×

‘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

  • it chapter two, comic con

    Comic-Con: 4500 Gallons of Fake Blood and Everything Else to Know About 'It Chapter Two''

    Comic-Con 2019 kicked off with a stacked presentation from the director and cast of “It Chapter Two” on Wednesday, inspiring a curious amount of joy at San Diego’s Spreckles Theater in spite of the abject terror offered up by the film. The closing chapter to 2017’s record-obliterating “It,” the highest grossing R-rated horror film of [...]

  • 'Between Me and My Mind' Review:

    Film Review: Trey Anastasio in 'Between Me and My Mind'

    Trey Anastasio doesn’t look like a rock star. With his thick rimless glasses and flop of sandy red hair, you might say he resembles John Sebastian, but really, he looks like a mashup of Mike White and Jon Cryer and the filmmaker Chris Smith. He’s an appealingly ordinary shaggy-geek dude, like some guy you might [...]

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    Multiple Deaths From Arson Attack on Japan's Kyoto Animation

    An arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company on Thursday morning in Japan. has injured several dozen people and killed at least one. Some reports have put the death toll as high as 12. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call around 10.35 a.m. local time reporting an explosion on the first floor. The [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

  • The Lion King

    Film News Roundup: PETA Sponsors Rescued Lion in Jon Favreau's Name

    In today’s film news roundup, PETA honors Jon Favreau for “The Lion King,” “Tigers Are Not Afraid” gets a theatrical release, a Kirk Franklin biopic is in development and “The Sixth Sense” gets an anniversary showing in Philadelphia. HONOR The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sponsoring a rescued lion to honor director [...]

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content