Prior to 2012, Jennifer Lee was a name that just about no one knew. But now, two years later with two films and an Oscar win under her belt, this director of animation is proving that she is one of the best in the business.


Originally an English major from the University of New Hampshire, Lee started her career in the publishing business as a graphic artist. It wasn’t until relatively late in her professional life that she decided to become involved with film. She enrolled at Columbia University School of the Arts at around the age of 30, and graduated with with an MFA in film in 2005.


Lee found acclaim at Columbia and started her career as a writer soon after graduation. She sold a script to Leonardo DiCaprio’s company, Appian Way, which is currently in development. Lee was also hired to write an adaptation of a John Steinbeck novel, “The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights,” to be produced by Troika Pictures.


Luckily, Lee was able to make some talented and connected friends while at Columbia, and she was asked by fellow alum and filmmaker, Phil Johnston, to do some work on a screenplay he was writing for Disney. Lee was initially hired to do eight weeks of rewrites on the film “Wreck-It Ralph,” but Disney was so impressed with what she had done for them that they decided to keep her on staff through the end of production. You could call this a lucky break, but she wouldn’t have been given the job in the first place if she weren’t so talented.


“Wreck-It Ralph” was a smash hit. It did incredible numbers at the box office and has been hailed as one of the best Disney films since their 1990’s renaissance of animation. Disney was quick to reward Lee for her work, and they hired her to help with the writing of their next big animated feature, “Frozen.”

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But Lee’s input on the film extended far beyond that of a writer. She worked closely with the director, story team, and songwriters on the film, and thus Disney decided on to bring her on as co-director alongside veteran animator Chris Buck. This made her the first woman to ever direct a feature animation for Disney and the first writer at a major animation studio to become a director.

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“Frozen” ended up being as beloved as “Wreck-It Ralph,” and the film did even better at the box office. It broke all sorts of records, and is currently sitting at second place, just behind “Toy Story 3” as the highest grossing animated film of all time.

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On March 2, “Frozen” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making Lee an Oscar winner and cementing her place among the best talent the industry has to offer.

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Lee should have little trouble finding work from now on, so expect to see a lot more from her in the near future.


Have you seen anything by Jennifer Lee? What do you think of her work? Let me know in the comments below.