John Stevenson Biography

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Birth Name: John Stevenson

Stevenson began his career as an artist and illustrator on a wide variety of projects including the Children's Museum of Bogota, Colombia. His entry into the entertainment business came via Jim Henson Productions, for which he provided character design, storyboarding and even background puppetry on the much-loved "Muppet Show." He later contributed storyboards and helped develop the visuals for many of Henson-related live action features, including "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981), "The Dark Crystal" (1982) and "Little Shop of Horrors" (1986).

From 1989 to 1991, Stevenson was art director and character designer for "The Dreamstone" (ITV, 1990-95), a popular animated fantasy series in the UK. After that, he served as staff designer and director for Colossal Pictures from 1991 to 1995; among the projects he oversaw at the company was the weekly animated series "Back to the Future" (CBS, 1991-92) and advertising spots for Parker Bros. and Little Caesars, among many others. As the decade progresses, Stevenson began to add feature animation work to his steady diet of TV programming. As a freelance storyboard artist, he created the opening title sequence for "George of the Jungle" (1997) and worked on "Antz" (1998) and "Toy Story 2" (1999), among numerous other projects. He was also an independent consultant for several major networks as well as to Walt Disney Productions, and collaborated with director Henry Selick on "James and the Giant Peach" (1996) as both storyboard artist and puppeteer.

In the late '90s, Stevenson joined DreamWorks as Head of Story for their most successful animated projects, including "Shrek" (2001), "Shrek 2" "(2004) and "Madagascar" (2005). He also provided storyboards for several less-known DreamWorks animated features, including "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" (2002) and "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" (2003), and provided story art and consultation for Aardman Animations' uncompleted claymation feature "The Tortoise and the Hare." Stevenson, who made his directorial debut on the offbeat CBS animated series "The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat" (1995), later helmed several episodes of DreamWorks' costly and heavily promoted primetime animated program, "Father of the Pride."

While working on "Pride," Stevenson began working on "Kung Fu Panda," a feature project for DreamWorks that had been gestating since 1993. After partnering with Academy Award-nominated animator Mark Osbourne in the director's chair, Stevenson helped to develop the film's unique mix of comedy, martial arts action and authentic Chinese culture; he also tempered the film's original thrust, which was more of a parody than a straight-ahead comedy. "Kung Fu Panda" opened to the largest opening day box office gross for a non-sequel in DreamWorks' history, and earned a total of 11 Annie Awards, including Best Picture. In 2009, Stevenson added Best Picture nods from both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes to his growing list of accolades. That same year, Stevenson made his jump to live action direction when producer Joel Silver selected him to direct a new version of the long-running animated and toy favorite "Masters of the Universe" for movie screens.