The panel organized by Disney Animation Studios at the 2022 Annecy Festival saw Jennifer Lee receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, while the first images of the film “Avalonia, the strange journey” were released unveiled.
It was difficult for Jennifer Lee to hold back her tears last Friday, June 17, during the panel organized by Disney animation studios at the Annecy Festival. The company’s creative director, also director of the biggest box office animated film with Frozen 2, was presented with a Crystal of Honor, rewarding her entire career .
In the presence of Clark Spencer (management of Disney Animation), his family and hundreds of festival-goers present, Jennifer Lee attended the tribute paid to her by dozens of studio employees in a moving video montage. In the eulogy that preceded the award ceremony, the Festival’s Artistic Delegate Marcel Jean retraced the dazzling career of the director, who arrived at Disney in 2012 to participate in the writing of the film, Wreck-It Ralph.
From an initial eight-week contract, the filmmaker rose one by one through the ranks of the Disney company at lightning speed, thanks in particular to the phenomenal success of her two films, Frozen and its sequel. Since 2018, Jennifer Lee has become the first woman appointed creative director of Disney animation studios, succeeding John Lasseter (meanwhile pushed out, due to inappropriate conduct).
This panel also made it possible to discover the very first world exclusive images of Avalonia, the strange journey, expected in streaming in France only for the end of the year. Directed by Don Hall (particularly co-director of Raya and the Last Dragon and Moana, The Legend of the End of the World), this film follows the adventures of three men from different generations and from the same family of explorers, in the world marvelous of Avalonia.
These first images were revealed to us by the producer of the film, Roy Conli. Speaking in French (the latter led the Disney Animation France teams for several years), the enthusiastic fifty-year-old introduced one by one the main protagonists of the feature film, and in particular one of the main heroes Ethan Clade, brought to becoming the very first hero in an openly gay Disney animated film.
A choice that was obvious, as diversity and inclusiveness became the watchwords of Disney management, an approach actively supported by Jennifer Lee and Roy Conli. A more than necessary desire to renew itself, but also to ensure a better representation of the world as a whole, while the Disney studios will celebrate their hundredth anniversary next year.
“As a woman member of an industry that until recently had very few women in positions of responsibility, as soon as I became a creative director, I wanted to surround myself with people from the diversity, because I felt that our stories were not for everyone, whereas our work is about making universal stories. With Clark (Spencer, editor’s note) we therefore went in search of these talents from diversity, to give them the opportunity to tell their own stories in turn” confided Jennifer Lee in the exclusive interview she gave us.
The presence of a homosexual protagonist is also a strong commitment, as the new production from Pixar studios Buzz Lightyear has been banned from release in several countries, due to a short scene containing the very first lesbian kiss ever shown on screen by a production of the famous animation studio. The message is therefore clear: the next Disney productions will therefore only be aimed at countries that accept these values of diversity and tolerance.
The other innovation announced by this Disney panel is the forthcoming broadcast of two original series, intended for the Disney+ platform. To do this, the company has relied on two entities that are already very popular with the public: Baymax!, a New Heroes spin-off devoted to the title robot, and Zootopia+, an anthology exploring secondary characters from the film Zootopia. Both series are expected on the platform this year.