Kelly Asbury, legendary animation story artist and director, has died from cancer at the age of 60, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Asbury spent his entire professional life in the animation business, where he worked as a story or visual development artist on features like The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Toy Story (1995), Wreck-It Ralph (2012), and Frozen (2013).
Later on in his career, he began directing animated features, including Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) and Shrek 2 (2004), which both received Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature. The last film he directed was Uglydolls (2019), where he took over after director Robert Rodriguez left the production.
Outside of the animation space, Asbury also had a love of ventriloquism, which led him to write the 2003 book Dummy Days: America's Favorite Ventriloquists From Radio and Early TV.
Asbury was a well-loved and well-respected talent in the animation space, and his absence in the industry will be sorely felt by all who knew him and his work. “Kelly was a KIND director,“ tweeted David Trumble, a story artist who worked with Asbury on Uglydolls. “One thing you can never take for granted in this business is kindness.”
“Rest in Peace, Kelly Asbury,” tweeted Brian Lynch, screenwriter of both Secret Life of Pets features. “A legend in animation, his name is on so many beloved movies. … His work will be discovered and adored by audiences for generations to come.”