Walt Disney Animation Studios has hired four filmmakers to develop new animated films for theatrical release, including Blindspotting director Carlos Lopez Estrada. The others are director Suzi Yoonessi (Unlovable) and Disney animation veterans Josie Trinidad (Zootopia) and Marc Smith (Frozen 2).
Variety broke the news, and while the trade didn’t provide any details about any of the four projects, including their titles, it did say that the announcement reflects Disney’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The studio is already prepping Raya and the Last Dragon, which hails from Crazy Rich Asians co-writer Adele Lim, and will star Awkwafina.
“We aim to have Walt Disney Studios serve as the premiere home for filmmakers interested in telling engaging stories within the limitless animation medium,” said Disney’s Jennifer Lee, who wrote and directed Frozen and its upcoming sequel. “Carlos and Suzi are two incredible, inventive filmmakers who have both received acclaim for their work. Josie and Marc, master lead story artists, 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 made his live-action debut with Blindspotting, which earned him a DGA nomination following its premiere at Sundance. Co-written by stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, the racially-charged drama boasts a 94 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but you can count me in the critical minority on that one, as I wasn’t a fan. And despite rave reviews from most critics, the public simply didn’t respond, as the film topped out at less than $5 million worldwide. More recently, Estrada directed an episode of Legion for FX, but animation will be a new test for the up-and-coming filmmaker.
Yoonessi previously directed the indie movie Unlovable starring Charlene deGuzman, John Hawkes and Melissa Leo. She also directed the Scooby-Doo origin story Daphne & Velma for Warner Bros. and the indie comedy Dear Lemon Lima.
Trinidad joined Disney Animation in 2004 and has overseen the story team Ralph Breaks the Internet and Zootopia, while Smith served as the story director for Frozen 2, having joined worked his way up the animation ranks since joining Disney as an intern way back in 1993. Smith and Trinidad both worked on Tangled, among other animated Disney movies.