In the Fusion documentary Imagining Zootopia, Howard mentioned he is openly gay and has been married since 1988.
Howard began his career at Disney in 1994, working as an Animator on films including Pocahontas, Mulan, Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear. He was nominated for a 2003 Annie Award for Character Animation for Brother Bear.
The first film Howard directed was the animated Disney film Bolt, which was nominated for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In his role as co-director of the film with Chris Williams, Howard focused on character design and animation. Howard went on to direct the animated Disney films Tangled (2010, co-directed with Nathan Greno) and Zootopia (2016, co-directed with Rich Moore). He and Greno also co-directed and wrote the animated short Tangled Ever After, which features supporting characters from Tangled and showed in theaters before the 2012 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast.
In 2009, Howard became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
As of November 2016, Howard is working with Lin-Manuel Miranda on an original animated film.