While in town on September 11, 2021, to celebrate his 50th Loyola Academy class reunion, John Musker ’71, accomplished writer, director and producer whose filmography includes several titans of the Disney catalog: The Great Mouse Detective (1986), The Little Mermaid (1989), Aladdin (1992), Hercules (1997), The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Moana (2016), returned to Loyola on September 14 to talk to Rambler film and arts students.
Musker’s presentation followed his 40-year career trajectory, starting with his days as a student at Loyola, where he started to develop his talent as an artist and cartoonist and served as The Prep’s art editor, and then at Northwestern University, where he became the school’s political cartoonist. Musker told the group that he was initially rejected by Disney because the company said his animal drawings were too stiff. Instead of being discouraged, he used the critique to improve his drawings and was eventually hired by Disney.
“Mr. Musker did an absolutely phenomenal job explaining his process of becoming an animator and the challenges that he faced throughout his career,” noted Drew Jimenez ’22.
Musker then relayed the backstories behind each of his team’s Disney successes, showing footage of how the films and their characters were researched and created from start to finish.
“I never knew just how much work animators like Mr. Musker put into their movies,” said Aidan Shannon ’22. “It was really impressive to see their commitment in how they researched their topic so that they could be as accurate as they could when they were animating.”
Meghan Oeste ’22 added, “Listening to Mr. Musker speak about how many roles he has been able to take on within the industry, such as directing, animating, producing, etc., was very inspiring….It was unbelievable to hear him talk about movies that have been immortalized, like The Little Mermaid, as beginning ideas that had been pitched, and shutdown and revised, showcasing how complex the creative process is throughout all levels.”
Fine Arts chair and teacher Mrs. Aufderheide agreed, “Interacting with Mr. Musker and learning about his career made the dreams and aspirations of our students tangible. They discovered firsthand what it looks like to nurture creative gifts and touch the lives of others through the arts. We are very grateful to Mr. Musker for sharing his time and talent with fellow Ramblers to illustrate the very important role art plays in the world.”
After his presentation, Musker signed autographs on colorful cards that depicted his many films and offered some encouragement and advice to students interested in pursuing similar careers.
“I found it incredibly inspiring that a man who grew up in Chicago and went to Loyola, just like myself, could create something that touched my heart as a child and has impacted my life in such a positive way. That alone gives me the hope that someday, I too can touch the hearts of others through my work,” reflected Aidan.
Musker then took a hard-hat tour of Loyola's new performing arts center currently under construction, slated to open in Fall 2022. For more, watch this highlight video
and read about the animator's 2017 visit to Loyola Academy here.