Jennifer Lee

Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Animation Studios

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Not only is Jennifer the first female director of a feature film (Frozen) at Walt Disney Animation Studios; she’s also the first woman to direct a movie that grossed over $1 billion worldwide.

One of the big things for me in my life when I was young ... is that I was bullied pretty severely, and I would come home to the VHS tape. Yes, that's dating myself, but the VHS tape of Cinderella, and how she persevered as she was essentially bullied, stayed true to herself. It meant a lot to me, so I would have it on as my comfort. And I think, Disney was always that for me. You could escape, but you also had stories that helped you feel like you could overcome difficult things, that you could find the power within yourself. And I think that was really important to me. So I really found that Disney bringing their stories...

Jen and another man in a meeting.

Getting different perspectives. In Frozen, the debate was should Hans kiss Anna, or should he not kiss her? All the men were like, "Well, of course he'd go in for the kiss. He'd kiss her anyway." And all the women said, "No, because if he truly is evil, that slam of, ‘You're not even worth a kiss.’ Oh, you have to do it that way." I think of it often, because for the first time, there was someone in the room that said, "What do the ladies think?"

Jen and two men reading documents.

Be a Trailblazer. One of the biggest shocks was that I was the first woman to direct a Disney animated feature, and it was 93 years into our history at that point. I realized I was coming into an environment where I was most of the time the only woman in the room.

Jen and two men at a meeting table.

How I protect my creativity. I make sure I take the time to read, to watch things, absorb things again. When I first had my daughter I learned to turn it on when I needed to, instead of only writing well in the mornings.

Jen and another man in a meeting.

Getting different perspectives. In Frozen, the debate was should Hans kiss Anna, or should he not kiss her? All the men were like, "Well, of course he'd go in for the kiss. He'd kiss her anyway." And all the women said, "No, because if he truly is evil, that slam of, ‘You're not even worth a kiss.’ Oh, you have to do it that way." I think of it often, because for the first time, there was someone in the room that said, "What do the ladies think?"

Jen and two men reading documents.

Be a Trailblazer. One of the biggest shocks was that I was the first woman to direct a Disney animated feature, and it was 93 years into our history at that point. I realized I was coming into an environment where I was most of the time the only woman in the room.

A reimagined tomorrow, to me, is permission for all of us to no longer have to drag the past with us. We can break systems that don’t work. We can invent brand new systems now. There’s permission to break down all the walls until one day there are no underrepresented groups.