Annecy 2022: Why Avalonia, The Strange Journey Will Revolutionize Disney Studios

Annecy 2022: Why Avalonia, The Strange Journey Will Revolutionize Disney Studios

A panel organized by Disney Animation Studios at the 2022 Annecy Festival saw Jennifer Lee receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, while the first images for “Avalonia, Strange Journey” were revealed.

It was hard for Jennifer Lee to hold back her tears last Friday, June 17, during a session organized by Disney Animation Studios at the Annecy Festival. The Crystal of Honor award was presented to the company’s creative director, who is also the director of the largest animated film at the box office with Frozen 2, rewarding her throughout her career.

In the presence of Clark Spencer (director of Disney Animation), his family, and hundreds of festival-goers, Jennifer Lee attended the tribute given to her by dozens of studio staff in an animated video montage. In the eulogy leading up to the awards ceremony, festival artistic delegate Marcel Jean relived the impressive career path of the director, who arrived at Disney in 2012 to co-write the movie Wreck-It Ralph.

From an initial eight-week contract, the filmmaker has climbed one by one through the Disney ranks at lightning speed, thanks to the phenomenal success of her two films, Frozen and its sequel. Since 2018, Jennifer Lee has become the first woman to be appointed Creative Director of Disney Animation Studios, succeeding John Lasseter (she was simultaneously disqualified for inappropriate behavior).

This palette also made it possible to discover the world’s first exclusive images of Avalonia, The Strange Journey, expected to be broadcast in France only for the end of the year. Directed by Don Hall (notably co-director of Raya and the Last Dragon and Moana, The Legend of the End of the World), this film follows the adventures of three men of different generations and from the same family of explorers, in the wonderful world of Avalonia.

These first photos were revealed to us by the film’s producer, Roy Conley. Speaking in French (the latter led the Disney Animation France teams for several years), the 50-year-old introduced one by one the main characters in the feature film, and in particular one of the main characters Ethan Clyde, who brought him to become the first hero in a gay animated film from Disney.

It was an obvious choice, as diversity and inclusion became the keywords of Disney’s management, an approach that Jennifer Lee and Roy Conley actively support. Too much desire to renew itself, but also to ensure a better representation of the world as a whole, as Disney Studios celebrates its centenary next year.

“As a female member of an industry that had very few women in positions of responsibility until recently, once I became a creative director, I wanted to surround myself with people of diversity, because I felt that our stories weren’t for everyone, while our work revolved around creating global stories. Clark (Spencer, editor’s note), we looked for these talents of diversity, to give them the opportunity to tell their stories in turn.” Jennifer Lee captured the exclusive interview he gave us.

Having a gay protagonist is also a strong commitment, as new productions from Pixar Buzz Lightyear Studios have been banned in several countries, due to a short scene containing the first on-screen lesbian kiss by the popular animation studio’s production. So the message is clear: upcoming Disney productions will only target countries that accept these values ​​of diversity and tolerance.

Another innovation announced by the Disney board is the upcoming broadcast of two original series dedicated to the Disney+ platform. To do this, the company relied on two entities that are already very popular with the public: Baymax!, a subset of New Heroes dedicated to the title robot, and Zootopia+, an anthology that explores secondary characters from the Zootopia movie. Both series are expected to hit the platform this year.

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