Joel Crawford (birthname: Joel Bryan Crawford) is a rising animation director based at DreamWorks Animation. His first DreamWorks assignment as a story artist, under directors Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner, was on Bee Movie (2007), starring Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, and Chris Rock. Crawford continued as a features story artist through 2016, continuing with directors John Stevenson’s and Mark Osborne’s Kung Fu Panda (2008), with Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, and Michael Clarke Duncan.
Crawford worked as an artist next on Shrek Forever After (2010) under Mike Mitchell’s direction, and starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Jane Lynch, Jon Hamm, Craig Robinson, and Kathy Griffin, followed by the sequel Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), working with director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, and cast members Black, Chan, Hoffman, Jolie, and new cast members Gary Oldman, Michelle Yeoh, and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Crawford’s story artist work supported director Peter Ramsay’s Rise of the Guardians (2012), starring Chris Pine, Jude Law, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, and Isla Fisher, and then supported The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015), directed by Paul Tibbitt and starring Antonio Banderas.
Crawford’s third Kung Fu Panda story artist assignment was Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016), directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni and with the returning cast led by Black and Chan, with new voice actors Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons, and Kate Hudson, followed by Crawford promoted to head of the story for director Mike Mitchell on Trolls (2016), starring Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, and Gwen Stefani.
Joel Crawford rose to the features director’s chair (first, on the 2017 animated TV special, Trolls Holiday) with The Croods: A New Age (2020), starring Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Peter Dinklage, and Leslie Mann, and grossing worldwide $216 million, over three times its $65 million budget.
Crawford parlayed that success into the long-awaited, long-delayed revival of the Shrek-derived Puss in Boots franchise, with the entertaining and witty sequel, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022), starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Wagner Moura, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph.
Joel Crawford was born in October 1980. Crawford studied art at Cypress College in Cypress, California, from 2001 to 2002. After taking a year off from studies, Crawford transferred to the California Institute of the Arts, where he concentrated on animation from 2003 to 2006, when he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. A year after graduation, Crawford joined DreamWorks Animation, where he has worked ever since.
The Croods: A New Age
The Croods: A New Age (2020)
Nominee, Best Visual Effects in Animated Feature, Visual Effects Society Awards (2021); Two-time Nominee, Best Animated Film, Golden Globe Awards (2021, 2023).