×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Frozen’s’ Jennifer Lee Melts Glass Ceilings

Exceptional is the theme of this year’s Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards, and exceptional is the kind of year that Dorothy Arzner Directors Award recipient Jennifer Lee has been having. Disney’s “Frozen,” which she wrote and co-directed with Chris Buck, is the highest-grossing animated film ever and has won just about every award it’s been nominated for (including the Oscar).

“It’s such an honor. I’m overwhelmed,” she says of this latest accolade, which will be presented to her on June 11 by Kristen Bell, who voiced Anna in the film.

While Lee is the first female director of a Disney animated feature, she sees a shift coming for women in the field. “I think animation is almost ahead of the curve. I’ve seen it because there is just so much up-and-coming talent here.”

For women looking to break into directing, Lee advises having a well-rounded background. “My only advice would be to tackle the business from all sides. Understand writing, understand directing. Not meaning you have to do it all but really understanding all the angles and producing and working with actors. I think it makes fantastic connections and builds that collaboration.”

Frozen” recently crossed the $1 billion mark worldwide and is now conquering the homevideo market, selling 3.2 million Blu-ray and DVDs in its first day of release.

“She’s got a lot going on, she’s the first woman director to pass $1 billion (at the box office), she’s Disney’s first woman director in animation,” says WIF topper Cathy Schulman. “She’s an extraordinary achiever and talented woman.”

Lee says the response has been “quite a whirlwind. We spent almost two years intensely working on it with our crew in one building at Disney. And nobody knew what it was going to be and we didn’t know if they would embrace it. We were taking a lot of risks doing a film like this — a full-on musical when people felt like musicals were done. And with two female leads. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better reception.”

Lee came to Disney to work on the screenplay of “Wreck-It Ralph” and was asked to stay on to write “Frozen,” eventually taking on co-directing duties with Buck. She started out studying for a career in live-action films before finding her way to the animation studio.

“Growing up, I did have a dream of being an animator, but while I’m comfortable with drawing, my skills are not to the level of these artists,” she says. “I’ve always had a love of animation and I’m over the moon to be a part of it.”

She loves the collaborative aspect of working on an animated film: “You really are building everything from nothing. Everything. We’re depending on each other and over 600 artists to develop this with you. It’s a lot of communication. And you welcome the challenges. It’s one of the most rewarding collaborative environments I’ve ever worked in.”

She and Buck are taking some time off before tackling their next project. “We don’t know what it is yet,” she says. But she assures that it won’t be “Frozen 2.” At least not yet.
“”We’re actually going to start from scratch. It’ll be something completely brand new. Those are our marching orders Start over with what you’re passionate about..”

Lee notes, “Disney is a very filmmaker-driven studio and that means it’s very important to (chief creative officer for Disney/Pixar) John Lasseter that we come up with the stories ourselves and we tell the stories that we’re passionate about and that move us. That’s very important to him because you’re committing to three to four years with one idea. That has to come first. We feel very lucky about that.”

More Film

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. “Early this morning, Antonio (Tony) [...]

  • Glass Movie

    'Glass' to Rank in Top 3 MLK Debuts With $48 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is on its way to a solid debut with an estimated $48 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. A sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split,” the Universal superhero thriller should bring in around $41 million from 3,841 domestic locations over the Friday through Sunday period. The estimates are [...]

  • China's 'Three Adventures of Brooke' to

    China's 'Three Adventures of Brooke' to Hit French Theaters (EXCLUSIVE)

    Midnight Blur Films has signed a deal with French distributor Les Acacias to release Chinese arthouse drama “Three Adventures of Brooke” in France this year, the Chinese production company told Variety on Saturday. A release date has yet to be set for the film, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and stars Chinese newcomer Xu Fangyi [...]

  • Noe Debre On His Directorial Debut,

    Top French Screenwriter Noe Debre Makes Directorial Debut, ‘The Seventh Continent’

    This last half-decade, few French screenwriters have run up such an illustrious list of co-write credits as Noé Debré. Thomas Bedigain’s writing partner on Jacques Audiard’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Deephan,” Debra co-penned Bedigain’s own debut, “The Cowboys,” “Racer and the Jailbird,” by Michael Roskam, and “Le Brio,” directed by Yvan Attal. He has now [...]

  • Julien Trauman Talks Survival-Thriller Short ‘At

    Julien Trauman on Survival-Thriller Short ‘At Dawn’

    France’s Julien Trauman has never been afraid to play with genre, and in his latest short, the MyFrenchFilmFestival participant “At Dawn,” he employs aspects of psychological thriller, survival, coming-of-age and fantasy filmmaking. “At Dawn” kicks off the night before when a group of teens, one about to leave town, are imbibing heavily around a beach-side [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content