By Jennifer Lee (Academy Award®-winning director/writer of “Frozen,” writer, “Wreck-It Ralph”)
One of my favorite things about being a writer and director at the Walt Disney Animation Studios is that I get to dream for a living. Right now, I’ve been doing a lot of dreaming. I’m working with songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez in New York City, writing the book for the upcoming Frozen musical for Broadway. There will be many more songs in the stage version, so we’re having a blast digging deeper into the characters and really opening up the story.
Back in California, I’ve also been dreaming alongside my Frozen directing partner Chris Buck as we develop the feature film sequel to Frozen. I can’t give away any details, but I can tell you that our story room is a creative mess of research, character analysis, and colorful cards with many “what ifs” written on them.
I feel so lucky to be able to bring my dreams to Disney, especially because it was Disney who taught me to dream big. My very first Disney film—and my favorite growing up—was Cinderella. Cinderella was a dreamer, herself, which I loved. But what inspired me most about her was her kindness in the face of adversity. Cinderella was a part of my earliest memories, but she was also there for me in middle school, when I was bullied very badly. I thought of how Cinderella endured despite the cruelty of her stepsisters and wicked step mother. I thought of her singing: “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.” Cinderella went on to a better life and left the bullying and meanness behind. She gave me the courage to remain true to myself and believe that one day I’d be able to leave the bullying and meanness behind. And I did just that.
When it came to dreaming up Anna and Elsa, Chris Buck and I, along with the Lopezes and our amazing story team, talked at length about the qualities we most admired—strength, humility, generosity, courage, and love. Both Anna and Elsa exhibit these qualities in their own way. We also talked about the challenging emotions we’ve all faced—self-doubt, loneliness, rejection, and most of all fear. Anna struggles with loneliness, and she messes up a lot, but she’s fearless, and never gives up. Elsa may have amazing powers, but, like anyone, she battles self-doubt, rejection, and fear. Their bond as sisters and support of each other gets them through.
It has been an overwhelming experience to watch the world embrace Anna and Elsa. We are still hearing from girls, boys, women, and men from all over about our heroines. I’ll never forget seeing the video of a room full of Marines singing and cheering to “Let It Go,” or hearing about the young girl who found the strength to handle her cancer treatments by wearing her Elsa dress, or the teen who was feeling hopeless, but found hope in Anna’s perseverance. It’s been such an honor to contribute to Disney’s canon of powerful heroines. The idea of Anna and Elsa bringing strength to people the way Cinderella did for me is my dream come true.