The studio is teaming up with the United Nations Foundation to produce short films from fresh talent.
About a month ago we learned that following the leave of Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, filmmakers Jennifer Lee (Frozen) and Pete Docter (Pixar’s Up) would be moving up the ladder at Disney. And already Lee, now the chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios, is showing what kind of direction she’s taking things as she participates in a new collaboration with the United Nation Foundation’s “Girl Up” initiative.
Variety shares news of the partnership, through which 21 young female filmmakers from 13 different countries will create digital shorts under the mentorship of Apple, Summerjax, and Disney’s own talent pool. The documentary films, which will focus on female role models, will be created using Apple products, specifically an iPhone X, and edited using Final Cut Pro X on a MacBook Pro. Deservingly so, Lee will also be the subject of one of the shorts.
In a statement about the series, which is going by the banner “Dream Big Princess,” Lee says, “Using the journeys of characters like Anna, Elsa, and Moana to inspire kids to dream big is at the very heart of what all of us at Disney do. The series is the perfect extension of that vision, providing a powerful platform for the next generation of aspiring filmmakers to create content about the women who have inspired them.”
Lee herself is behind one of Disney’s newer female empowered princess films. As one of the directors of Frozen, one can assume she knows earlier princesses seemed to be portrayed as weak, relying solely on men to be their saving grace (I mean, come on, Sleeping Beauty was more so about Prince Phillip than Aurora). But with a story like Frozen where our beloved ice queen is saved by nothing other than the love from her own sister, it’s not shocking to see that Lee is taking this step to help female filmmakers pursue this project.
Disney is becoming more and more self-aware of their past princesses and the influence that it has had on younger girls. With the release of the Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 trailer, audiences got a laugh out of the fact that Disney princesses were way tougher than they look and aware of the fact that they’re a lot stronger than their princes. They threaten young Venellope as she trespasses in their dressing room, but the Wreck-It Ralph character tells the princesses she’s one of them. She is then questioned by the others, with this kicker coming from Rapunzel: “Do people assume all your problems got solved because a big strong man showed up?” While it’s funny, it’s true.
Earlier Disney princesses really did do a lot of waiting around to be saved. Aurora slept for the entirety of Sleeping Beauty. Snow White literally cleaned a house for seven men before she was murdered by her stepmom and awoken by a kiss from a prince in her title film. Cinderella was a maid until she got the chance to go to a ball where she fell in love and married into royalty.
See a pattern here? It wasn’t until we got to the days of Mulan that we got to see how a princess can also be a warrior. Or in the case of The Princess and the Frog, how a princess can teach her prince how to be financially responsible and work hard at a low paying job to earn what he wants. Or in Brave, how a princess can shoot for her own hand. Again, see a pattern? Under Lee’s direction, we can hopefully expect a lot more powerful princess movies. Or maybe they won’t even be princesses! Who knows what’s in store for the future of feminism at Disney.
But as suspected, Lee’s promotion is already doing a lot of good for the Disney name. The shorts are expected to be released through Disney’s social media around October, and a $1 donation will go to Girl Up for each share of a photo or video tagged with #DreamBigPrincess.