Jennifer Lee on ‘Wish,’ Leading Disney Animation and the Future of ‘Frozen’

Jennifer Lee has made a Wish, and she—as well as the rest of Disney Animation—is ready for the world to see it.

Wish—Disney’s latest animated film which takes audiences on an adventure with the hopeful Asha as she battles the dastardly King Magnifico—connects the past to the present of the 100-year-old studio. However, it also looks towards Disney Animation’s future.

The film—which is in theaters on Wednesday—brings together the hallmarks that has made Disney storytelling special for the last century: catchy songs, colorful characters and, of course, making wishes. However, this time a star isn’t just something that characters wish upon.

We spoke with Lee—the Chief Creative Officer of Disney Animation and writer/executive producer of Wish—about the highly anticipated film and what its innovations mean for the future of Disney Animation. Oh, and we also touched on a little upcoming film that takes place in the frosty world of Arendelle.

Jennifer Lee, Chief Creative Officer of Disney Animation & writer/executive producer of Wish.

From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Beauty And The Beast to Frozen, Disney Animation has always pushed Disney forward for the last 100 years. How does Wish continue that tradition of innovation mixed with classic storytelling?

Walt Disney himself said we have to keep evolving our storytelling and always innovate. With Wish, we are looking to our incredible legacy of films for inspiration to create an original fairy tale with new characters and songs. Storytelling is what connects us all, and at Disney Animation we are all inspired by Walt and the artists of his day and what they created. And we honor that legacy with an incredible first-of-its-kind visual watercolor storybook CG look for this film made to be seen on the big screen.

Wish is blending 3-D animation with watercolor style that was seen in the earliest films from the studio.

We were inspired by the watercolor paintings of our earliest films from Snow White and Pinocchio brought to life through the innovations that we’ve been developing in-house, experimenting within our short films, like Paperman, Feast and the watercolor style of Far From The Tree. The combination of artistry and innovation has been with us since our earliest days, and the look of this film is something our production design team achieved so beautifully.

Disney’s Wish opens in theaters on November 22.

You’ve worked on some of Disney’s most beloved animated films. What make Wish special?

We really fell in love with each of these characters as we were creating the film, and absolutely loved the music Julia Michaels and her collaborator Ben Rice, were creating. Asha is such a special character. She begins the film in a good place — loving where she lives, feeling supported by her friends and family. But like so many people in their late teens, she learns the world around her is not perfect, and instead of turning a blind eye she confronts the wrong and inspires her whole community.

It’s Disney’s 100th anniversary, and Disney Animation has been there since the start. How does Wish celebrate Animation’s evolution over the last century?

Five years ago, my fellow Frozen director Chris Buck had placed one image from each of our studios’ films on a storyboard, and it was so inspiring to see how many of our films are about characters who wish upon a star. For Wish, we hope people will watch the film, and think of their own wishes and pursue them. After all, there is no greater power in the universe than someone with a true wish in their heart.

As we celebrate Disney’s past with its 100th anniversary this year, let’s chat about its future. Where do you want to take Disney Animation?

We are working on so many exciting new, original projects we hope to share soon as well as the continuations of stories from characters and worlds we love like Zootopia and Frozen. We have about ten projects currently in development, and each of them is so exciting.

Wish blends 3-D animation with watercolor style.

You directed Frozen and Frozen 2, and this year is its 10th anniversary. Not to mention, the opening of World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland. Ten years later, what has made Frozen everlasting?

I believe it’s both the story of familial love with these two sisters, and the idea of love conquering fear. I recently visited World of Frozen, and it is awe-inspiring. You are a citizen of Arendelle the moment you walk into the land.

Is there anything you can tell us about Frozen 3?

Only what we have already shared, which is the team is hard at work, we are deeply excited about the story we are shaping together, and it’s so epic it may not fit into just one film.