Walt Disney Animation Studios has brought on board four filmmakers – Carlos Lopez Estrada (Blindspotting) and Suzi Yoonessi (Unlovable, Dear Lemon Lima), along with Disney veterans Josie Trinidad and Marc Smith to work on four original content for the studio. Each of them are developing new animated films for theatrical release.
The House of Mouse announced this news as Walt Disney Animation chief creative officer Jennifer Lee (Frozen and Frozen 2) intends to increase the studio’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Among its upcoming slate, Disney animation has Raya and the Last Dragon starring Awkwafina and written by Adele Lim.
Commenting on this appointment, Lee said in a statement to Variety, “We aim to have Walt Disney Animation Studios serve as the premiere home for filmmakers interested in telling engaging stories within the limitless animation medium. Estrada and Yoonessi are two incredible, inventive filmmakers who have both received acclaim for their work. Trinidad and Smith are masters, lead story artists, who have been instrumental in shaping such films as Zootopia and Frozen 2. We are so thrilled to have these four talented artists join our 96-year-old studio as directors and help us build the stories of our future — adventures in completely original worlds, stories from around the globe, and the next generation of musicals.”
Estrada’s debut live-action film, Blindspotting starring Daveed Diggs, premiered as the opening night movie at 2018’s Sundance Film Festival. That year, he received a Directors Guild Award nomination for first-time directing and was named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch. On the TV front, he recently worked on an episode of FX’s Legion.
Best known for directing the Duplass brothers’ film Unlovable, Yoonessi has also helmed Warner Bros.’ Scooby-Doo origin story Daphne & Velma, as well as short films for Funny or Die.
Since joining Disney Animation in 2004, Trinidad oversaw the story team on films like Ralph Breaks the Internet and Zootopia. Her credits also include Tangled and The Princess and the Frog.
Smith is the story director for Frozen 2 where he is responsible for bringing the directors’ vision for the storyline to the screen. He was hired at Disney in 1993 as an intern and moved up the ranks on the animation team. He has worked on movies such as Treasure Planet, Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia.