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Disney boss warns strike could halt animation

By primenewsghana
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A senior Disney creative has warned the actors' strike could halt animation production later this year.

Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, has been able to "keep things going" up to now.

But the actors union, whose members include her husband, the actor Alfred Molina, has been on strike for nearly three months.

Lee told the BBC she has "probably until the end of the year" before her films will be affected.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The Media Show, she said: "I can understand where everyone is coming from in terms of wanting fair wages."

Lee won an Oscar for writing and directing the hugely popular animated film Frozen.

She says she believes there will be "a fair deal" which will resolve the strike because "we're all in it together".

The story of Anna and Elsa made her the first woman ever to direct a film that grossed more than $1bn (£810m).

Lee says they could never have predicted that success. "We were just hoping people would like it," she says.

The 2013 hit, a tale of sisterly love and the lengths siblings will go for each other, marked an evolution in Disney story-telling.

Snow White, for example, sang "some day my prince will come" - and was saved by a kiss. That was 1937.

Sleeping Beauty in 1959 is also awoken by a prince's embrace.

These beautiful, hand drawn films are old school fairy tales.

Disney's recent offerings - Brave, Moana and Frozen amongst them - are more modern twists on stories.

Lee says of Frozen: "We had fun flipping those tropes". For example "Love at first sight. My philosophy: good advice might be get to know him, meet his family, you know?"

Let It Go is the film's anthem of self-acceptance sung by Queen Elsa. Lee says originally the plan was for Elsa to be a villain but "we kept sympathising with her so much; she was born with these powers she didn't ask for".

The songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez wrote Let It Go over a weekend and their ballad crystalised those instincts.

"We just said, 'this is wrong, we have to change it'. So we rewrote the whole movie."

Disney is celebrating its centenary year. In October 1923, Walt and his brother Roy officially founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio.

Five years later they introduced Mickey and Minnie Mouse to the world, in the black and white early masterpiece, Steamboat Willie.

"It was all started by a mouse," is a Disney adage. Mickey was first, but so many followed.

And for the 100th anniversary, Lee has written the latest Disney animation, Wish. It's "driving the story in directions we've never gone before".

She adds that wishing "is one of the most important concepts in Disney. That idea of possibility, hope, wonder, your imagination".

Lee is steeped in Disney.

As a child, she says she was bullied at school over three difficult years.

Her VHS copy of Disney's 1950 classic Cinderella got her through. She watched it repeatedly, inspired by Cinderella who "stayed true to herself".

"When a child is bullied, they tend to eventually believe the bullies," she says. "Cinderella didn't. And then her life got better, these beautiful things happened... It helped me persevere through it. I think it helped me drive towards what I do now."

So the girl who found comfort in Disney went on to become one of the top women in the company, greenlighting Disney animation movies while still writing and directing her own.

"I'd rather tell a story where, if there is a handsome prince, you're seeing him in a way you've never seen him before," Lee reflects. "That's more exciting to me."