In the wake of Disney’s announcement that its animation chief John Lasseter would be exiting by year-end after a number of misconduct accusations, the studio has named Frozen Oscar-winner Jennifer Lee as chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, and two-time Oscar winner of Up and Inside Out Pete Docter as chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios.
Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn announced the appointments, which had been anticipated since Disney announced Lasseter’s departure. The news ends a period of uncertainty at the two animation studios, as questions loomed about whether Lasseter would return following his six-month leave of absence.
“Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter are two of the most gifted filmmakers and storytellers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” Horn said in a statement. “Pete, the genius creative force behind Up, Inside Out, and Monsters, Inc., has been an integral part of Pixar almost since the beginning and is a huge part of its industry-leading success. Jenn, in bringing her bold vision to the boundary-breaking Frozen, has helped infuse Disney Animation with a new and exciting perspective.”
Jennifer Lee joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2011 as co-writer of the Oscar-nominated Wreck-It Ralph. Along with Chris Buck, she directed and wrote the $1.27 billion global success Frozen, which took the Oscar for best animated feature and spanned a best-selling anthem in Oscar-winning tune “Let It Go” and has spawned a Tony Award-nominated musical. Lee played was also a key member on the story team for the Oscar-winner Zootopia and is currently in production on Frozen 2, due out in November 2019. She’s also an EP Ralph Breaks the Internet due out on Nov. 21.
She joins an exclusive club of female executives who head animation studios, long a male-dominated field.
“Animation is the most collaborative art form in the world, and it is with the partnership of my fellow filmmakers, artists, and innovators that we look ahead to the future,” Lee said in a statement. “My hope is to support the incredible talent we have, find new voices, and work together to tell original stories. The great films of Disney Animation – the films I loved as a kid and my daughter has grown up loving – are magical, timeless, and full of heart, and it is our goal to create films that carry on and grow this 95-year legacy for future generations.”
In addition to Up and Inside Out, Docter directed Monsters, Inc. which was nominated for four Oscars, winning for Randy Newman’s song “If I Didn’t Have You.” He was one of Pixar’s first employees, joining the studio in 1990, and is an original member of its vaunted Brain Trust, contributing to the stories and screenplays of many of the studio’s titles including Toy Story, for which he was also the supervising animator. He was also an EP on the Oscar-winning Brave and follow-up Monsters University.
“I am excited and humbled to be asked to take on this role,” said Docter. “It is not something I take lightly; making films at Pixar has been my chronic obsession since I started here 28 years ago. I am fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented people on the planet, and together we will keep pushing animation in new directions, using the latest technology to tell stories we hope will surprise and delight audiences around the world.”
Jim Morris, President, Pixar Animation Studios, and Andrew Millstein, President, Walt Disney Animation Studios, will continue to report to Ed Catmull, President, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, who reports to Horn.