.html . Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall and may not be easily accessible to you.
(2) Alex Ben Block, “John Lasseter leads Disney to next great phase,” Hollywood Reporter, October 22, 2008, accessed July 11, 2019, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/john-lasseter-leads-disney-next-121574 .
(3) “John Lasseter Biography,” IMDB, accessed July 11, 2019, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005124/bio .
(4) “Commencement Program, May 2009,” Pepperdine Libraries Digital Collections, accessed July 11, 2019, https://pepperdine.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15730coll17/id/23108 .