Kelly Asbury, an animation writer-director and voice actor whose credits include Shrek 2, Smurfs: The Lost Village and Beauty and the Beast, died today after battling cancer for several years. He was 60. His rep Nancy Newhouse Porter of Newhouse Porter Hubbard confirmed the news to Deadline.
“He was one of the most admired and beloved people in the industry,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking for everyone.”
A three-time Annie Awards nominee for helming 2004’s Shrek 2 and writing and directing 2011’s Gnomeo & Juliet, Asbury also was nommed twice by the Cannes Film Festival: He was up for the Palme d’Or for Shrek 2 and the Camera d’Or for best debut feature for 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.
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His also directed last year’s UglyDolls, and his writing credits included co-penning the story for Disney’s 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast.
Born on January 15, 1960, in Beaumont, TX, Asbury enrolled at CalArts in 1980 and early in his career worked on the multinational ABC series the Littles and 1985 feature The Black Cauldron. By the late ’80s, he was working for Disney on toons including The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach.
Asbury also worked as a story artist on the groundbreaking 1995 Pixar classic Toy Story and in that capacity later contributed to such hit toon features as Chicken Run, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Sherlock Gnomes.
His feature directing debut came on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Asbury went on to pen Gnomeo & Juliet, the offbeat 2011 feature that would spawn the 2018 spinoff Sherlock Gnomes.
Asbury also voiced characters in Shrek the Third and Sherlock Gnomes along with several of his own movies including Shrek 2, Gnomeo & Juliet, Smurfs: The Lost Village and UglyDolls.