Baxter attended both Bishop's Stortford College and Middlesex University. He first became known for his work on Walt Disney films and later worked for Dreamworks. He eventually left Dreamworks. He then became head of his own studio, James Baxter Animation. He directed the 2007 movie Enchanted and the opening credits for Kung Fu Panda, for which he earned an Annie Award. James Baxter Animation closed in 2008.