Frozen‘s Jennifer Lee Becomes First Female Director to Helm a Billion-Dollar Film

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When Frozen topped the billion-dollar mark at the global box office last weekend, the significance wasn’t just that Disney execs are going to be snapping up the world’s stock of private islands when Christmas bonus time rolls around this year. Nope. Frozen is now the first film to make a billion dollars… that was also directed by a woman.

To be precise, Frozen was actually co-directed by a woman, Jennifer Lee, who worked alongside veteran animator Chris Buck. The two of them have been added to a list of names that includes Cameron, Jackson, Nolan, Bay, Lucas… dudes, every one. At least until now. Frozen, incidentally, makes up a whopping 50% of the number of 2013’s biggest 100 films to have been directed by a woman.

Frozen is only the second animated film in history to crest the billion-dollar milestone. Toy Story 3 is the other. Though that particular stat loses some of its meaning when you consider issues like inflation, rising ticket prices, and the box-office boost that is 3D surcharges (what would The Lion King, currently sitting at $987.5 million, have made with an extra $5 tacked onto half the tickets sold when it first came out?), the fact remains that Frozen is a huge financial success. And it hasn’t even premiere in Japan yet!

Regular readers may have heard me soapbox on this particular issue a time or two, but it’s close to my heart: Female directors get screwed over by Hollywood. It’s there. It’s undeniable. The majority of female directors working today, with a few exceptions like Kathryn Bigelow, work primarily in the indie sphere, which is fabulous and wonderful in large part because of the wealth of different outlooks it provides. You see studios snapping up directors of successful indies all the time to helm their big summer tentpoles. Jurassic World, Godzilla, and Guardians of the Galaxy, just to name a few, all have as directors men who’ve done buzzed-about indies but have never been behind the wheel of a huge studio blockbuster before.

But female directors… it just doesn’t happen. The same opportunities aren’t there.

I know that, while a lot of our readers like Frozen, a lot of you don’t. And Disney’s record with behind-the-scenes gender equality (or, for that matter, on-screen gender representation) is far from perfect. But let’s take a minute to appreciate the fact that, in this particular instance, Disney didn’t see a first-time director with only one writing credit—Wreck-It Ralph—under her belt and shut her out. They saw Jennifer Lee’s talent. They gave her a shot.


(via Variety, photo by Michael Yada / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

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