Tim McCanlies

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Tim McCanlies (born 1953) is an American film director and screenwriter. He is best known for writing and directing Secondhand Lions , and for writing the screenplay for The Iron Giant .



Tim McCanlies is a fifth-generation Texan, but rarely called one place home for long. McCanlies’ father was in the Air Force and the family traveled extensively. [1] In his early years he was interested in both acting and the technical processes that took place behind the scenes, along with the process of filming scenes. [1] By second grade he was writing his own novels[ citation needed ]. While he was in high school he did not participate in the school's theatre program, but instead went to the local movie theatre and learned how to run the projector. [1]

McCanlies attended high school in Bryan, Texas and took some college-level courses at nearby Texas A&M University. In 1971, he moved to Austin and enrolled at the University of Texas majoring in Radio-Television-Film. After a couple of years, McCanlies transferred back to Texas A&M. In 1975, he moved to Dallas where he worked as a police officer and took graduate film classes at Southern Methodist University. [1]


Once McCanlies started taking graduate classes at Southern Methodist, he learned proper screenplay techniques and made several short films that were well accepted in national film competitions. [1] After the making of these films he was offered the opportunity to direct commercials near the Dallas area, but he decided against this and moved to Los Angeles to attempt movie screenplays in 1978. [1] After moving to Los Angeles he planned on attending the American Film Institute. [1] While he was in L.A. he found his first paying job for writing was a low budget film called Crazies. [1] While these low budget screenplays did give him experience in the business, it did not pay a great deal, so he needed another income. He supported himself during this time by writing computer programs. [1] With money being low during this time, McCanlies decided against enrolling in the Film Institute as he had planned. [1]

McCanlies worked for Walt Disney Studios in the 1980s ( The Fox and the Hound ) as a story artist and wrote for all the major motion picture studios at one time or another. After signing a two-year contract with Disney Studios as his first job in the Hollywood system, he pitched his own screenplay to the studio, but was turned down. [1] After McCanlies' contract with Disney was finished, and after marrying his wife Suzanne in 1988, they moved back to Texas. [1] At this time he started to work with most of the major studios as a script doctor and writer for hire. [1] He worked on films such as Touchstone's Shoot to Kill (1988), Warner Bros’ Little Giants (1994) and My Fellow Americans (1996). [1] Around this time he was also invited to speak at the first Heart of Austin Heart of Texas Film Festival and Screenwriters conference in 1994. [1] More recently he adapted a novel written by Turk Pipkin into a film called When Angels Sing. [2]

Selected filmography

Dancer, Texas Pop. 81

He started production on his directorial debut, Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 , in 1997, thanks to the support from Ignite Entertainment. [1] The film grossed just under $700,000 in the United States. [1] It was met with mixed reviews, with the film staying in theatres longer in McCanlies’ home state of Texas, while being removed from New York theatres after only a week. [1] The film began to be played in other rural areas after its initial release. The film then made its way to the London Film Festival, as well as playing in Australia. [1]

The Iron Giant

He wrote the screenplay for The Iron Giant in 1999. The film received universal acclaim and it ranked seventh in Premiere's list of the 100 best movies of 1999, which was a summary of the critics’ picks for the year. [1] He won multiple awards for his work, including an Annie Award (accomplishments in animation) and an award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. [3]

Secondhand Lions

His second directing project, Secondhand Lions had more success than his first. This film had much more of a draw due to bigger-name actors. It starred Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, and Haley Joel Osment in a story about a young boy staying with his strange uncles for the summer. [4] It was released in 2003 and was met with mostly good reviews, including Roger Ebert giving it three out of four stars. [5]


YearTitleCredited asNotes
1983 Scalps NoNoYes
1987 North Shore NoYesYes
1998 Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 YesYesNo
1998 Dennis the Menace Strikes Again NoYesNoDirect-to-video
1999 The Iron Giant NoYesNo Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in an Animated Feature Production
BAFTA Award for Best Feature Film
2001–11 Smallville NoConceptNo195 episodes
2003 Secondhand Lions YesYesNo
2009The 2 BobsYesYesNo
2009 Alabama Moon YesNoNo
2012 Angels Sing YesNoNo

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Alison Macor. Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids 30 Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas University of Texas Press: Austin, 2010.
  2. Topel, Fred (21 March 2013). "SXSW Interview: Tim McCanlies on when Angels Sing and Bruce Wayne". Crave Online. Crave Entertainment. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  3. Kit, Borys (3 December 2004). "Hollywood Reporter".
  4. Holden, Stephen (19 September 2003). "Secondhand Lions: Film Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  5. Ebert, Roger (19 September 2003). "Secondhand Lions". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 22 November 2015.