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Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee have been named a chief creative officers of Disney’s animation divisions, with Docter stepping up at Pixar Animation Studios, where he has directed such films as Up and Inside Out, and Lee heading up Walt Disney Animation Studios, where she wrote Frozen.
The two will succeed John Lasseter, who has stepped down from his role as chief creative officer, overseeing both animation studios, after admitting last year that he had committed unspecified “missteps” that left some employees feeling “disrespected or uncomfortable.”
Disney announced Tuesday that the Docter and Lee “will have creative oversight of all films and associated projects of their respective studios,” reporting directly to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.
In announcing their appointments, Horn said, “Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter are two of the most gifted filmmakers and storytellers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. 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.”
While Docter and Lee will oversee creative affairs, Jim Morris, president of Pixar Animation Studios, and Andrew Millstein, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, will continue in their roles, responsible for the business side and reporting to Ed Catmull, president, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, who, in turn, reports to Horn.
A two-time Oscar winner for best animated features Up and Inside Out, Docter, 49, joined Pixar in 1990, becoming one of its original employees and a longtime member of its Brain Trust, which exchanges critiques on the studio’s works in progress. He was a supervising animator on Toy Story and executivr producer of both Brave and Monsters University.
Lee, 46, who joined Disney Animation in 2011 as co-writer of Wreck-It Ralph, went on to write and direct, with Chris Buck, the Oscar-winning Frozen, which, with $1.28 billion in worldwide grosses, is the highest-grossing animated film of all time. She currently is in production on Frozen 2, and, as a member of Disney Animation’s Story Trust, is an executive producer on the upcoming Ralph Breaks the Internet.
“I am deeply grateful to everyone at Walt Disney Animation Studios and The Walt Disney Company for this opportunity,” Lee said in a statement. “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. My hope is to support the incredible talent we have, find new voices and work together to tell original stories. The great films of Disney Animation — the films I loved as a kid and my daughter has grown up loving — are magical, timeless and full of heart, and it is our goal to create films that carry on and grow this 95-year legacy for future generations.”
Docter said in a statement of his own, “I am excited and humbled to be asked to take on this role. 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.”
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Melvin Van Peebles