Jennifer Lee (filmmaker)

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Jennifer Lee
Jennifer Lee.jpg
Lee at the premiere of Disney's Frozen at the El Capitan Theatre on November 19, 2013.
Born Jennifer Michelle Lee
1971 (age 42–43)
East Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Alma mater University of New Hampshire and Columbia University School of the Arts
Occupation Film director, screenwriter
Known for Wreck-It Ralph
Frozen
Children 1

Jennifer Michelle Lee[1][2] (born 1971) is an American motion picture writer and director. Her credits include co-writing the screenplay for Disney's Wreck-It Ralph (2012), and writing and co-directing (with Chris Buck) the 2013 Disney animated feature Frozen, which won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Lee is the first female director of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film, the first writer at any major animation studio to become a director,[3] and the first female director of a feature film that earned more than $1 billion in gross box office revenue.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Lee was born in 1971[3][5] to Linda Lee and Saverio Rebecchi, who were living in Barrington at the time;[1][6] after their divorce, Lee and her older sister, Amy, lived with their mother in East Providence, Rhode Island.[5][6] Both Lee and her older sister graduated from East Providence High School and the University of New Hampshire.[6] Lee earned a bachelor's degree in English[7] in 1992[8] and went to New York City, where she worked as a graphic artist in publishing; she designed audiobooks and DVD covers for Random House.[5][6]

After the loss of a dear person at age 20,[6] she wanted to tell her own stories. At around 30 years old,[5] she entered Columbia University School of the Arts and earned a Master of Fine Arts in film.[7] There she met Phil Johnston, her future writing partner on Wreck-It Ralph.[5] Lee graduated from Columbia in 2005[9] and stayed in New York City, where she developed a background in live-action film, working as assistant director on and producer of the short film in 2004, "A Thousand Words.[10]

In March 2011, Johnston called Lee to ask her to join him at Disney Animation in Burbank to help him write Wreck-It Ralph.[5] What was supposed to be a temporary eight-week writing gig eventually turned into a much longer commitment.[5] First, she was asked to stay on until Ralph was finished.[5] She then became involved with Frozen, initially as screenwriter and later as director.[5] When Lee was brought on board, she helped transition the film from an action-adventure to "more musical, with more comedy."[11] She worked closely with the songwriters (Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez) in the writing of the script.[11] Frozen gave her the opportunity to celebrate "wild and wonderful" girls like her childhood self, and her daughter, Agatha.[11]

On May 17, 2014, Lee delivered the commencement address to the class of 2014 at her alma mater, the University of New Hampshire.[12][13][14] She revealed that she had struggled with self-doubt while growing up,[15]:2:00 and then in April of her junior year of college, her boyfriend was killed in a boating accident, after which she felt "no doubt, only grief ... and for a brief moment ... [knew] better than to waste a second doubting."[15]:6:18 Years later, that memory would help her overcome her initial doubt over whether she was good enough to apply to Columbia.[15]:7:10 At Columbia, Johnston recognized she was talented but insecure, and one day asked her to "promise ... that you'll leave it out of your work, just know that you're good enough and move on."[14] She concluded: "If I learned one thing it is that self-doubt is one of the most destructive forces. It makes you defensive instead of open, reactive instead of active. Self-doubt is consuming and cruel and my hope today is that we can all collectively agree to ban it ... Please know, from here on out, you are enough and dare I say, more than enough."[14] UNH then awarded her the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Lee married Robert Joseph Monn in 1999[1] (they later divorced). They have a daughter Agatha Lee Monn[1][17] (born in 2003),[1][3][5] who sings on the song "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" in Frozen.[3] Lee and her daughter now live in the San Fernando Valley.[5]

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role
2004 A Thousand Words (Short) Producer, Assistant Director
2012 Wreck-It Ralph Writer
2013 Frozen Director, Writer, Voice of Queen of Arendelle

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "What If Every Day Was Monnday ?". Monn.org. Retrieved January 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ Amidi, Amid (April 26, 2012). "Chronicle Books Is Releasing A Ton Of Cartoon Titles This Fall". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Kit, Borys (December 18, 2013). "'Frozen' Director Wants to Break a Sci-Fi Blockbuster Barrier". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 31, 2013. "Lee, 42, is the first woman in the studio's history to act as a director on one of its animated features (she co-directed with Chris Buck)." 
  4. ^ Flores, Terry (10 June 2014). "‘Frozen’s’ Jennifer Lee Melts Glass Ceilings". Variety (Variety Media LLC). Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Stewart, Jill (May 15, 2013). "Jennifer Lee: Disney's New Animation Queen". LA Weekly. Retrieved December 28, 2013. "Raised in East Providence, R.I., Lee, 41, was a flute-playing band nerd who "became a cheerleader — a nerd cheerleader."" 
  6. ^ a b c d e Flynn, Sean (17 February 2014). "Is it her time to shine?". The Newport Daily News. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Wolfe, Jennifer (November 29, 2012). "Disney Names Jennifer Lee Director Of 'Frozen'". Animation World Network. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  8. ^ Mackin, Jean (14 January 2014). "‘Frozen’ writer, director says UNH helped pave her way". WMUR New Hampshire 9. Manchester Hearst Properties Inc. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  9. ^ August, John; Aline Brosh McKenna (1 February 2014). "Episode 128: Frozen with Jennifer Lee — Transcript". Scriptnotes. johnaugust.com. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "A Thousand Words (Full Cast & Crew)". IMDb. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c Laporte, Nicole (February 28, 2014). "How "Frozen" Director Jennifer Lee Reinvented the Story of the Snow Queen". Fast Company. Retrieved April 29, 2014. 
  12. ^ Record, Jody (19 March 2014). "“Frozen” Screenwriter/Director Jennifer Lee '92 is UNH 2014 Commencement Speaker". University of New Hampshire Media Relations. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Lawrence, Mike (17 May 2014). "'Frozen' director warms up to speaking at UNH commencement". New Hampshire Union-Leader. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c Sanborn, Aaron (17 May 2014). "Oscar-winning director of 'Frozen' inspires UNH grads". Seacoastonline.com. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c Lee, Jennifer (17 May 2014). "Jennifer Lee '92 UNH Commencement Speech 2014" (Video). University of New Hampshire. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  16. ^ Anonymous (17 May 2014). "Honorary degrees conferred at UNH". New Hampshire Union-Leader. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  17. ^ Chai, Barbara (November 27, 2013). "Listen to Songs From Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and Hear How They Were Written". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 

External links[edit]