Don Hahn

This article is about the film producer. For the baseball player, see Don Hahn (baseball).
Don Hahn
Born Donald Paul Hahn
(1955-11-25) November 25, 1955
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Artist, film producer, film director
Years active 1977–present
Spouse(s) Denise Meara-Hahn (1987–present)

Donald Paul Hahn (born November 25, 1955) is an American film producer who is credited with producing some of the most successful animated films in recent history including The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, the first animated film to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. He currently is Executive Producer of the Disneynature films, and owns his own film production company, Stone Circle Pictures.


Early life

Don Hahn was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father was a Lutheran minister.[1] When Hahn was 3, his family moved to Bellflower, California where he went to school and shot his first animated shorts in the high school film club. His family then moved to Burbank, California when he was a teenager.[1] He graduated from North Hollywood High School (where he was a drum major) in 1973, went on to study music at Los Angeles Valley College, and majored in Music and minored in fine art at California State University Northridge. At both colleges, he was also a drum major as he also was in the Royal Cavaliers Youth Band of Van Nuys, California. He was a percussionist in the Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. He worked as a drum head tester for Remo Inc. and was the percussion instructor at Notre Dame High School to put himself through college.

Film career

He began his career in animation working for Disney Legend Wolfgang Reitherman as an assistant director on The Fox and the Hound. He worked closely with director Don Bluth on the production of Pete's Dragon and even worked in Bluth's garage on the animated short Banjo the Woodpile Cat. He later became production manager of The Black Cauldron (1985) and The Great Mouse Detective before moving on as an associate producer of Disney/Amblin's Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).

In 1989, Hahn made his first mark as producer for Disney and Amblin Entertainment's first Roger Rabbit short, Tummy Trouble, producing along with Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, and Frank Marshall. He then became the producer for the benchmark animated feature 1991's Beauty and the Beast, which was the first animated film to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. His next production, 1994's The Lion King, set worldwide box office records for an animated film and quickly became the highest grossing traditionally animated film in history. In 1996 he produced The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and in 2000 he was an executive producer on The Emperor's New Groove.

Hahn directed Steve Martin, James Earl Jones, Quincy Jones, Itzhak Perlman, and Angela Lansbury in the host sequences of Fantasia 2000. The next year in 2001, Atlantis: The Lost Empire was released for which he was producer. Atlantis performed modestly at the box office, but far lower than his previous films. In 2003, Hahn teamed up with Lion King co-director Rob Minkoff to produce The Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphy, making it Hahn's first live-action film to produce.

He also produced the Oscar-nominated animated short Lorenzo (2004).

In 2006, Hahn was interim head of Disney's animation division during its successful merger with Pixar Animation Studios. Hahn received his second Academy Award nomination that same year in the category of Best Animated Short for The Little Match Girl, an adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale which was originally intended for inclusion in a version of Fantasia.

Don was Executive Producer for the landmark nature film "Earth" the premiere film project from the Disneynature film label. In 2010 he once again served as Executive Producer on "Oceans" the epic documentary on the seas, and 2011's "African Cats" from Disneynature.[2]

Four of his films have been adapted into stage musicals: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In all, his films have been nominated for 18 Academy Awards.

Hahn produced the remake of Tim Burton's Frankenweenie.[3] and one of the juries in Art By Chance Film Festival[4]


Waking Sleeping Beauty is Don Hahn's feature directorial debut. The film is the true story of the perfect storm of people and circumstances that led to the animation renaissance of the 1980s and 1990s. The film had its world premiere at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival, and won the audience award at the Hampton's Film Festival. It offers a candid perspective of what happened in the creative ranks set against the dynamic tensions among the top leadership, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy Disney (the nephew of Walt).

Hand Held is Hahn's second documentary feature. When Hahn took a year sabbatical from his job at Disney, he set out to make a very personal film about photographer Mike Carroll, one of the first photojournalists to uncover the pediatric AIDS epidemic in post communist eastern Europe. Hahn filmed extensively in Bucharest, Transylvania, and in Carroll's home town of Boston.

