The roots and lineage of Iwerks & Co. date back nearly 100 years to Kansas City, Missouri. Leslie's grandfather, Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney were just 18 years old when they met and shared a similar passion for animation and filmmaking. Both hardworking and naturally talented, they set up their own animation shingle, the Iwwerks-Disney Company and tried to make a go of it as young animators. But the real industry called, and Walt Disney relocated to Hollywood, soon luring Ub out with him. By 1923, Walt and Ub teamed again, starting with Alice in Cartoonland, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit for Universal Studios. Within five fateful years, they would go on to create the most iconic animation character in the world: Mickey Mouse. For the next 52 years, Ub Iwerks, an animator and visual effects pioneer, blazed a path in the film industry by innovating new technologies, camera systems and film techniques that has laid the groundwork for much of what we see today. The multiplane camera, animation xerox process, wet gate printer, traveling matte process, 36o-degree Circlevision camera and theaters are among just a few of the breakthrough advancements he invented during his career with Disney, Alfred Hitchcock, and his own Ub Iwerks Studios during the 1930's. He was a recipient of numerous Academy Awards®, and was one of the first Disney employees to become a Disney Legend in 1989. For the ASIFA-Hollywood Annie Awards, the top juried award for technical achievement in the animation industry is named the Ub Iwerks Award.
His son, Don Iwerks, began his career as a camera technician at the Disney Studios working on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He worked in the studio machine shop under the tutelage of his father until he ultimately oversaw the department, building and inventing the camera systems utilized in Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Epcot Center and Tokyo Disneyland. Such innovations included the 3D camera system for Captain EO, the endless loop cabinet, the 360-degree camera system, projection and lighting effects, and much more. In 1986, he left Disney to form his own company, Iwerks Entertainment, that has become a world leader in large format, 2D, 3D, 4D, virtual reality, and motion based simulation theaters. The company rivals Imax as a world leader in large format 15 perf/70mm and 8 perf/70mm camera and projection systems, and today the company has 300 attractions in 40 countries worldwide. In 1998, at the 70th Academy Awards show, Don was awarded the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, an Oscar which is given each year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to "an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry. In 2009, Don was inducted by Bob Iger and Roy E. Disney as a Disney Legend, honoring him as an individual whose "imagination, talents and dreams have created the Disney magic." On March 21, 1999, Iwerks Entertainment was presented with an Oscar for Scientific and Technical Achievement for the the Iwerks 8/70 Linear Loop projection system.
Growing up behind the scenes at the Disney Studios and Disneyland, Leslie knew from an early age that she wanted to tell stories in her own unique ways and mediums. She worked as head of creative development at Iwerks Entertainment before the company merged with the Simex Corporation. From there, Leslie partnered with Walt Disney Pictures and renowned big wave surfer Laird Hamilton to direct/produce a large format film on big wave surfing. The project ultimately led to a one hour documentary which took Leslie to Maui documenting five of the top big wave surfers in the world. In 1999, Leslie Iwerks Productions was established after the success of Leslie's initial full length directorial debut - The Hand Behind the Mouse, the story of Leslie's grandfather Ub Iwerks, for Walt Disney Pictures. For her next film, Recycled Life, Leslie ventured into the depths of the largest landfill in Central America to document the lives of people living and working there over the last sixty years. The film, subsequently, earned an Academy Award® nomination, an A.C.E editorial nomination, and won numerous top film festival awards around the world. Simultaneously, Leslie partnered with Pixar Animation Studios to tell their fascinating story of innovation in The Pixar Story, which was nominated for an Emmy® in the outstanding feature documentary category.
Since then, the company has grown to become an industry leader in documenting the human story of innovation and enterprise around the world, consistently telling compelling stories about visionary people and entities who have achieved the remarkable, the unbelievable, and often the unfathomable.