The Walt Disney Company announced Tuesday that Frozen writer and co-director Jennifer Lee has been named the new chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, while Up and Inside Out director Pete Doctor will take over as chief creative officer at Pixar. Both Lee and Docter replace John Lasseter, who served as chief creative officer for both studios and is leaving Disney at the end of the year following allegations of inappropriate conduct.
“Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter are two of the most gifted filmmakers and storytellers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said in a statement (via Deadline). “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. Each of them embodies the unique spirit, culture, and values of these renowned animation studios, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have them to lead us into the future.”
Lee arrived at Disney in 2011 as co-writer of the hit Wreck-It Ralph, then went on to write and co-direct the international phenomenon Frozen, which earned more than $1 billion worldwide and won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Since then she's remained a vital part of Disney animation, contributed to the story for Zootopia, is executive-producing this year's Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, and co-wrote the live-action adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time directed by Ava DuVernay. She's also still at work on an upcoming sequel to Frozen.
“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.”
Docter is a nearly 30-year veteran of Pixar, having joined the studio in 1990 and established himself as one of its most important creative voices. He was a supervising animator on the studio's debut feature, Toy Story, and contributed to both A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2 before making his debut as a Pixar feature director with Monsters Inc. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards for his work at Pixar, winning two Best Animated Feature Oscars for Up and Inside Out.
“I am excited and humbled to be asked to take on this role,” Docter said. “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.”
So, a new Disney/Pixar animation era has begun, with two of the most acclaimed and commercially successful voices in each respective company at the helm.