This story first appeared in the 2014 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
What a difference a year makes — and no one knows this better than Frozen director Lee. In the past 12 months, she not only won the best animated feature Oscar but saw her film become the highest-grossing in the genre — $1.27 billion worldwide — of all time. And there are little things that have changed, too. “A year ago, I’d meet people who, when they found out who I was, they’d say, ‘Oh, we love the songs! We sing them all the time.’ Now they’re like, ‘Yep, we’re still listening to those songs,’ ” laughs Lee. “I’ve gone from, ‘Thank you,’ to, ‘Sorry!’ ”
It’s hard not to poke a little fun at the film and its ubiquitous anthem “Let It Go” (which also nabbed an Oscar). But for Lee, 43, and Lee Monn, 11, Frozen strikes a more intimate chord. “I actually sing the middle verse of ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ in the movie,” says Lee Monn, who recorded the bit only as filler until Walt Disney Animation Studios chief John Lasseter gave it the thumbs-up. “We all fell in love with these little voices,” says Lee. “John said, ‘Why don’t we just keep them?’ “
Lee (who is divorced from Agatha’s father, Robert Joseph Monn) says she’s still amazed by the film’s global impact and particularly its resonance with young girls. She also has used the film and its “strong female lead characters,” sisters Anna and Elsa, as inspiration for her daughter, who says she has experienced bullying in school. “I was bullied a lot as a kid, too,” says Lee, “so we try to look at the world like Anna and Elsa do — how they question, ‘Is who I am OK?’ — but always manage to be true to themselves.”