Peter Hans Docter (born October 9, 1968 in Bloomington, Minnesota) is an American animator, film director, screenwriter, producer, voice actor and chief creative officer of Pixar. He is best known for directing the animated feature films Monsters, Inc. (2001), Up (2009), Inside Out (2015) and the upcoming Soul (2020), and as a key figure and collaborator at Pixar. He has been nominated for eight Oscars (two wins thus far for Up and Inside Out Best Animated Feature), seven Annie Awards (winning five), a BAFTA Children's Film Award (which he won) and a Hochi Film Award (which he won). He has described himself as a "geeky kid from Minnesota who likes to draw cartoons".
Docter was born in Bloomington, Minnesota, the son of Rita Margaret (Kanne) and David Reinhardt Docter. His mother's family is Danish American. He grew up introverted and socially isolated, preferring to work alone and having to remind himself to connect with others. He often played in the creek beside his house, pretending to be Indiana Jones and acting out scenes. A junior-high classmate later described him as "this kid who was really tall, but who was kind of awkward, maybe getting picked on by the school bullies because his voice change at puberty was very rough". Both his parents worked in education: his mother, Rita, taught music and his father, Dave, was a choral director at Normandale Community College. He attended Nine Mile Elementary School, Oak Grove Junior High, and John F. Kennedy High School in Bloomington. Unlike his two sisters, Kirsten Docter, who is now the violist of the Cavani String Quartet, and Kari Docter, a cellist with the Metropolitan Opera, Docter was not particularly interested in music, although he learned to play the double bass and played with the orchestras for the soundtracks of Monsters, Inc, Up and Inside Out.
Docter taught himself cartooning, making flip books and homemade animated shorts with a family movie camera. He later described his interest in animation as a way to "play God", making up nearly living characters. Cartoon director Chuck Jones, producer Walt Disney, and cartoonist Jack Davis were major inspirations.
He spent about a year at the University of Minnesota studying both philosophy and making art before transferring to the California Institute of the Arts, where he won a Student Academy Award for his production "Next Door" and graduated in 1990. Although Docter had planned to work for the Disney Corporation, his best offers came from Pixar and from the producers of The Simpsons. He did not think much of Pixar at that time, and later considered his choice to work there a strange and unusual one.
Docter is a fan of anime, particularly the work of Hayao Miyazaki. Docter has said that Miyazaki's animation has "beautifully observed little moments of truth that you just recognize and respond to". He is also a fan of the work done by his competitors at DreamWorks as well. Referring to the competitive environment, he has said: "I think it's a much healthier environment when there is more diversity".