Chagrin Falls man one of world's most influential people 2011


CHAGRIN FALLS -- Some "A-list" celebrities and pop culture icons are taking a back seat to a guy from Chagrin Falls.

Oscar-Award winning director of Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich, has made children and parents smile through his work.

That's why this year's Blossom Time Celebration in downtown Chagrin Falls has a "Toys Are Back In Town" theme.

Unkrich will serve as the parade's grand marshall, marking his first public appearance here at home since his Oscar win.

The Blossom Time Festival turns 55 years this Memorial Day weekend and the theme -- and major honoree -- are living proof that dreams really can come true.

"I went off to California when I was 17 with dreams of making movies," Unkrich said. "To come back to Chagrin now, especially with an Oscar in hand, is pretty exciting."

Now at 43, Lee Unkrich, whose childhood is filled with memories of walking in this parade himself, will serve as the grand marshal.

"Just the storyline of the movie -- that in and of itself is exciting," said Unkrich, a Chagrin Falls High School graduate.

Unkrich's success isn't just being noticed in his loyal hometown.
Time Magazine has him as a nominee for one of the most influential people in the world on its 2011 Time 100 poll.

"I still feel very much just like a normal guy raising my family -- pretty weird," Unkrich said.

So far, this normal guy is out-ranking people like Oprah, Prince William and Kate Middleton... and Justin Beiber.

The pop star Beiber was ironically the one to award Lee with is Golden Globe.

"I said, 'Were you even born when the first Toy Story came out?'" Unkrich said, "So here's a kid who probably wasn't born when I did the first [movie] handing me an award for directing the third one."

A movie that set box office records with roots right here at home.

"Lee's visit really puts an exclamation point on our celebration," said Paul Chess of the Chagrin Valley Jaycees. "This allows us to celebrate our hometown hero."

With this year's theme also comes a chance for some major charity work.

Unkrich is going to do a question-and-answer session in Riverside Park on Saturday night, open to everyone and free of charge. People who come to the event are being asked to bring a new toy that will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Toy Story 3 was the highest-grossing film of 2010 worldwide.
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