Kristen Anderson-Lopez Talks Responsibility, Representation in ‘Frozen 2’ and the Biz

Gender parity isn’t an issue in Oscar-winning songwriting-composer Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s house, what with her longstanding collaboration with husband Bobby Lopez, but at the Oscars luncheon on Monday, it was a different story. “There were 13 female directors represented in the shorts and documentary fields,” Anderson-Lopez notes, adding, “but how do we get from there to best director having gender parity?”

The conversation about representation — or rather lack of —  was very much alive in the Ray Dolby Ballroom as the Oscar nominees gathered. The Lopezes are both nominated in the best original song category for “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen 2.” They previously won for “Let It Go” from “Frozen” and “Remember Me” from “Coco.” A mother of two daughters, Anderson-Lopez is among the relatively few female creatives nominated this year — one of 60 women to be precise – and feels a responsibility to speak up. So she is.

Sitting with Variety at the Disney Animation Studios the day after the luncheon, Anderson-Lopez spoke of the impact an Oscar can have, especially for a female artist. “I do feel the responsibility of opening the door for others,” she says. “I know how this organization can change your life. I had to win an Oscar on this coast before I could produce a show on Broadway on the East Coast.”

Anderson-Lopez proposes looking at ways to create more opportunities. For change to happen, one needs to examine structure and rules. All were certainly topics of conversation among fellow nominees, but also being recognized as something that wasn’t happening fast enough. “It’s not enough to add a few members every year,” Anderson-Lopez says.

Opportunity has allowed Anderson-Lopez and her husband to be involved in “Frozen 2” beyond contributing songs. The Lopezes have a Story By credit on the film as well.

Lopez, who was the youngest person to earn EGOT status twice, stresses the importance of having women in the room when it comes to creating female-centric stories — “at least two,” he says, confessing that his early years of experience were in rooms that might as well have displayed a “for boys only” sign outside the door.

Anderson-Lopez agrees that having more women and more people of color in the room will bring a new lens and shared experiences. “Everyone wins and everyone becomes more empathetic.”

As a female collaborator, Anderson-Lopez felt empowered by being able to share creative ideas with directors Jennifer Lee and Christopher Buck. Having Lee in the room also gave a sense of having someone in her corner. Says Anderson-Lopez: “Working with Jennifer Lee changed my life. To have her go, ‘Yeah, exactly,’ really led to breaking the story of ‘Frozen.’”

At the same time, pressing issues in the industry requires more of a fist than words. “It’s not enough to talk about it anymore,” she says firmly, noting that her own daughters have expressed interest in wanting to become directors. Says Anderson-Lopez: “That’s one of the reasons I fight so hard. I want our children to succeed and follow their dream in whatever they want to do. … What happens to a dream deferred? When you hear no in so many small ways, including watching the Oscars and there’s no female director. Beautiful directors that could be, are shutting down and saying, ‘I guess I’ll be a lawyer.’ That’s not an option.”

In the six years since “Frozen,” there’s been another noteworthy shift: younger boys going to see “Frozen 2” dressing up as their favorite princesses. The Lopezes credit Lee and Buck for creating a story with universal themes about finding your own path and purpose in the world. The story speaks to anyone. “It’s a genderless problem and boys can see themselves in Elsa’s journey and tap into that part of them that has been untapped,” Anderson-Lopez explains with the sort of conviction Elsa would be proud of.

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