Born in San Francisco, Wise grew up in and around the Bay area, principally in Palo Alto. He earned his first paycheck for drawing at the age of seven when his mother submitted his rendering of a garbage truck and sanitation worker to the San Francisco Chronicle's Junior Art Champion contest. His submission not only impressed the judges at the paper, who declared his entry a winner, but also won praise from the Sanitation Department, who sent him a letter of commendation and a check for the free advertising. Wise recalls thinking, Wow, there's something to this, and knew from then on the career path he wanted to take.
In fifth grade, Wise took a Community Center course in animation and made his own primitive Super-8 films using cutouts and clay figures. This hobby of making films continued throughout junior high and high school. When his dad told him about CalArts and their special programs in animation, he immediately checked it out and applied for admission. He was accepted and spent the next four years learning his craft. As a student, he earned a living drawing caricatures (the ones with the big heads and tiny bodies) at Universal Studios and Magic Mountain. In his senior year at the college, he was hired by Disney to do freelance animation for the Sport Goofy in Soccermania television special.
Following graduation, Wise contributed animation and storyboarding to The Brave Little Toaster and Family Dog, an animated segment for Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories anthology series. Back at Disney, he animated on The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver & Company before discovering that his real interests were in the area of story and character development. He went on to work as a story man on Oilspot and Lipstick, Mickey at the Oscars, The Prince and the Pauper, The Rescuers Down Under and Cranium Command. For the latter, he co-directed the four-minute animated pre-show (with Gary Trousdale) and provided the voice of the Hypothalamus character.
After completing Beauty and the Beast, Wise served as executive producer for Disney's live-action comedy-adventure Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, for which he supervised the writing and recording of the animals' dialogue and was involved in casting the voice talents. He went on to direct (with Gary Trousdale) two additional animated features for Disney: The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Kirk Wise Facts