Christmas With Walt Disney (2009) is a feature documentary commissioned by the Walt Disney Family Museum and directed by Hahn. The film chronicles Disney's life as husband, father, and film maker centered around the holidays. Hahn directed the film, narrated by Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller. The film runs every holiday season at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

Hahn serves as executive producer of numerous Disneynature documentaries such as Earth, Oceans, and African Cats all of which placed in the top five nature movies of all time. He is Executive Producer on the Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield directed Chimpanzee.[5]


In January 1999, Hyperion Books published Don's book on creativity called "Dancing Corndogs in the Night." The best selling book is a case study of the human creative spirit. Don has also written three books on Animation. "Animation Magic" from Disney Press. Publisher's Weekly said: "producer Don Hahn distills the difficult and detailed process of animated feature film creation into an easily understood narrative. From the birth of an idea, to voice-overs, special effects and computer-generated imagery, each phase is generously illustrated with sketches, movie stills, scenes of artists at work, flow charts and even a photo of the opening of Pocahontas in New York's Central Park.

Don leads a panel on the work of Walt Stanchfield at Comicon 2009

Don's book "Alchemy of Animation" became an extremely popular book on the process of making an animated film. The text covered traditional hand drawn animation as well as 3D digital animation, visual effects and stop motion animation. Animation World Magazine said about the book: Whether you're a veteran story artist, or you're trying to land your first studio job as an in-betweener, or you're delivering coffee and donuts to the higher-ups or if you're just a fan of animation, you'll want to add this to your bookshelf.

Early in his career, Hahn set up and managed the Disney School of Animation, an internal training program for a generation of young artists coming up within the Disney Studio animation department. The program was mentored by veteran animators Eric Larson and Walt Stanchfield. In the spring of 2009 Focal Press released the landmark book "Drawn to Life" by Walt Stanchfield which Don edited. "It was a dream project for me to bring the complete works of Walt to print," said Hahn. "Stanchfield was a brilliant teacher, and my personal mentor, and it's a thrill to be able to publish his work to inspire generations to come." Website Animation Nation called Drawn to Life: one of the strongest primers on animation ever written. It is a masterpice compilation by Don Hahn. The material spares no detail on the craft of animation, but also digs deep into the artistic roots of animation. It is a publication that has been anticipated for many years by every artist and student that Walt ever came in contact with. It has been a labor of love for Don and we're happy, proud and excited that Walt's teachings will live on in these two volumes thanks to him!


Year Title Credits
1977 Pete's Dragon Assistant Animator (uncredited)
1978 The Small One (Short) Production Assistant
1981 The Fox and the Hound Assistant Director
1983 Mickey's Christmas Carol (Short) Production Manager / Production Assistant
1985 The Black Cauldron Production Manager
1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit Associate Producer
1989 Tummy Trouble (Short) Producer
1991 Beauty and the Beast Producer
1994 The Lion King Producer
1996 The Hunchback of Notre Dame Producer
2000 Fantasia 2000 Director / Writer - Host Sequences
The Emperor's New Groove Executive Producer
2001 Atlantis: The Lost Empire Producer
2003 The Haunted Mansion Producer
2004 Lorenzo (Short) Executive Producer
One by One (film) (Video short) Producer
2006 The Little Matchgirl (Short) Producer
2007 Earth (Documentary) Executive Producer
2009 Waking Sleeping Beauty (Documentary) Director / Producer / Narrator
2010 Oceans (Documentary) Executive Producer
Hand Held (Documentary) Producer / Director
2011 African Cats (Documentary) Executive Producer
2012 Chimpanzee (Documentary) Executive Producer
High Ground (Documentary) Producer
Frankenweenie Executive Producer
2014 Maleficent Executive Producer
2017 Beauty and the Beast Executive Producer


Academy Awards

Golden Globe Awards

Don at the Deauville Film Festival 2009

National Board of Review Awards

ASIFA Hollywood Annie Awards

California State University Northridge

St. Xavier University

Laguna College of Art and Design

See also


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