Writer-director Kelly Asbury, whose credits include animated films such as “Shrek 2”, “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and “Beauty and the Beast”, died at the age of 60 after a long battle with cancer. His representative Nancy Newhouse Porter of Newhouse Porter Hubbard confirmed the news to Deadline on June 26.
“He was one of the most admired and beloved people in the industry. It’s heartbreaking for everyone,” she said. Asbury, a Texan native, enrolled at California Institute of the Arts in 1980 and early in his career worked on the multinational ABC series the “Littles” and 1985 feature “The Black Cauldron”.
He started working for Disney by the late ’80s on cartoons including “The Little Mermaid”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, and “James and the Giant Peach”.
Asbury also worked as a story artiste on the ground-breaking 1995 Pixar classic “Toy Story” and went on to contribute to hit toon features such as “Shrek”, “Kung Fu Panda”, “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”, “Wreck-It Ralph”, “Frozen” and “Sherlock Gnomes”.
He made his feature directing debut in 2002 with “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”, which he co-helmed with Lorna Cook. The Dreamworks Animation film was nominated for an Academy Award.
Asbury followed it up with 2004’s “Shrek 2”, another Oscar nominated film. He also provided some of the extra voices in “Shrek 2” and “Shrek the Third”.
His other animated directorials were “Gnomeo & Juliet”, the 2011 British-American feature, which spawned the 2018 spin-off “Sherlock Gnomes”, and Sony Pictures Animation’s “Smurfs: The Lost Village”.
Asbury was also up for the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his best debut feature, the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the prestigious movie gala, for “Shrek 2”.
He also directed last year’s “UglyDolls” for STX Entertainment, and his credits as a scribe include co-writing the story for Disney’s 1991 animated classic “Beauty and the Beast”.