Unkrich was raised in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He spent his youth acting at The Cleveland Play House. Unkrich graduated from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts in 1990.
Unkrich is Vice-President of Editorial and Layout at Pixar. Before joining Pixar in 1994, Unkrich worked for several years in television as an Editor and Director. He is the 2011 recipient of the University of Southern California's Mary Pickford Distinguished Alumni Award recognizing alumni contributions to the cinematic arts.
After co-directing Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, Unkrich made his solo directorial debut with Toy Story 3 in 2010, and most recently directed Coco in 2017, both of which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film.