Disney CCO Jennifer Lee Discusses The Future of Animation At Disney and Changes After John Lasseter’s Exit

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Walt Disney Animation has always been a powerhouse in the genre, with technology upping the game in animation fans have always wondered if the beloved studio would go back to traditional animation the technique that made Disney has a household name.

The team over at SlashFilm had the opportunity to speak with Disney Chief Creative officer and Frozen 2 director Jennifer Lee, as well as her directing partner Chris Buck and producer Peter Del Vecho.

Frozen 2 directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and producer Peter Del Vecho
Frozen 2 directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and producer Peter Del Vecho

The site asked Lee what changes have been made since John Lasseter left the company last year.

For us, we’re very focused on the films that are in production right away. It was Ralph [Breaks the Internet] and Frozen [II] and Raya [and the Last Dragon], and the sense of sameness of keeping our story trust going and working. One of the things that I’m excited about is we really want to develop new talent from in house and bring new talent in. Having our rooms really reflect the world we live in.

Lee also shared that she will be announcing new directors who will tackle future projects at the studio.

I’m excited to be announcing a few new directors in the fall – I will not be the only female director, which is exciting for me. Really, the biggest thing is creating new opportunities for young talent. Not every department has access to the story. Creating that access, building new shorts programs for people to try pushing technology in ways that we haven’t done and new styles that we haven’t tried, and using the short form to do that. I think those are about all I’ve had time for so far. (laughs) And there’s a lot more to do, but I think those are the biggest things that I can mention.

SlashFilm asked a question Disney fans have been wondering since Princess and the Frog, will Disney revisit traditional (2D) animation?

Del Vecho: That’s such a big part of our legacy, and I loved Princess and the Frog. I would say that there’s still a lot of hand-drawn influence going into our CG films.

Lee: In our films.

Del Vecho: I think we’re one of the only studios in the world that can do both, and how that evolves over time and how we experiment with different styles. But it ultimately comes down to the filmmakers and how they want to tell that particular story.

Lee: Yeah, and some of our new shorts you’re going to see, as they come out, new styles. Watercolor styles, even things we’ve never done, but using technology to help us do it in ways that are exciting as well.

An interesting thing Buck shared was that the team who do traditional animation assist in the CG animation.

Buck: And there’s another thing. People aren’t even aware of it. The hand-drawn animators have helped out a lot with our CG animators. I think there’s an appeal that the hand-drawn animators, it’s innate in them, and they’ve been teaching the CG animators –

Lee: Silhouettes and the swirls, that language.

Buck: – putting that into their work. So when you look at some of our movies now, even though it’s CG on the screen, underneath it is the hand-drawn deal.

Its great hearing that Disney is looking for ways to push the boundaries of animation with new techniques, while also using techniques of old. For those who had the chance to see the concept art and footage for Disney Animation’s next project, Raya and the Last Dragon could see what the studio has planned moving forward.

You can check out the rest of SlashFilm’s interview here.

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